For example, my tax situation is not terribly complicated. But looking at what I paid my accountant to do, there's precisely 0% chance that I would be able to do what he did and get back as much as we did without spending weeks of my life reading tons of IRS regulations and rules. This is exactly why I pay him to do it for us, and exactly the core of my point - doing it right and getting back the most is not easy at all without assistance whether that be software or an actual licensed professional.
I would bet that the majority of Americans get more back through the standard deduction than with itemized deductions.
Cool. Like what?
He actually just does them for free because my wife has an LLC in her name and we pay him to do the LLC taxes and other stuff. And he said the hardest part is doing the LLC work and we were already paying him for that - so since our returns were actually quite simple he'd just file them for us because the hard part was done (and paid for). Not sure what it normally goes for. I think you're correct that it's around $400, though. And in that case, we definitely net out much more than the $400 we would be paying if we were paying. I'm sure every situation is different, but for us it's a clear win. And if you're wondering - no we aren't funneling losses through the LLC or anything like that. The LLC is profitable and only increases our income which is why we figured we would get screwed like my coworkers with the tax changes, but somehow did not.
EDIT - 0.5% meaning my effective tax rate is 0.5% lower.
I ask because I once did go to a CPA, after first filling out the forms myself. The tax bill he computed was identical to what I came up with, so I concluded he provided no value over doing it myself!