Americans cite money as the leading cause of stress according to CBS News, with the majority of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. With tax season coming up, most taxpayers fall into one of two categories: Some are excited about the prospect of a refund, while others are worried about how much they’ll owe.
If you do find yourself owing money or experiencing any nasty surprises this tax season, pause before acting abruptly. A daily habit should be consciously minimizing stress so you decrease the tertiary side effects that come with it, ranging from an increase in diseases and dangerous habits to subpar quality of life.
Here’s your step by step guide to a less stressful tax season, even if you owe:
- Invest in a higher quality professional up front. A lot of taxpayers shy away from hiring a CPA because they think these professionals are too expensive. Surprisingly, CPA fees are often on par with pop-up tax filing center fees. However, the real savings comes in the benefits only a CPA can provide. They’re highly skilled, educated and experienced in helping taxpayers keep as much of their money as possible. You may end up saving a lot more with a CPA, and enjoying more credits, than if you file taxes yourself or rely on a pop-up shop. Plus, knowing a skilled expert is handling your taxes is a huge stress relief.
- File early. Procrastination is tempting, especially if you get an adrenaline rush in waiting for last minute deadlines. However, procrastination is linked to stress, and in most cases there’s no need to wait until the last minute to file. Uncle Sam doesn’t really care if you file January 1 or April 18, but “he” might have a slight preference for late filers because you’ll be paying a fee on top of any taxes due. Get this task out of the way early and file with the help of a professional as soon as you have all necessary documents.
- Opt for the payment method you’re most comfortable with. Whether you’re getting a refund or making a payment, the IRS offers a number of payment options. One isn’t better than another, although many taxpayers enjoy peace of mind in knowing payments and withdrawals will be automated through their bank. Paper checks are still an option if that’s your preference, as is paying by phone or wire transfer. Choose the method that puts your mind at ease.
- Start planning for 2017 tax season now. The earlier you start planning, filing receipts, considering tax credits and prepping for next year, the sooner you can enjoy a decrease in stress. The best CPAs are already booked up for this year’s tax season, but you can get a head start by checking out local CPA profiles now. Knowing there’s an expert on your side is the biggest stress buster available for taxpayers.
- Don’t act abruptly if there are any bumps. Whether it’s an audit, an unexpectedly high amount of taxes due, or any other unexpected surprise during tax season, don’t panic. Connect with a CPA (or a tax attorney in extreme cases) to ensure you get the best representation and expert help during troubling times. Once your tax experts are secured, make sure communication is clear between all parties. Ignoring problems increase stress and, of course, don’t make them go away.
- Have a plan for refunds. If you’re getting a refund this year, don’t think of it as a windfall. Instead, make proper use of it. Earmark it for savings, retirement, or another fund in need of a little extra attention.
There’s no way to remove stress entirely, especially during tax season. However, there are steps you can take to minimize its impact. Maneuver this season with ease with a little foresight, prep work and stress-reducing tactics.