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Here’s Why You Might Struggle to Find a Tax Preparer This Year

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If you haven’t begun to think about your taxes this year, it’s time to get started. At this point, there’s about a month and a half left until the April 15 filing deadline. And the more you put things off, the greater your chances of having to rush through your filing and making a mistake.

Now, if your tax situation is fairly straightforward — you’re reporting wages from a salaried job, bank account interest, and dividend payments in your brokerage account only — then you may be able to file your taxes on your own. But if you’re self-employed, work and live in different states, or own a small business, then it may be a good idea to seek out tax help.

Unfortunately, though, that may be a problem if you haven’t lined someone up at this stage of the game. There’s a shortage of accountants in the U.S., and it’s a problem that may come back to bite you this season.

Why are there so few accountants?

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants reports that the share of college students with accounting degrees has been declining by about 3% per year since 2015. And while that may be surprising, consider the facts.

Accounting is a stressful profession, and those who work in the tax realm in particular tend to clock in long hours and experience a lot of stress from late January through mid-April in particular. Also, while it’s more than possible to earn a good wage as an accountant, self-proclaimed “numbers people” can look for jobs in finance or marketing that potentially pay just as well but don’t come with the stress of dealing with tax season.

What to do if you can’t find an accountant this year

You may be gearing up to hire an accountant to file your taxes in early March. At that point, you still have plenty of time to complete your return ahead of the April 15 deadline.

But don’t be surprised if you can’t find an accountant to take you on. Many tax professionals are already booked for the season and can’t accept new clients.

If that happens to you, don’t panic. First, if you can’t find an accountant, you can use this tool to find an enrolled agent to work with instead. An enrolled agent is a tax professional who’s not a CPA but has the knowledge to complete a tax return accurately nonetheless.

Another option? Request a tax extension, which gives you an extra six months to submit your return. The tax preparers who come recommended in your area may be booked solid through mid-April. But they might have availability to help you complete your return over the summer.

That said, keep in mind that a tax extension will only give you more time to submit your return to the IRS. It won’t give you extra time to pay your tax bill. If you typically have to write the IRS a check during tax season, do your best to estimate what you owe for 2023 and send in that payment by April 15 to avoid being charged interest and penalties.

It’s unfortunate that some people might struggle to get their taxes done this year due to an accountant shortage. If that happens to you, make a point to line up tax help early in the season next year. You may even want to arrange for that help at some point in 2024, just in case.

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