Don’t Over-Tax Yourself Over Tax Season!
With the April 15 tax deadline looming, it’s an anxious time for many people. Try these tips to keep your financial stress under control at tax time — and all year round.
Break It Up. A mountain of paperwork for your tax return or for any other financial responsibility, like applying for a college loan or mortgage, can seem overwhelming. Break up the process into smaller chunks, such as gathering pay stubs, finding your home mortgage interest statements, or organizing your receipts. Then tackle each task one by one. But before you do so…
Make a Plan. This is even more important when you’re on a tight deadline (like being just a few days away from April 15). Once you’ve broken down what you need to accomplish into pieces, put those steps in order and write down how and when you’re going to make each one happen. This will help you feel like you have control over the process. Being out of control is very stressful!
Keep Mentally Fit. Eat well, get a full night’s sleep, find a way to exercise every day, and connect with friends and loved ones. Financial deadlines may have you feeling like you need to lock yourself away and pull an all-nighter with a bag of potato chips and your 1040, but you’ll just raise your stress level, and you probably won’t accomplish your goal anyway.
Resist Unhealthy Temptations. When stress arises, it’s tempting to cope in unhealthy ways such as binge eating, smoking, or drinking alcohol. Avoid these negative coping strategies. Instead of a cigarette or a glass of wine, take a walk or call a friend to vent.
Don’t Go It Alone. It’s not too late to get help. Ask for help from a spouse, a trusted friend, or ideally, a financial professional like a certified public accountant. Some tax professionals will even save you the step of visiting their office and will review your documents and calculations online. Having too much on your shoulders and no help is a recipe for anxiety.
Request an Extension. If you’re utterly overwhelmed and you feel like there’s no way you’ll have it all together by April 15, talk to a tax professional about how to request an extension on filing. You’ll still have to pay your estimated taxes on time (or pay interest), but you’ll have an extra six months to get your paperwork in order.
Plan Ahead for Next Year. If you’ve procrastinated about your taxes this year, use the stress you’re experiencing now as you try to get everything together at the last minute for a good cause: Keeping you on track to plan ahead for tax time 2016. Set a realistic budget and stick to it, and keep track of your finances as you go along. Having a plan and living within your means makes your life much less stressful.
by David Ginsberg, M.D., clinical associate professor and vice chair for clinical affairs, Department of Psychiatry, and chief of the Psychiatry Service, NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.