Do you remember the saying, "There are only two givens in life, death and taxes"?
Unfortunately, tax season is known to cause an enormous amount of stress, anxiety and frustration. Actually, finances have been proven to cause tension in relationships and also as the number-one reason a couples argue.
Keeping track of your finances (while a possible threat of an audit looms) can make taxes seem a little intimidating; but it doesn't have to be.
What are some tips to help ease stress during tax season?
- Start early
- Know what you're doing
- Take baby steps
- Seek professional help if needed
- Keep track of documents for next year
Sharon Lechter, CPA, shares why taxes are so stressful and ways you can ease some of the burden.
RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: April 16, 2015
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
Dr. Pam Peeke, New York Times best-selling author and founder of the Peeke Performance Center, and Michelle King Robson, leading women's advocate, entrepreneur and founder of EmpowHER.com host the show everyone's talking about. It's time for HER Radio.
PAM: Uh oh. Did you get your tax stuff in on time, Michelle?
PAM: Oh, come on now. Oh. Is Sharon on the line? I don't want to say that if...Sharon's a dear friend of both of us, but no. I filed for an extension. Are you kidding? Do I ever get it in on time? No. I always file for an extension for that, which I'm sure Sharon will be more than happy to tell us.
PAM: Oh, my gosh.
So, it's tax season and we need to know the financial habits you have to have to be able to ease your S-T-R-E-S-S. That's correctamundo and, of course, the one and only person who could really answer all of this is our "go to" for everything health and wealth and that's Sharon Lechter. So many of you know her from her New York Times best-selling books and her latest is, Think and Grow Rich for Women: Using Your Power to Create Success and Significance.
MICHELLE: It's a great book.
PAM: Sharon, welcome back to HER Radio.
SHARON: Hello, you two ladies. I'm so happy to be with you.
MICHELLE: Hello, Sharon. Our dear, dear friend who gets out of trouble with our taxes and financial stuff.
SHARON: Well, I have to tell on myself. On Saturday, I went to the mailbox and I had a letter from the IRS and my own heart went kabop. It was hysterical. I found myself reacting even though it was totally innocent, but one of those things. This time of year brings a high level of stress and the reason? The IRS. Filing your taxes. The American Psychological Association said that three things that cause you the most stress in life: work, your love partner and money.
MICHELLE: I know that.
SHARON: What happens is, all three of those things come together at this time of year. So, you've got a triple threat of having to talk to the IRS about those things that sometimes you don't really want to talk about. Particularly women tend to put their head in the ground when it comes to money.
PAM: Now, why is that? Why is that?
MICHELLE: It's in our DNA.
SHARON: Well, I can answer that real fast. When you were a kid, what did you hear from your parents? "We can't afford it. Money doesn't grow on trees. We're not the Rockefellers." And all of those are imprints that we had as kids that are negative as it relates to money. Then, women tend to get like, they get powerful with money and then they give it up when they find a partner and get married. So. It's really important for women to stand up in their own power because right now, women already own 60% of all personal wealth in the United States. So, we already have the power.
MICHELLE: That's amazing.
SHARON: We need to educate ourselves.
MICHELLE: So, is it true that finances are one of the main reasons why couples argue? I always thought it was sex. Just, you know, myself.
SHARON: Number one reason, in most surveys, number one reason for divorce is arguing over money. In fact, the AICPA did a survey and married couples admitted to arguing over money at least 4 times a month and, if you're over 50, it's 6 times a month.
MICHELLE: Really? Because women were spending too much?
SHARON: Well, the second part of that survey was, "How many of you actually lie to your partner about money?"
SHARON: And it was a pretty high percentage of hiding purchases or fibbing about having a little slush fund on the side.
SHARON: It's just things. Money has this incredible fear attached to it--and emotion. I say you're either a master of your money or a slave to it. Most of us are slaves to our money.
MICHELLE: Slaves. Yes.
PAM: Okay. So, it's tax season. So, what's a woman supposed to do right now?
MICHELLE: You missed tax season, Pam.
