As of January 24th, tax season is finally upon us. Documents are pouring in, your accountant friends are already deep into 80 hour work weeks and you’re wondering if you can write off your donation to a Krakatoa volcano relief charity that turned out to be fraudulent.
Whether you’re a seasoned tax veteran or doing them on your own for the first time, taxes can be a real headache. Thankfully, they don’t have to be! In this article, we’ll lay out some tips for you to make it through April with your sanity intact.
Focus on Yourself
Before you attack your taxes, make sure to take time for yourself. If you go into taxes already stressed, then chances are even the easiest of returns could bring some unnecessary anxiety.
If you’re dealing with some serious anxiety, speaking to a mental health professional might be an important first step. Sometimes, your stress is bigger than just your taxes. High levels of anxiety can compound on themselves, so before starting something you know will stress you out, like taxes, think about getting help from someone like a psychiatrist online. They can help you work through anxieties, as well as prescribe medication if necessary.
There are plenty of other ways to destress! Mindfulness meditation can help you to relax, and is known to reduce anxiety levels. Alternatively, you can invest some time into your hobbies. When you’re stressed, hobbies are sometimes pushed to the side, but they can help take your mind off your finances. Go fishing again, read a book, or bake a cake. It might just help you with your taxes!
While they might not be due until April, it’s important to start getting your taxes ready earlier in the year. Avoid cramming everything in at the last minute, as that will only make things worse and doesn’t give you margin in case something needs to be corrected. Moreover, it gives you time to break everything up and take important breaks.
There’s a lot you can do to prepare your taxes before you even look at a return. Not every document is coming in the mail, so be sure to find all those receipts. You’ll have much more time to dig through every purse if you start in January instead of April.
Additionally, if you expect to owe taxes, start setting aside money to pay them. Nothing is quite like the anxiety of a tax bill you don’t have the money to pay. If you start putting a little bit aside at a time, it can be much more manageable.
Organize Your Finances
Let the stress of tax season be a kick in the butt to get your finances in order. You don’t need to spend time every year frantically searching for the last document wondering if you owe or if you’re actually getting a return. Taking the time throughout the year to keep track of everything will only make tax season easier. While this isn’t something you can fully do now, it’s something you can get started on at any time.
Keeping important financial documents in a safe place is incredibly important. Consider getting a lock box to keep in your home or a safety deposit box outside if you’re particularly concerned. Inside, keep a file folder with every document you need, and find an organization system that works for you. Maybe you want them set in by date or by type of document. What works for some people might not be best for everyone, but the important thing is that everything is in the same location.
On top of keeping your documents straight, you can also take this time to balance your budget. Not only does this help to keep you informed on how your finances are doing, but it can also help you to reduce stress and keep unpleasant surprises from creeping up on you. You can also take this time to start keeping track of your credit.
Ask the Pros
If your parents were the do-it-yourself kind, you have memories of them spreading all their documents on the kitchen table, pulling out their calculator, and spending hours laboring until they were done with their taxes. It was messy, it was frustrating, and it might even be how you do your taxes now.
Fortunately, they don’t have to be done like that. It’s okay to ask for help on your taxes, and have a professional tax attorney or an accountant assist or do them for you. They almost always know more than you and can even help you find different ways to reduce your tax burden. There are also lots of options for online services to do it for you, and many have free options depending on the kind of return you’re filing. Look into which one works best for you.
The IRS Is Your Friend?
Frequently, the Internal Revenue Service is demonized and becomes the scapegoat for all complaints about government finances. However, they have many helpful tools to get you through tax season stress free.
Wading through the options of online services or accountants can be a stress all on its own. Moreover, they can be expensive, even when you’re getting a return. For qualifying returns, many Americans can file their taxes through the IRS Free File, and do their federal taxes for free. This is an option for anyone with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of less than $73,000.
If you’re already reading this too late, and you don’t think you’ll be able to get your taxes in on time, consider filing for an extension. While this doesn’t delay any amount you might have due, it does give you an extra six months to finish up getting paperwork in. Moreover, if the amount you owe turns out to be more than you can pay up front, the IRS also has installment plan options for individuals who need it.
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