4 Lessons My Accountant Aunt Taught Me About Doing My Taxes

  • I was anxious about filing my taxes because I was self-employed for part of 2021.
  • Luckily, I have an accountant aunt who hopped on Zoom to help me with my taxes.
  • She taught me four important lessons about doing 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 browsing tax season memes on Instagram when I realized how lucky I was to have an accountant in my family.

My aunt, Arlene Diangkinay – affectionately known in our family as Tita Ganda (translation: pretty aunt) – worked as an accountant for decades when she first moved to New York from the Philippines. After accounting, she worked for 10 years with venture capital firms and startups to build their financial statements from scratch.

She was laid off from her job during the pandemic, and she now uses her free time to volunteer in her accounting services for low-income people at the Food Bank of New York.

This year, stressed that I potentially owed money to the IRS because I worked as a freelance writer for part of 2021, I called my Tita to ask for help with my taxes. Here are four things I learned about doing my taxes after getting my help.

1. Accuracy gives you peace of mind

I used H&R Block’s self-employed tax program to enter my expenses to see if it would give a higher refund than using the standard deduction.

Ma Tita inspected each item and asked, “Do you have the receipts to prove it if they ask?” Luckily, I keep a pretty organized record of my purchases related to my freelance writing, but she kept reminding me, “Prevention is better than cure.”

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

2. Start early

I asked my Tita for help with my taxes in February, and since then she’s been texting me regularly asking if I’ve filed my taxes yet. In January, the IRS announced that it was anticipating a turbulent tax season and delayed refunds due to staffing shortages.

On top of that, my Tita reminds me that the sooner my taxes are paid, the sooner I can feel relieved from the stress and pressure of filing in the first place.

3. Pay for anything that will make 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 groceries or gas for a family, depending on the service they need.

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

4. Don’t do it alone

I realize that not everyone has the privilege of having an accountant in their family ready to take the plunge.


and double-check the details of your tax filing process. I’m really lucky to have my Tita in my corner to help me.

But before I even met her, I set up 30-minute time blocks to sit on the phone with a friend just to feel less alone while gathering all my documents. Taxes become easier when you feel that you are not alone in tackling such an important task.

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