Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” If you’ve been delaying the inevitable by waiting to file your taxes until the last minute, you’re not alone. Many professionals struggle with procrastination which keeps them from tackling their responsibilities swiftly.
If you can overcome procrastination around filing your taxes now, you can prevent immense stress later on. Since you can’t avoid your taxes, here are seven steps you can take to beat tax procrastination.
1. Understand Your Procrastination
You can’t solve a problem without knowing the source of the problem. So, what is causing your procrastination?
People procrastinate to avoid some sort of painful situation (in this case, the pain of filing your taxes). This works for a while, but the stress of avoidance quickly becomes more stressful than the pain of completing your taxes. If you had just completed the taxes as soon as you could, you would have eliminated the stress immediately and not prolonged and increased your stress by putting them off.
2. Find Motivation
Hack your motivation by tapping into your fundamental drivers: pain and pleasure. If you fail to file your taxes, for example, you could experience the pain of legal charges.
According to Intuit Turbotax, if you miss the filing deadline of April 18, 2022, “late-filing penalties can mount up at a rate of 5% of the amount due with your return for each month that you’re late.” You could potentially avoid these fees by filing for an extension that gives you a few extra months, but requesting an extension is also a stressful process. There’s also no guarantee you won’t procrastinate on your extended deadline too.
To motivate yourself to file your taxes, tap into pleasure, not pain. If you are expecting to receive a tax return, start imagining what it would be like to possess that extra cash. Even if you have to pay taxes, consider yourself lucky to have had the income opportunities. While you are gathering all of your income, let yourself feel a sense of pride for accomplishing so much professionally. Gratitude adds to your self-esteem and builds confidence.
3. Remove Distractions
Make a plan to stay focused on your taxes. When you encounter distractions, keep your eyes on the plan to stay on course. Set aside some time when you are not working to clear the clutter from your desk, eliminate excessive noise from your environment, and tend to any pressing messages or emails that might bother you while you’re working.
Your body can also distract you. Make sure you prepare to file your taxes by getting adequate sleep, eating a nutritious meal, drinking plenty of water, and exercising in advance to optimize your energy.
4. Prep Your Materials
Come prepared. This will make the entire process much less stressful, and you won’t be left rushing around looking for that 1099 that you received in the mail months ago and just left lying somewhere in the house.
According to TaxSlayer, you’ll need to compile the following documents:
- Identification for everyone included on your tax return (social security or tax ID numbers, plus dates of birth)
- Form W-2 wage and tax statements
- Bank or financial institution statements
- Last year’s state refund amount
- Any and all 1099s
- Notice 6419 (if you have dependents)
- Self-employment and business records (if you have a business, these include business expense records, quarterly estimated tax payment receipts, home office expense records, and mileage records)
- Medical expense receipts and records, including proof of unreimbursed medical expenses, health insurance coverage, and Social Security benefits
- Proof of charitable donations
- Property tax receipts
5. Get Help
Some professionals do their own taxes, but if filing your taxes is already incredibly stressful for you, you likely won’t want to do it on your own. You can hire either a certified public accountant (CPA) or an enrolled agent (EA) to assist, either someone at a private or local firm or someone at a nationwide firm (such as H&R Block).
6. Know What to Expect
If you choose to hire an accountant or agent to file your taxes, you can alleviate some stress by knowing exactly what to expect at the meeting. Ask the accountant or agent exactly how their process works, so you can have a good visualization of what’s going to occur at the meeting. In most instances, the meeting is generally just the accountant or agent asking you a series of questions regarding your income and/or expenses over the course of an hour or so. You may also have to return to the office to sign off on the final filing.
7. Give Yourself a Deadline
Tasks without deadlines are the most dangerous because there’s no outside force pushing you to complete them. You could end up procrastinating for all time—and while the government does technically give you a deadline for filing your taxes, no one’s putting you on a deadline to compile all your paperwork or hire that CPA.
Set a deadline well before Tax Day in case extraneous circumstances prevent you from filing. For example, while you are meeting with an accountant, you may realize you forgot some records and you’ll need to find them. Hold yourself accountable with an outside force, such as a loved one or even a life coach. Schedule a meeting with your accountant as soon as possible before they get completely booked up.
The Bottom Line
While taxes are inevitable, you can make it a brief and even enjoyable process. When you overcome procrastination around filing your taxes now, you can prevent immense stress later on. Even after you finish filing your taxes, don’t let procrastination sabotage your life.
To help you identify where and why you’re avoiding stressful situations and help you navigate your inclination to procrastinate, consider working with an Arootah life coach. To learn more, schedule a free 30-minute introductory coaching call.