Fixate too long on your taxes and you will probably experience some physical and psychological symptoms. Just the thought of that looming 1040 form and most people's palms start feeling sweaty, their shoulders get a bit more tense. Talk about taxing! But what if you could trade in that April 15 anxiety for a dose of higher self-esteem?
Psychologists say that paying your taxes early can do just that. “Facing the reality and not postponing the inevitable is a benefit in itself,” says April Lane Benson PhD., a psychologist specializing in working with compulsive consumers. If you are getting money back from the government, early filing gets your refund processed faster. “But if you have to pay [the government] money and you’re doing it early, it can be a way you can exercise control,” says Benson. Paying Uncle Sam in advance means you successfully met a deadline-based challenge, which certainly can increase your self-esteem and confidence “If you’re someone who has a tendency to overspend and are able to face the fact you owe this money and honor your commitment to paying your taxes, it can be a step in the right direction,” says Benson.
In addition to peace of mind, crossing taxes off your to-do list also frees you up to concentrate on other endeavors. It might seem obvious, but as people are confronted with more demands, it becomes difficult to pay attention to the most important task at hand. “It’s like battlefield triage,” says Daniel Kegan, PhD., an organizational psychologist. “All things want attention, and we have to sort out what to attend to. If you haven’t done something you need to do, it’s diverting your concentration elsewhere.”
If you’re someone who puts off those government filings, don’t be afraid to make it easier on yourself by asking for help. “See if your partner is better at those things and maybe let them do it,” says Kegan. “Then give them a treat for it, like take them away for a weekend.” Benson says breaking down your task into several manageable steps should make paying taxes easier. “You can absolutely make it more manageable,” she says. Use resources like Tax Web or IRS counselors for help with the gritty details.