Top Ten Reasons to Hire an Accountant to Help You Manage Your Finances

There are many great reasons to hire an accountant to help you manage your finances. Yes, you can do your taxes by yourself. But you might not be aware of all of the different "perks" that are available to you as a taxpayer. Here's a list of ways a personal accountant can help you out, not just with your tax return but year-round as well. This is one of the best ways to master that sticky issue of personal finance.

Accountants are not cheap. In the San Francisco area, for example, a good one will charge approximately $250 to calculate an individual tax return. But having a tax expert look at your financial situation will more than pay for itself in the long run, and it may be the best $250 you've ever spent. Look for a certified public accountant (CPA), and even better, a CPA who is also a tax attorney. A tax attorney is certified to appear before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on your behalf, and can advise you if you're being audited or if you have a lien on your paycheck. It never hurts to have some decent firepower in your corner when you're facing the IRS. In fact, if you owe back taxes to the IRS or to the state, you should call one right now.

10. The tax laws change frequently, and it's too much to keep up with on your own, even if your background is in finance. Accountants keep up with them and are aware of all of the new tax benefits available to taxpayers.

9. An accountant can give you an overview of your financial situation. If you're living paycheck to paycheck and have a lot of debt, your accountant will sound a warning bell and present you with an array of options on how to reduce your debt.

8. An accountant can teach you how to improve your credit rating. Accountants know all kinds of slick ways to do this. It's not as obvious as you may think. And credit ratings are routinely pulled by human resources departments, lending institutions and landlords, so it's something you want to keep an eye on.

7. An accountant can perform an analysis of your investment portfolio. If you're thinking of purchasing property, an accountant can advise you on what you can comfortably afford to spend, and the most suitable type of mortgage for your real estate investment. Accountants are not typically financial planners, but they will sound an alarm when you're about to do something that might come back to haunt you later.

6. If you're facing a potential change in tax status (i.e., before you get married, divorced, widowed, have kids, or retire), you are in for a big change. Your accountant can give you a reliable prediction on how much more (or less) you will be paying in taxes before your tax status actually changes.

5. If you decide to venture outside the world of cubicle employment, either to work as an independent contractor or start your own business, your accountant can make the transition easier for you by advising how to stay within the limits of what the IRS will allow.

4. If you change jobs, your new job(s) may not be withholding the right amount from your paycheck. In this case, your accountant would ask you to forward the pay stub from your first paycheck to make sure your boss is withholding the right amount. If you don't do this, you could be on the hook for thousands in back taxes to the IRS. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on. Don't expect your place of employment to do this for you - that's too much to ask, and you'll make enemies in the Payroll Department.

3. An accountant can help you save money. Look at it this way - your accountant probably knows more about you than even your mother at this point! He or she can help you devise strategies to hide money from yourself, such as automatic payroll deductions into a brokerage or savings account, or over-withholding on your pay. An accountant can also help you to become wealthy. One of the reasons rich people have so much money is because they know the "ins and outs" of the tax system and have skilled professionals to help them make educated decisions. You should, too.

2. An accountant is the one person who will not lie to you about your finances. If you complain to your best friend or your sibling about having $5,000 in credit card debt, they will probably say, "so? I owe $15,000 on my cards. $5,000 isn't that much. Stop complaining." An accountant will say, "get rid of the plastic and pay off that debt - now." They are obligated by law to act with integrity and professionalism, and you can count on them to do so.

1. An accountant can educate you on general concepts pertaining to personal finance.

The best way to hire a personal accountant is to ask around. You might not find one you like right away. You should hire one who can explain complicated concepts to you in language you can understand. One thing you should not do is have one of those monolithic tax preparation companies prepare your returns for you. Many of them are not skilled at handling complicated tax issues and they might really mess you up. And please don't hire anyone who advertises on TV. Make sure you're working with a credentialed, experienced professional, and then you'll have solid advice on which to rely.