Of course, one big time when we feel the weight of accountability comes with a deadline attached each year: April 15. It’s also a good place for us to observe just how close the interplay of our emotions and values can be.
Most Americans face some degree of anxiety around tax time. It is to be expected; the system is set up and operated in a way that is intended to instill a degree of fear. Filing an income tax return is a mandatory citizen responsibility. We’re expected to deal with incredibly complex rules. There’s even an “honor system” to report our income and pay our taxes, although there are stiff penalties if we don’t and are then caught.
Fear, loathing, and distrust are widespread. Some people worry about being audited, doing it wrong, or unexpectedly being ordered to pay a lot more taxes. Others fret over having their return done on time and insist it be absolutely correct. Some are far more willing to take risks, while others willing overpay in the hopes of being “audit proof.” Others can’t sleep at night if they think the Internal Revenue Service is getting one penny more than it must. They obsess over finding every possible deduction. And then there are all kinds of stories to back up those claimed deductions.
Lu, our holistic accountant, had a wealth of examples regarding tax phobias and obsessions — the ones that can result in the April 15 deadline coming and going without the tax return being filed. Her advice: “Here, you might do well to go ahead and file the tax return on time, even though you believe it is not absolutely perfect. Later, when you discover the extra deduction or special rule, it will be relatively easy to file an amended return to correct it. By the way, filing an amended return does not mean you will be automatically audited. Although each amended return is processed manually, by a human being, we have never seen an audit of the whole return result from filing such a correction.”
The important thing, then, is to avoid being jammed by your values and emotions. When you can openly discuss these, you’ll discover you’re not alone. A lot of your friends have big tax secrets, too, and they are eating a hole in their stomachs. Try talking about it, laughing about it. It appears to be part of the human condition. Go easy on yourself. The April 15 deadline is not really as ominous as you make it out to be! If your return isn’t filed on time, it may just cost you a little more when you finally get it in.
How do you feel about paying taxes? Do you think you pay too much? Not enough?
Do you feel you get your value’s worth?
Name three public services you value highly. Name three you think are wastes of money.