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Tax preparation fees and how much to charge

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Updated on:
February 20, 2023
February 20, 2023
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The question of tax preparation fees is a current debate, and there is a lot to cover. The process of preparing taxes and delivering results is not easy. It requires much calculation and manual labor to ensure all is proper and according to the laws in place.

If you are wondering how much you should charge as a Certified Public Accountant, then this article is for you. We will tell you all you need to know to ensure you're putting a deserving price on your services.


It is important to determine tax preparation fees in order to deliver optimal services. Determining tax preparation fees in a transparent and consistent manner helps ensure that clients are charged a fair price for the services they receive. Furthermore, the question of profitability and reputation is also relevant.

Moreover, understanding how to determine tax preparation fees can help tax preparers optimize their pricing structure, reduce administrative costs, and increase overall efficiency. Lastly, it is important to note that tax preparation fees must comply with relevant laws and regulations, including those related to advertising, fee disclosures, and consumer protection.

This article will go over various factors you need to consider, such as

  1. Market Factors
  2. Professional Factors
  3. Client Factors
  4. Pricing Strategies

These would be followed by some FAQs, which would be well worth a read for added clarity. The different factors we just pointed out cover the different dimensions of the industry. Each of these impacts a different aspect.

Factors to Consider When Determining Tax Preparation Fees

Here are the factors you need to consider when determining tax preparation fees.

Market Factors Relevant to Tax Preparation Fees

These factors are independent of you or your client. Rather, these factors are common throughout the market. As the market largely determines the price clients are willing to pay, you should consider these to determine how much you should charge.

  1. Competition in the market: The competitive landscape must be considered in every pricing decision. A common trend to note is that when the market is saturated and competition rife, then low prices bring in more revenue. The opposite is true for when there is a market with few competitors.
  2. Geographical location: You need to price according to where your customers live. Business owners divide clients based on geolocation. Geolocation can tell you a lot about the client's demands and how much they can pay for tax preparation fees.
  3. Client base: Your clients should determine your fees. If you plan to target middle-class salaried workers, they might not be ready to pay thousands of dollars for your service. You need to research and target effectively.
  4. The complexity of services offered: The service mix needs to be depicted in the price. For instance, the more personalized and complex the services offered, the higher the price they can fetch, and vice versa.
  5. Seasonal demand: As with any product or service, seasonal demand periods can lead to increased revenue within a short period. During some months, demand may skyrocket, increasing prices all around.

Professional Factors Relevant to Tax Preparation Fees

These factors are more related to your own company or skills. You have greater control over how these factors impact the pricing of your services. As such, these aspects are often the ones that can become competitive advantages for your CPA firm.

  1. Experience and qualifications of the tax preparer: Expert tax preparers can deliver a high-quality service in record time. They are meticulous and can greatly reduce the potential for errors. Since they deliver quality results and offer unprecedented ease, their services are priced higher.
  2. The level of expertise required for the specific service determines how much you should charge. Complicated processes and preparation methods can take a lot of effort to complete within the timeframe. Consider your pricing according to how complicated and thorough your labor is.
  3. Time required to complete the service: When determining prices, clients measure it according to the time within which it is completed. If you manage to complete complex tasks in a short amount of time, you can get away with pricing your services higher. This can even be a source of competitive advantage.
  4. Software and technology used for tax preparation: Technology has made tax preparation and filing much easier. However, for premium software and services, there is often a cost involved. If your technology saves time and effort and reduces costs, consider pricing lower. On the other hand, in the case of premium services, pricing higher is not a bad idea.
  5. Services offered in addition to tax preparation (e.g., bookkeeping, financial planning): A good service mix of related services can provide the client with a full package of value. In addition to financial planning, consultancy, bookkeeping, and other services, tax preparation can be priced at a cumulative fee, with a small discount to justify the bundle.

Client Factors Relevant to Tax Preparation Fees

These factors are dependent on your client. While at first glance, they might seem out of your control, in fact, these are the results of client equity. You can build up client equity by consistently delivering value.

  1. The complexity of the client's tax situation: The more complicated a situation, the greater the time and effort required to navigate it. Considering the client's tax situation, you can structure your fees around how much time and effort is needed.
  2. The volume of transactions: This is self-explanatory. The volume of total transactions can help you determine your fees. For instance, if your CPA firm has an avenue for a long-term partnership, you can offer a discount in order to attract lifetime client value.
  3. Business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership): When working for a business, it is important to consider its structure. A sole proprietorship has straightforward tax documents and situations. As such, it can be handled at a much cheaper price. For large corporations, the fee can be higher for the additional effort.
  4. Industry or occupation of the client: Not all industries are the same. Some are more complex than others. Therefore, factoring in the industry can help you assess the optimal service fee when determining the price.
  5. Availability of necessary documentation: When preparing taxes, having appropriate documents can greatly simplify the process. The absence of such documents leads to greater time and effort in investment. As such, if the documents are available, the price can be reduced appropriately.

