Stop procrastinating your taxes!

March 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tips on how to break this bad habit and stay ahead at tax time. People are infamous for procrastinating on their taxes. Dr. Jane Burka and Dr. Lenora Yuen, authors of "Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now," share their advice for how to break this bad habit.

Procrastination and Taxes
From the authors of "Procrastination"

Many people put off doing their taxes; some meet the April 15 deadline, some file for an extension, and some delay for years. It's not always about money-many people who don't file by April 15 are due a refund!

Post offices stay open until midnight on April 15 to accommodate all the procrastinators. Sometimes Internet servers crash just before midnight, because so many people are e-filing at the very last minute. What is it about filing taxes that brings out the procrastinator in so many of us?

(Identifying yourself as a procrastinator is a personal definition. We asked one man who was mailing his taxes at 5 minutes to midnight on April 15 why he was late with his taxes, and he looked at his watch and responded, "It's before midnight?I'm not late!")

Why You Do It: Reasons Why People Procrastinate on their Taxes

  • You're avoiding the reality of how much you made (or lost) and how much you spent.
  • Numbers are so concrete. You'd rather just keep it vague.
  • You maintain a sense of independence if you don't comply with the deadline.
  • You resent paying the government your hard-earned money: make them wait for it.
  • You're not good at math and the forms are complicated, so you expect to feel dumb.
  • You feel overwhelmed, afraid you can't locate all the information you need.
  • You're waiting until you have a free weekend.
  • You're embarrassed to show your accountant what you've done.
  • Taxes seem like mundane busy work, too boring to bother with. You'd rather do something fun or exciting.

What To Do About It: Tips for Taxes

  • Get started with one task that takes only 15 minutes. Hunting for receipts and statements counts.
  • Do a little bit at a time-don't wait until you have all the time you need. (You don't need an entirely free weekend to get started.)
  • Don't fight the government-you will lose the battle.
  • The sooner you get your refund, the sooner you can use the money.
  • Make a start whether you feel like it or not?waiting until you feel like doing your taxes could mean waiting forever.
  • Make an appointment with your accountant and use that as your deadline. Don't wait until you've finished your tax preparations to call your accountant. Your accountant is your ally, not your enemy.
  • Get together with a friend and work on your taxes together. This gives you a structure, ensures support, and shares the pain.
  • Set up a box for all your tax materials-forms, receipts, statements, letters, etc. If you throw everything into the box through the year, at least you'll have it all in one place.
  • It's better to file a "good enough" tax return than hold out for a "perfect" one. You can always amend the return if you obtain more information.

Buy the book on Amazon: Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now

About the authors:
Jane B. Burka, PhD, and Lenora M. Yuen, PhD, are psychologists who live and practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. Creators of the first procrastination treatment group in the country at the University of California at Berkeley, they have appeared on Oprah and 20/20 and have been featured in such publications as the New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, People, Psychology Today, and more. They have conducted workshops and seminars for student, corporate, and public groups nationwide.

About the book:
In this fully revised and updated edition of the classic guide PROCRASTINATION: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now, Burka and Yuen delve into the many and varied reasons why we procrastinate-including feelings of doubt and pressure, a complex relationship with time, and neurological and interpersonal roots. And most importantly, they explain how to stop procrastinating once and for all. Their time-tested advice, based on their highly acclaimed and groundbreaking procrastination workshops, includes methods for setting and achieving goals as well as living and working with procrastinators.