The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas:
#11 Buy a car
Happy Christmas Eve!

The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas:
#12 Hire a pro

Ta-da! We're reached the end of our tax carol! I've enjoyed all the voices that have joined this little choir and I hope you've found some good advice for this and future tax seasons.

We wrap up The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas with a final suggestion: hire a tax professional.

12 drummers drummingOK, don't go hire one today. You probably can't anyway, as most are likely taking a break before the 2010 filing season chaos begins.

 But at least evaluate your tax situation and determine whether you're going to need some help. That mock tax return you did (per tip #5 ) should give you an idea of just what kind of hassle you'll be facing when it comes time to fill out the real forms.

Now I'm not saying that software and all the information you get online won't get you through tax season just fine. For many folks, that's true.

And some of the tax and money blogs are written by folks whose paying day jobs are as tax and financial pros. But they'll also be the first to tell you that every taxpayer's situation is unique and, to paraphrase Animal Farm, some are uniquer than others. You may have some wrinkles that need ironing out by someone who is formally trained to do so.

So now, before tax season is in full swing, is the perfect time to consider whether you will need some tax help, both when it comes to filing your 1040 and setting up a tax planning strategy; for example, you have estate issues to consider (and Congress is still screwing around with estate tax laws) or your own small business with all its special tax needs. Of maybe you just don't want to mess with all the new laws that went into effect for the 2009 tax year.

Regardless, you need to start making tax pro plans early.

First, you need to take the time to figure out just what kind of professional tax help you need. You have lots of options, based on your personal tax circumstances, as well as your price parameters.

A few quick comments here. Don't pick a pro on price alone,. And definitely don't hire someone whose fee is tied to how much of a refund you'll get. That sort of pro is why the IRS is going to set up some tax pro regulations in the near future.

Once you decide on the type of pro, you need to find the specific preparer sooner rather than later. The best in the business book up early. You won't be able to wander into an office on April 13 and get the help you need, at least not at the price you can afford!

So next week after the Christmas guests have left and before you party too hearty on New Year's Eve, give some thought to your tax professional needs. When it comes time to sign your tax return next spring, you'll be gland you made some plans now.

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