Pricing Strategies

Lastly, when determining the optimal pricing strategy, always consider your pricing strategy. There is no perfect strategy when it comes to pricing. Always consider what services you're offering and how before you put a strategy into motion.

  1. Hourly rates: In hourly rates, you will measure your fees by the hour required for services. You will be paid for each hour you prepare taxes. This is best for when you have well-defined timing schedules to reduce the chances of wasted time.
  2. Flat fees: Flat fees suggest an amount that is paid for a service, regardless of what happens after the beginning of the service. The amount won't change according to the amount of work or the time taken. As such, this strategy should be avoided as there is little flexibility.
  3. Value-based pricing: Value-based pricing suggests that the strategy should be based on what the customer's perceived value for each service is. This is more customer-focused and accommodates their considerations into the calculation.
  4. Retainers: In this pricing model, you will be paid an agreed amount for a set amount of time or deliverables. This strategy should be utilized if you plan to do business with clients with long-term goals of clients. This will help you clearly deliver scalable results and earn healthy revenue.
  5. Packages and bundles: Combining different services such as consultancy, bookkeeping, and other tax preparation processes can help you attract more clients. Considering you're offering more services in a single package, you will be able to price it at an attractive rate for clients who want simplicity in service delivery.


Throughout the article, we discussed why it is important to price your services according to what you offer. Tax preparation is a difficult process requiring stakeholders to work together to achieve their common goal. Moreover, it is important to consider all the factors at play, be they market-related, customer-related, or performance related.

Even then, an optimal pricing strategy revolves around ensuring that all factors are addressed adequately. You will need to consider how much the market affects you, how much bargaining power your clients have, and how specialized of a service you can deliver. Only then will your pricing strategy lead to a significant upwards trend in revenue generation.

Considering the myriad of pricing strategies discussed, it is important to realize that they differ based on the service and client. Therefore, you will need to research and calculate each strategy but commit to one so as to reduce confusion. However, having special service pricing for long-term and consistent clients is always beneficial.


  1. What is the average cost of tax preparation services?

The average cost of tax preparation services can vary depending on several factors, including the service's complexity, the provider's experience, and location. However, according to a survey by the National Society of Accountants, the average cost of professional tax preparation for an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return is $294 for the 2020 tax year.

  1. Why do tax preparation fees vary so much?

Tax preparation fees can vary for several reasons, including the tax return's complexity, the tax preparer's experience and qualifications, the tax preparer, the location of the tax preparer, and the type of service provided.

  1. How can I find a tax preparer who fits my budget?

Finding a tax preparer who fits your budget can take time and effort. However, you can research, check the credentials of local service providers, consult fees and services, and negotiate. Bonsai can help you out in that regard.

  1. Is it worth paying more for an experienced tax preparer?

The decision to pay more for an experienced tax preparer depends on your individual needs and situation. While a more experienced tax preparer may charge higher fees, they may also offer several advantages over less experienced preparers, such as knowledge and expertise, efficiency, consultancy and advice, and audit support.

  1. Should I choose a tax preparer based solely on price?

Choosing a tax preparer based solely on price is not recommended, as the cheapest option may not always be the best choice for your needs. While cost is an important factor to consider, other important factors should be considered, such as the preparer's experience, credentials, reputation, and services offered.

  1. Can tax preparation fees be deducted from my tax return?

In some cases, tax preparation fees can be deducted from your tax return, but only if you itemize deductions and meet certain criteria.

  1. First, the fees must be for the preparation of tax returns for the current year, and you cannot deduct fees paid for prior year returns.
  2. Second, the fees must be for personal income tax returns rather than business tax returns or other types of taxes.
  3. Third, the total of all miscellaneous itemized deductions, including tax preparation fees, must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
  4. Finally, if you are subject to the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), you might not be able to deduct tax preparation fees.
  1. What should I do if I can't afford to pay for tax preparation services?

If you can't afford to pay for tax preparation services, several options may be available to you, such as Free Tax Preparation Services, Tax Preparation Software, free financial assistance, and negotiation.

  1. How can I negotiate tax preparation fees with my tax preparer?

Negotiating tax preparation fees with your tax preparer is possible. Still, it's important to approach the conversation professionally and respectfully. You should be honest regarding your budget and ask for discounts if available. You can negotiate a payment plan; however, you should be willing to negotiate a compromise.

  1. Can I negotiate fees with a tax preparation franchise?

It may be possible to negotiate fees with a tax preparation franchise. However, the extent to which you can negotiate will depend on the specific franchise and the policies of the franchisee who is providing the tax preparation services. The same tips as above apply but look into any documentation regarding discounts.

  1. How can I avoid hidden fees when using a tax preparation service?

To avoid hidden fees when using a tax preparation service, remember to read the Fine Print, ask for a written estimate, and avoid upfront fees. In addition, you should be wary not to fall for refund anticipation loans. Ultimately, choosing a reputable CPA agency and paying the tax preparation fees is often wise to save yourself from hassles.

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