Tax Tip No. 2: The Cost of Tax Help

How much should you expect to pay to have your tax returns prepared? That depends a lot on how complicated they are, but for most of us it's pretty simple.

H&R Block, the largest chain in the tax preparation business, charges an average $92.86 per return.

Jackson Hewitt averages between $100-$110.

Keep in mind these are averages for all types of individual returns — from the most basic to the most detailed. If you don't itemize you'll probably pay a lot less.

Private tax preparation costs are frequently higher. But if your taxes are complicated, a private preparer may work best for you. To make sure you get an experienced tax professional, look for one of these:

• Enrolled agents are either former IRS employees or have passed an IRS exam.

• Certified Public Accountants have passed state qualifying exams for accounting, but be sure to ask about their knowledge of current federal tax laws and about their tax prep experience.

For more complex tax matters, a tax attorney may be the way to go.

Remember a private tax specialist can not only accompany you to the IRS if you are audited, but they can even go in your place as your representative. Not all chains can do that.