April 15 – Don’t let tax stress get the best of you

ST. GEORGE – With Wednesday’s tax payment and individual return filing deadline nearly here, what can you do to better cope with tax-time stress? Consider these facts:

  • You are more likely to die in a car accident on tax day due to a spike in driver stress levels, according to a recent study published in Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults say the tax-filing process is stressful, and 18 percent consider it very stressful, according to Zogby Interactive Survey
  • Tax day tied as the second most stressful day of the year, with first place being a day with mass tornadoes, according to Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index
  • About 75 percent of Americans cite money as a significant cause of stress, according to the American Psychological Association

Stanford psychologist Megan Jones said in a news release that the solution comes in four steps:

Step No. 1 – Pivot your perspective
Because your chance of feeling daily stress is the same if you make $40,000 per year versus $160,000 per year, realize that more money does not make you less stressed – but your attitude about money can.

Step No. 2 – Look forward, not back
For many couples, conflict arises during tax season because one partner tends to spend more while the other saves more. Rather than looking back at what each of you did in 2014, use tax time to make 2015 financial resolutions.

Step No. 3 – Be proactive
Because money-related stress is often related to a feeling of helplessness, choose a simple action, such as selling an old item, that you can implement immediately to start positively impacting your savings.

Step No. 4 – Box it up
To manage different sources of stress, visualize “boxes” where you can put each stressful obligation when you’re not actively engaged with it. Avoid thinking about tax and money issues until you consciously decide to take them out of a mental box.

IRS tips for reducing tax-time stress

According to IRS.gov, tax preparation doesn’t need to give you a headache. There are several ways to make it easier on yourself. The IRS offers six tips to help make your tax-filing experience a breeze this year.

  •  Don’t procrastinate. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. Rushing to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error.
  • Visit the IRS website; make it your first stop to check for the latest news and find answers to your questions about tax filing.
  • Use Free File. Let Free File do the hard work with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It’s available exclusively at www.irs.gov. Everyone can find an option to prepare their tax return and e-file it for free. If you made $57,000 or less, you qualify for free tax software that is offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more than $57,000 and/or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there’s Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile for options.
  • Try IRS e-file. Last year, 79 percent of taxpayers – 106 million people – used IRS e-file, which is the safest, easiest and most common way to file a tax return. When you combine e-file with direct deposit the IRS can generally issue your refund in as few as 10 days.
  • Don’t panic if you can’t pay. If you can’t pay the full amount of taxes you owe by the April 15 deadline, you should still file your return by the deadline and pay as much as you can to avoid penalties and interest. More than 75 percent of taxpayers eligible for an installment agreement can apply using the web-based Online Payment Agreement application available at www.irs.gov. To find out more about this simple and convenient process, type “Online Payment Agreement” in the search box at www.irs.gov. You can also contact the IRS to discuss your payment options.
  • Request an extension of time to file – but pay on time. If the deadline clock is ticking, you can get an automatic six-month extension through Oct. 15. However, this extension of time to file, which must be filed or postmarked by the April 15 deadline, does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. If you have not paid at least 90 percent of the total tax due by the April deadline you may also be subject to an estimated tax penalty. You can obtain an extension through Free File at www.irs.gov/freefile. Or, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, available for downloading at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to have a paper form mailed to you. Allow at least 10 days for mailed forms and publications.

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Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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