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Mythbust - "I Don't Need Help Doing My Taxes"

Opening scene [April 14, 2011, 11:45 p.m.]: The disheveled small business owner is sitting alone in a dark room with only a single light illuminating a table. As we pan back we see the table is strewn with papers of all kinds, sizes, shapes. Upon closer inspection, we see that these are receipts, logs, and spreadsheets.

Cut to: A close-up of the small business owner. We notice a vague sense of panic in his eyes. The nearby computer screen reflects off of the reading glasses perched at the bottom of his nose. He bangs away on a calculator again and again, each time the machine registers a different number.

Close-up: The man drops his head in his hands and says quietly, “I give up.”

Cut to: The computer screen. We see the words being typed into Google, “IRS extension form.”

In case you hadn’t guessed it, that sad figure was me several years ago. Like you, I bet, I had been doing my own taxes for years. But that year, my business had caught fire. I had more clients and was making more money than I ever had before. As I was getting ready to do my taxes, the whole thing was obviously going to be a lot more complicated than before. But that didn’t stop me (at least, not yet.) There were more figures to add, more receipts to keep track of, more accounting to do, and here’s the kicker, the important part: there were potentially a lot more – and a lot more expensive – mistakes to make.

That final night, as I was crunching the numbers, it hit me like a sledgehammer: I was on the verge of making some, as yet unknown, but undeniable, big, expensive mistakes.

I filed the extension and started looking for an accountant the next day.

I had resisted getting help with my taxes for all of the usual reasons:

  • It was going to be too expensive
  • I could do it myself
  • It would be time-consuming to get someone up to speed
  • Blah, blah, blah

What I know now, and what I want to say to you is, that yes, there are times when you can multitask and do a lot of things for yourself; but also, there are times not to do that, times when it would be stupid to do something on your own that would be better off left to someone else.

Your taxes are one of those times, in spades.

And you know it, too. Sure, there are some great programs out there that can help you. That is what I relied on. But there comes a time in the growth of any small business when you outgrow doing everything yourself. It is actually a sign that you are on the right path.

And of course, it’s not just taxes I am talking about. If you are still the shipping and receiving clerk at your office, isn’t it time you hired an assistant or an intern to help with that sort of stuff? What works in business is to get the help your need and use available resources. When you don’t have to do everything yourself anymore, it makes you more effective and your business more profitable.

For instance, consider your marketing. It’s probably true that social media or pay-per-click – or whatever is not your strong suit – is not the best use of your time. Better: Get some help, and use expert solutions like the ones offered here by my pals at YP.

That way, when the Academy for Small Business Arts and Sciences reads the envelope for “Best Business by an Entrepreneur,” they don’t mistakenly read the one that says, “Biggest Mistake by a Small Business Owner Who Thought He Didn’t Need Any Help with His Taxes.”


Photo Credit: Adobe Stock (standard license)

Steve Strauss is the author of The Small Business Bible and a senior columnist for USA TODAY. He also runs the website,, and hates ketchup.

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