One of the most stressful days of the year is the day federal taxes are due - the dreaded April 15th. It stresses me out every year but it shouldn't. It is more, I think, the way I approach it than the day itself. I traditionally haven't followed the steps that I'm going to suggest here but I will in the future. Experts who suggest ways to reduce the stress of doing your taxes typically recommend the following:
1. Start early - The sooner that you get it done, the less time that you spend with the thought of it as a looming stressful deadline. Even if you don't file (because you owe) until the last minute, at least you won't have the burden upon you.
2. Take baby steps/break it down into small pieces - Just like a big work project, breaking your tax preparation and filing into small and manageable steps will make the process much more tolerable. Instead of cramming it all into one weekend day, extend it over a much longer period and do a little bit at a time. Set a schedule and do a little bit each day during that time period until it is done. Today is only January 28th so there is plenty of time to do this even this year.
3. Make it fun - Fun? Taxes? Well, you can at least try. Put on some of your favorite music, put out some aromatherapy candles, get yourself some healthy snacks and get to it. Also - reward yourself for accomplishing the steps along the way. Only you can make it resemble something that is truly fun so give it a shot.
4. Have someone else do it - Only you know your own tax situation, your ability to do your taxes, your frustration level on projects like this, etc. Knowing these things and considering the benefit that you may be able to recognize by having a professional prepare your taxes - the cost may just be outweighed by the benefits - particularly if the professional is able to minimize your tax liability in ways that you can only imagine doing yourself.
5. Plan for next year - Learn from your own mistakes and plan for an easier next year. By this I mean that if you do not already have a working system in place, set up an organized system for keeping better records during the year (your business expenses, your charitable contributions, your medical expenses, your various tax forms that employers and others send to you, etc.). Also, based on either the analysis you receive from TurboTax (or whatever you use) or from your CPA or tax preparer - take the necessary steps this year to either decrease the amount you owe or increase your refund next year.
6. Whatever you do - don't be late! - Even if you owe, there are ways (like payment plans) that this will work out. You do not want to get hit with the consequences of missing the deadline and if you follow the above suggestions - there should be no reason to.
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