Tax preparation is the process of preparing tax returns, often income tax returns, often for a person other than the taxpayer, and generally for compensation. Tax preparation may be done by the taxpayer with or without the help of tax preparation software and online services. Tax preparation may also be done by a licensed professional such as an attorney, certified public accountant or enrolled agent, or by an unlicensed tax preparation business. Because United States income tax laws are considered to be complicated, many taxpayers seek outside assistance with taxes (59.2% of individual tax returns in 2007 were filed by paid preparers). The remainder of this article describes tax preparation by someone other than the taxpayer.
Some states have licensing requirements for anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee and some for fee-based preparation of state tax returns only. The Free File Alliance provides free tax preparation software for individuals with less than $58,000 of adjusted gross income for tax year 2010. People who make more than $58,000 can use Free File Fillable Forms, electronic versions of U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) paper forms.