By Frank Byrt
Taxpayers who procrastinate getting their returns prepared or who file for an extension this year will pay about one-third more in tax preparation fees than those who filed in January or February, according to a survey by TechBargains.com . The annual tax preparation survey was conducted online in March and had 912 respondents.
"For the second year, TechBargains.com's annual tax survey has shown those who wait to file their taxes until the last minute pay more to get the job done than those who plan ahead," said Yung Trang, president and editor-in-chief of TechBargains.com.
Survey results show that procrastinators expect to pay an average of $160.56 for tax preparation, whereas early filers say they spent an average $106.20, a $54.36 difference.
Still, many tax professionals hold the line on tax preparation fees for loyal customers – even those who wait until the last minute.
Thomas "Tim" Rennie, a CPA practicing in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, said, "We don't jack up rates at April 1. We don't do that. And the fact that people are paying one-third more, I haven't seen that."
Rennie said, "At our firm, normally, if people get their information to us by March 31, we pretty much can assure them we'll get it completed [by the April 15 deadline]. But after March 1, we don't make any promises."
He said this tax season has been particularly challenging, as he recently opened a second office and then there have been the delays on getting software updates since the IRS had to make so many changes. "I've been working seven a days a week since mid-January. I'm playing catch-up."
On top of that, Rennie said he has recently been seeing many clients getting revised 1099s from their stock brokers to reflect qualified versus nonqualified dividends or stock splits, so he has to amend returns he has already completed.
One accountant, who asked not to be identified, said he hasn't seen a spike in taxpayers seeking extensions among his regular clients; rather, it's the same people every year, and he can draw up a list of them on January 2.
TechBargains.com's survey findings include:
- Nine out of 10 early filers say they expect a tax refund compared to 47 percent of late filers.
- Of those people expecting a refund, 30 percent say they plan to save the money, 25 percent expect to pay debt and bills, 7 percent plan to spend it, and 38 percent expect a combination of spending and saving.
- Early filers are happier about their tax preparation methods than those planning to file late. Ninety-two percent of January and February filers say they feel positive, compared to 69 percent of April filers and tax-extension applicants.
- Forty-one percent of respondents filed in March, 26 percent in February, 19 percent plan to file in April, and 10 percent filed in January
- Four percent of respondents plan to apply for an extension.
- Thirty-four percent use tax software, 30 percent use a tax preparation website, 28 percent hire an accountant, 7 percent use pen and paper, and 1 percent use a mobile app.