PAM: Now what? Now what?
SHARON: Well, as Michelle started the interview saying she extended her taxes, which I did as well. So, with that, it ends up being, tax season's all year long these days.
SHARON: So, what happens is, we end up realizing that we're not in control and most women I know are control freaks. I know I am and so when you're doing your taxes, you realize that you're not really in control of your taxes unless you take control. And take control by getting organized; by looking at your tax return from last year. Now is a perfect time. If you did file your return by yesterday, the deadline, look at it and say, "You know, where am I out of whack? Where have I spent too much money? What can I do now?" and that's where you start. Recognizing where you are today is the first step. Get your head out of the sand and say, "Where am I financially? Am I making more than I'm spending? If the answer is "yes", say, "Hallelujah!" Too many of us are spending more than we make.
MICHELLE: Yes. With credit cards and everything else. But, it's so confusing, Sharon. Let's talk about, you know, tax forms. Is there a better way to understand what's being asked of them on the forms, for example? Because I know it's confusing for me and I have somebody do mine because there's no way I could do it.
SHARON: Well, and that's the first step. Everybody should get an expert to help you because it's gotten so incredibly complex. I don't even do my own taxes. I have somebody else who's an expert and knows the in's and out's do it, because I think I know a lot, but when it gets down to actually completing everything, I want somebody who lives and breathes it every day so that I get the benefit of their experience and their expertise.
PAM: Well, Sharon, what about people who go out there and go to a place like H&R Block or some filing company online? Are those worth anything? I mean, are they helpful?
SHARON: My answer to you, Pam, is that if it's somebody who has a very simple tax life where they don't have a lot of different properties that they own—where it's basically just salary and living expenses, there's nothing wrong with all of that because it's a simple form. If you have multiple issues related to your financial life, I really recommend you have somebody who can advise you—not just do the taxes, but understand them and help you understand them. That's an element above H&R Block. You want somebody that's really helping you plan to maximize your wealth because every time you file a tax return, you have an opportunity to say, "What more could I be doing to reduce my tax burden?"
MICHELLE: Yes. Exactly. So, tell me, Sharon, tell our listeners, who is at risk for an audit?
SHARON: Well, good question. The IRS is crying foul that they don't have enough money to do enough audits, but, quite frankly...
SHARON: ...there are certain triggers that, you know, if you have a home office deduction, sometimes they will look at that. If you have income that goes way up one year and way down the next and way up the next year, sometimes that will trigger an audit. Things that tend to be unique from year to year. But, most importantly, you can be audit proof if you make sure you've got the right person helping you and they are looking at every opportunity. I shouldn't say "audit proof" because none of us are audit proof, but pain-proof if you do get audited because you want to make sure you've got all your documents in order because what happens, and I want to say this, it's so important. People that get audited and they haven't kept their records. Oh, it's horrible.
MICHELLE: The worst, right?
SHARON: They can't justify. If you are one of those that just throws your receipts into a pile and then you pick up the pile and you just kind of dump it somewhere, you are the kind of person that the IRS loves to brutalize.
PAM: Right. Right. Right. And, you know something? Everyone out there? Women? You've got to be thinking proactively. What Sharon Lechter has made ultimately clear, is you've got to be strategically organizing, thinking, planning and whatever you do, don't just be heaping up your receipts somewhere. You've got to get some help from people like a financial advisor and others who can really lay down some guidelines and help you navigate this and it's never too early to start into this and I want to make sure everyone knows about Sharon's wonderful book and both Michelle and I have contributed to this book. It's Think and Grow Rich for Women: Using Your Power to Create Success as Well as Significance. It's really important for women out there to just get a hold of this immediately because money is so stressful, especially for women and don't be giving all the power away to the guys in your life. Don't do that. Come on! Empower yourself.
Sharon, thank you so much for being on HER Radio again.
I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson.
MICHELLE: Find an expert to help you that's the best way you can de-stress when it comes to taxes. You're listening to HER Radio on RadioMD. Stay well.