It’s amazing how many people are terrified of the IRS. They view this government organization as the ultimate parent or authority figure. Even when they know they’ll get a refund, the process of getting their financial numbers together (and the fear of a possible audit) are enough to make some people avoid dealing with their taxes altogether.
Some even believe they’ll end up in prison if they have avoided filing taxes for years. Debtor prison ended a long time ago, but fines for filing taxes late are real. Ignoring tax responsibilities does not make them go away, it merely increases work later and often has a penalty attached.
When you fear authority and do not take responsibility for your finances, you essentially put the responsibility on others to make your decisions. If you’re not taking action out of rebellion, you’re saying, “I don’t like your ideas, so go ahead and do whatever you want.” If you’re relinquishing your financial responsibilities because of insecurity, you might say, “I’m afraid of doing it wrong, so I will do nothing.” Although the intentions are different, the result is the same.
Sam, one of my of my clients, came to me one day to talk about his taxes. He said, “Um, I don’t want anybody to know this, but I haven’t filed my taxes in ten years.” He was very embarrassed. I completed his returns, and it turned out he would have had tax refunds, but lost all the money due to him because the IRS deadline to collect the refunds had passed.
Once Sam became current with his filings, he was relieved and promised he would never let it happen again. The next year, I called him to remind him to send me his tax information … and the next year and the next. I finally stopped calling him. Caution! There is no time frame if you owe the IRS money. Sam was literally paying the IRS 5,000 dollars per year to not file! It is truly amazing how expensive inaction can be—and inaction is often triggered by fear.
One way to avoid fear is to be intentional as you journey through the year. Purchase an accordion folder this week & start stashing paperwork into categories. File them as soon as you pay the bills or get a paycheck. Breaking the entire fiscal year into a weekly routine of filing paperwork into your different categories will make that big April 15th chore much more manageable!