How to Handle the Inevitable Stress of Tax Season

Picture for articleIt’s springtime, and you know what that means. Birds are chirping, flowers and blooming, and you’re staring at your W-2s. Tax season is an inevitable part of life, and so is the stress that comes with it. If you know how to help yourself, however, you can mitigate the stressful effects of reporting your income to Uncle Sam. Here are some ways to handle the stress of tax season.

Know your best option for help

Many of us will seek help when preparing our taxes – whether it’s in the form of online preparation software (or W-2 or 1099 software if you own a business), a professional tax preparation service, or a friend or family member.

If you’re looking for a professional, make sure you ask about their credentials. Also opt for services that have a set fee – not ones that base their fee on the size of your tax return.

“Bigger isn’t always better. Be wary of tax preparation services that promise larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund,” says the Better Business Bureau. “Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or a certified E-file provider. Also ask if they belong to any professional organizations or attend continuing education classes.”

If you make less than $54,000 a year, are elderly, or have trouble speaking English, the IRS has free programs to help you out.

Take steps to prevent scams and theft

One of the worst things about tax season is that it really brings out the criminals. In order to help yourself thwart their attempts, you should always make sure your internet connection is secure when e-filing. File early so thieves are unable to steal your social security number to file a fake return. Shred extra tax documents (after you organize and store what’s necessary).

Also, be aware of potential scams. Scammers can call, claiming to be the IRS, a certified tax preparer, or a charitable organization looking for tax info. Be aware that the IRS will never contact you by telephone or email – always by snail mail. If you feel you’ve been the target of a scam, contact the authorities.

Pay it forward

No, don’t pay more than you must to the IRS. Pay it forward to yourself, for next tax season. Think about what you can do this year to make next year’s filing easier. Most of the time, this starts with organization. Hang on to all relevant tax documents and set up a system for filing the new ones that come your way throughout the year.

“Start the year off right by putting all tax related documentation in a file folder. Each time you get a receipt or document to be used for your tax filing, place it into the folder. Consider keeping a master list of all items in your folder,” says Alt-Creative. “You will thank yourself later when you go to gather your tax documents next year and everything you need is conveniently located in one place. Instead of spending hours preparing documents for your tax professional, you can simply grab your folder and go.”

Take some time to de-stress

Money is stressful. There’s no getting around this. If tax season has you feeling the weight of the world, take a break and de-stress before jumping back in. Take your dog for a walk, do some yoga, or close your laptop, put away your documents, and practice some stress-relieving meditation. Have a beer. There’s no reason you have to stress yourself out this tax season. Start early enough that you can take your time.

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Author: Julie Morris