Tax Season Stress: Alleviate the Pain

For some people, tax season means a fat check in the mail, a happy return on taxes paid all year through your employer. For others, however, tax season is a time to ante up and kick over no slouchy share of one’s earnings and business income to the government.

If you are self-employed, a creative professional or a small business owner, tax time is a super stressful event that culminates with you kissing a fair percentage of your hard-earned money goodbye. During this process, you may find yourself going cross-eyed with numbers and arbitrary rules, neck-deep in tax forms that you don’t understand, sifting through twelve months of receipts, and trying not to vomit uncontrollably at the mere mention of the IRS.

Even those on the receiving end of their tax forms may feel the stress of the season, because completing page after page of government forms chock full of math and tax speak can turn anyone’s day into a crap fest. Even those who pay someone else to figure their taxes still have to present the correct records of minutiae like mileage, charitable contributions and medical expenses.

The United States tax code is now longer than the Bible, and your prize for sorting through it each year is a painful payment to the IRS. Congratulations. Just the simple act of doing math can cause physical pain. When you add the stresses of government regulation, the fear of future audits and the disgust of handing over your hard-earned money for the government to spend like its going out of style, tax preparation can be one of the most stressful experiences of your year.

Are you feeling the pain that comes due April 15? Try the following methods to alleviate your tax season stress.

Totally lost on how to do taxes? Hire a professional, stat. Whether you go to H&R block or hire a private accountant, you will save money in the long run and will have a less stressful experience. Educate yourself about your tax deductions, and you will feel a greater sense of control over the experience as you cut that check to the IRS.

Start figuring your taxes now. Do not wait until the week of April 15. Bite the bullet and dive in.

Remind yourself how very lucky you are to live in this amazing country. You can call an ambulance 24/7 and watch paramedics appear at your front door within the hour, you drive on nice roads, enjoy clean water, solid electricity and oh yeah… freedom. Freedom isn’t free; all the benefits of living in a modern first-world country come with a price, which includes your annual tax payment. Don’t think about government waste or you’ll go crazy; instead choose to focus on the many positive things in your life made possible by dear old Uncle Sam. 

Break it up. If you sit down one evening with the goal of completing your tax return, you’ll probably end up disappointed, covered in a pile of deductions, babbling about Form 8829 and trying not to cry. Accept that your tax return is a project that will take multiple steps and most likely multiple days. Start small and keep reminding yourself how lucky you are to pay taxes. Really.

Finally, make a plan to treat yourself royally once you’ve filed your taxes with the IRS. You just forked over thousands to The Man, so make the treat a good one. Indulge in a new pair of designer sunglasses, spend a day at the beach or plan on a dinner out on the town with girlfriends. Having a light to look forward to at the end of the tunnel can keep you positive as you slog through tax forms – and remind you why you work so hard in the first place.

Next time, make it easy on yourself by keeping excellent sorted records all year for business expenses, health expenses, mileage, charitable contributions and the like. Sometime in November, when things are quiet, go ahead and add up your expenses for the first 10 months of the year. When tax season rolls around again, you’ll have a lot less work to do.