Common Reasons Why People Procrastinate On Their Taxes

It’s 2011 and another tax season is soon upon us. Like other years, this one is sure to see its fair share of income tax procrastinators. Much like yard-work and housecleaning, filing a tax return is something many of us feel comfortable putting off. Putting it off till the tax-filing deadline is one thing, but missing it altogether could cost you. Though you may not realize it, filing late can subject you to stiff fines and penalties. That’s why the following common reasons for tax procrastinating are poor excuses to consider NOW before we get too close to the April 18 tax deadline:

Laziness

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It doesn’t take a forensics team to determine the number one reason for tax procrastination: laziness. Simply put, filling out a tax return can be time-consuming in some cases, or for some attention spans, tedious and boring. Given the choice between filing a tax return and just about anything else, many folks, in fact, an estimated 27% according to a TurboTax customer survey, readily choose the latter till the last two before the tax deadline. In a way, this is no different than most of the other important yet challenging tasks people ignore (such as exercise.)

But in another sense, laziness and taxes are an even deadlier mix. Of no other lazily avoided task can it be said that not doing it exposes you to prison time. If that isn’t reason enough to file, nothing is!

Thrill-Seeking

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Interestingly, psychologists believe that some taxpayers procrastinate for the thrill of filing late. As PsychologyToday.com explains:

Some procrastinators enjoy the adrenaline “rush.” These people find perverse satisfaction when they finish their taxes minutes before midnight on April 15 and dash to the post office just before it closes.

This is roughly the same as the frantic office worker who never plans ahead and insists that they “work best under pressure.” But in both cases, they are usually wrong. In the office and on your tax return, waiting until the last minute leaves no margin for error.

Perceived Lack Of Urgency

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Another reason so many taxpayers take their time is a perceived lack of urgency. Unlike so many of the important obligations in our lives, tax filing is completely up to you. Often attempts by the IRS or other to remind you that April 18 is coming are tuned out as we focus on the important things we need to do in the immediate future. To a busy person with more pressing responsibilities, it’s easy to put tax filing into the “later” pile.

Most of the people who put off their return would never do so on their car or mortgage payment, because it would instantly damage their credit score. Lack of similar immediate consequences for tax filing may help explain why it is routinely neglected.

Availability of Extensions

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Still other taxpayers procrastinate because extensions are available. As TurboTax discussed in a blog post last year, extensions can push back your filing date by up to six months. What it does not push back is your payment date. The IRS is willing to let you slide on filing the actual return, but if you owe, expect to pay the full amount owed  by April 18.

Most people who put off tax filing because extensions are available don’t know this. They simply assume that an extension equals more time to file and pay. If this is what you believe, ask yourself why the IRS would ever do that. If true, no one would pay on time – the new tax deadline, for all practical purposes, would become October 17, 2011.

No Expected Refund

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If there’s one thing people do look forward to about tax season, it’s refund checks. Sure, a big refund means Uncle Sam got an interest-free loan on your dime, but it feels good to get an unexpectedly large chunk of change. So good, in fact, that people who might have procrastinated file well in advance to get it.

On the flip side, taxpayers who don’t expect a refund sometimes use this as a reason to wait. From their standpoint, there’s no big stash of cash waiting on the other end.

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