4 lessons my accountant aunt taught me about doing my taxes

  • I was anxious to file my taxes because I was self-employed for part of 2021.
  • Fortunately, I have an aunt who is an accountant and she got on Zoom to help me with my taxes.
  • She taught me four important lessons on how to do my taxes, including biting the bullet to pay H&R Block.
  • See Personal Finance Insider’s picks for the best tax software »

I was laughing and looking at tax season memes on Instagram when I realized how lucky I am to have an accountant in my family.

My aunt, Arlene Diangkinay, affectionately known in our family as Tita Ganda (translation: Aunt Pretty), worked as a accountant for decades when he first moved to New York City from the Philippines. After accounting, she worked for another 10 years with venture capitalists and startups building their financial statements from scratch.

She was laid off from her job during the pandemic and is now using her free time to volunteer her bookkeeping services for low-income people in The New York City Food Bank.

This year, stressed about possibly owing money to the IRS because I worked as a freelance writer for part of 2021, I called my Tita for help with my taxes. Here are four things I learned about doing my taxes after receiving your help.

1. Precision gives you peace of mind

I used H&R Block’s Self-Employed Tax Program to enter my expenses to see if that would result in a higher refund than using the standard deduction.

My Tita inspected each line item and asked, “Do you have the receipts to back that up if they ask?” Fortunately, I keep a fairly organized record of my purchases related to my freelance writing, but she kept reminding me, “Better safe than sorry.”

When it comes to doing your taxes, being as accurate and conservative as possible with your deductions and expenses can give you peace of mind.

2. Start early

I asked my Tita for help with my taxes in February and since then she texts me regularly to see if I have filed my taxes yet. In January, the IRS announced that it was predicting a hectic tax season and delayed refunds due to staff shortage.

On top of that, my Tita reminds me that the sooner I finish my taxes, the sooner I will feel relieved of the stress and pressure of filing in the first place.

3. Pay for what makes the process easier

Honestly, I feel very bitter every time I pay for tax preparation services like H&R Block or TurboTax. I just don’t understand why this government requirement comes with a high price tag that can mean less food or gas for a family, depending on the service they need.

My Tita is a big advocate of paying for any service that makes the process easier, simply because she doesn’t like wasting time. She repeatedly recommended H&R Block because it was “the easiest and simplest program” she had ever used. Fortunately, I can afford this expense this year.

4. Don’t do it alone

I realize that not everyone is privileged to have an accountant in their family who is willing to step up


and double check the details of your tax filing process. I am very lucky to have my Tita by my side to help me.

But even before I met with her, I set up 30-minute blocks of time to sit on the phone with a friend to feel less alone while I collected all my documents. Taxes become easier when you feel like you’re not alone in tackling such a big task.