Anchor Intro: While taxes may be as certain as death, how you file them is up in the air. You can do them yourself, go to an accountant, or use your computer. Bankrate.com explores the costs of and benefits of each.

Voiceover 1: While it’s possible to do your taxes without spending a dime, most Americans do spend money, either by filing online, or using software, a tax preparation service or a local accountant.

Voiceover 2: Online filing is the least expensive choice. Depending on the complexity of your return, you can find prices ranging from nothing to $40.

Voiceover 3: Software is next up the price ladder: $30 to $80 bucks. Before you buy, see how much extra you’re going to pay for state returns and to e-file.

Voiceover 4: If you want to sit across from a warm body this season, prepare to pay for the privilege: We called both H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt and asked the cost to file a long-form 1040 with itemized deductions. They both estimated $100 to $120 … but they also said everyone is different.

Voiceover 5: And then there’s the private accountant. The National Society of Accountants says the average fee for an itemized 1040 with Schedule A, plus state return, is $205. These are accountants … not necessarily CPAs. You’re gonna pay more for them.

Voiceover 6: As to which is best for you … software, tax preparer or specialist … the answer really lies in your comfort level and your situation.

SOT: If I was doing a simple return, like a 1040A or a 1040EZ, software would be very good. But I’m complicated … I have a sole proprietorship or I’ve sold stock, or something like that then I think you should see a tax professional.”

Standup: But before you pay anyone, listen to this: If you made less than 54 grand last year, there’s some kind of free help out there: either free in-person preparation or free online filing. So don’t even think of writing a check till you do one. For Bankrate.com, I’m Kristin Arnold.