They say that the only sure things in life are death and taxes — and some people would rather have the former than the latter. After all, almost three-quarters of Americans are financially stressed, according to Forbes. Tax preparation season is sure to amplify your members' feelings of financial anxiety, and this stress can hurt their health and job performance.
So to keep body, soul and bank account together, here are four tips that will help your members manage the stress of tax season.
Last year at the start of April, the IRS reported that it was still waiting for more than 59 million taxpayers to file, according to NerdWallet. Remind members that it's never too early to get started preparing their taxes.
To get the ball rolling, they should gather in one place their W-2 forms, mortgage documents and health care paperwork, along with any other materials they'll need. From there, they can begin filling out the necessary forms on a rolling basis.
Be sure to point them to IRS Form 4868 to request an extension if they anticipate not meeting the deadline. For 2018, the deadline is April 17.
Think About Using Tax Prep Software This Year
Chances are your members are already filing their taxes electronically. 132 million filers (out of 152 million total) opted to file online instead of via paper forms in 2017, according to IRS statistics.
If your members use tax preparation software, encourage them to compare their options for both price and security. Consumer Reports details the pros and cons of a variety of free and moderately priced online and software based options for tax filing.
Plan How to Spend or Save Your Refund
Ahead of time, prompt members to think about how they might best use their tax refunds, if they receive one. Since a key component of any long-term plan to reduce financial stress is regular savings, it can be wise to put these funds directly into the bank or into a tax-advantaged retirement account, like a 401(k) or IRA.
That said, members need to be realistic about their finances. Maybe bills and other expenses take priority, and only a portion of the return can go into savings. If members have debt, a tax return can also be a great way to make fresh headway and pull the rug out from under interest rates.
If members already have saving plans and don't need to pay down debt, pass on suggestions from Mint for smart ways to use tax refunds, like replacing inefficient appliances.
Manage Your Money Stress, Manage Your Health
As mentioned above, worrying about money — how it's spent, invested or needed — is a natural source of anxiety to the majority of Americans. The effect of this stress is two-pronged, resulting in both physical and mental symptoms. It can also be self-perpetuating.
Problems resulting from stress like anxiety, depression and cardiovascular issues are all conditions that could incline members to further ignore looking after their health. Similarly, money woes can bleed into family dynamics, turning partners against each other and breeding more stress in the process.
Members who feel that tax season is putting an undue amount of stress on them or their relationships should consider reaching out to a financial counseling service — and even a mental health professional, too. Stress is a serious issue no matter what time of year it is, and a spike around tax season could be a symptom of a bigger problem.
Tracey Lewis, journalist and author, focuses primarily on B2B health care, financial services and other internal corporate communications. Author of a best-selling, pop-culture book published by Random House Books, and a trained oral historian, Tracey also enjoys delving into music, arts and film content. Skilled in SEO optimization and digital storytelling, she knows how to collaborate with communications, policy, research, legal and designer teams to create and execute cohesive content strategies.