Tuesday, March 24, 2015

ADDressing the Issues of Tax Season

I don't know anyone who likes to doing taxes. I actually know some accountants who don't like to do them.  Filing tax returns is  in the top three of tasks people postpone and avoid. Even folks who don't ordinarily procrastinate push off doing their taxes.  However, for adults with ADHD, tax season can be particularly challenging. 

Surveys suggest that a significant percentage of the ADDult population didn't file taxes on time in the past 5 years and many "rarely" or "never" filed on time.  What's worse, (for them) is that a large percentage of those people did not file extensions and many didn't file tax returns at all for the past 3 years, or more.  

There are many reasons ADDults struggle with doing their taxes, but most are based in their challenges with executive functions, and manifest as disorganization, overwhelm, time-management, forgetfulness and lack of interest. Even more to blame than the aforementioned root causes are the emotional responses to these issues, which include anxiety, shame, denial, feelings of low self-esteem and self-efficacy. And, it's these feelings which lead to continued anxiety, avoidance and denial. 

Although some ADDults struggle with formulating systems to keep track of important papers and documentation, the bigger problem is NOT an inability to devise and initiate a system, but instead, lack of maintenance of the system.  This leads to a whole mess of piles and disorganized paperwork, so in order to actually DO the taxes, there is a boatload of work to do just to gather and organize the necessary documentation and this often includes finding it.  

Even folks who hire accountants to do their taxes still have some of these issues because their accountants can't actually do their taxes until the required paperwork is received and in some semblance of order. What's great about having an accountant, though, is that you will receive an organized list of exactly what information you need to give them, including specific deadlines. And often, the accountants will remind you and check in on you to help you comply. (Hey, accountants provide accountability! Great tag line, huh?) 

If you don't have an accountant, how can you get your taxes done on time and with less stress?  The BEST way to begin to get yourself more organized, is to determine specifically how you are unorganized.  What actually happens to create the chaos? When you figure that out, you will have a better grasp on what systems you need to put into place. In addition, the best and most basic strategy for dealing with tasks and projects that are overwhelming is to break them down, break them down and break them down some more.  And then, START on SOMETHING!  Mark Twain said it best:

The secret of getting started 
is breaking your complex and overwhelming tasks 
into small manageable tasks and then 
starting on the first one. 

(and you still have plenty of time!