It’s that time of year again and it sucks big time. Taxes. Apparently it’s like mandatory or something, so we all have to do it. Who makes these laws, anyway? We don’t know, we just fill out the paperwork. Every year it’s a hassle and a giant pain in the ass, so we decided to research some ways to lighten the burden this year. And we found some pretty cool ways to make tax season less like a weekend in the slammer. While it’s still no day at the beach, it doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare. Apply these tools and save yourself a couple of gray hairs.
Know Your Limits
We’re not talking about drinking…although we will get to that. We’re talking about the difficulty of your tax filing compared to your general tax knowledge. If you are single and only have one W from last year without any deductions, you can finish your taxes in a matter of minutes. If you are married, filing jointly with someone, have some LLCs or other companies under your name, have kids, or a lot of deductions, it might be wise to go to a professional tax person. There are plenty of places to go to that have certified pros and have been in business for years. Google some in your area and make an appointment. But at this point, you may need to file an extension in order to get in for that appointment.
Tip: Turbo Tax and other programs are great and easy to use, but if you have a detailed tax filing, go to a pro.
Do It All at Once
Some people subscribe to the system of doing taxes bit-by-bit for a few days until it is done. We’ve found the best way to approach it — whether it’s a 45 minute job or a four hour job — is to pick one evening and get the entire thing done. Pencil out a night where you are not otherwise engaged and dump all your info on the living room floor around 8pm. If you are diligent, you can have the whole mess behind you within a couple of hours. It’s all done in one sitting and you don’t have to think about it after that. None of that spreading it out stuff — just pull off the tax Band-Aid in one night.
Tip: Try to keep all your tax info in one file or box throughout the year. That way, you just have to grab it and get to work when it’s time to file.
Entertainment While Taxing
When you are in the middle of seeing how much you owe The Man, it’s best to have something in the background to help relax you. Complete silence can induce insanity — unless you are easily distracted, of course. We suggest putting on a collection of CDs or putting in a DVD to play while you work. Make sure the DVD is of a flick or show you have seen several times so you won’t be too distracted trying to watch something new while deciding if you can write off the Frosty you bought at 2am from Wendy’s last St. Patrick’s Day. And if you still have the receipt from that, you just might be our new hero. Okay, yes. You are our new hero.
Tip: Something like “The Office” or “Seinfeld” on DVD is a perfect choice. For music, someone suggested Black Eyed Peas to us, but go with what soothes you.
Food & Drink
If you must be doing all this tax stuff, you might as well make an evening of it. Order some Chinese, whip up some homemade Mexican food — whatever — just make sure you have a nice spread to accompany you while you work the tax game. It helps keep you somewhat distracted from the filing and will give your taste buds some satisfaction at the same time. Pick something easy to eat while looking through paperwork. So, those BBQ ribs and fried chicken are probably not good ideas. For the drink portion, get a nice wine or some beers. You want to take the edge off, but you still need to be lucid enough to finish your taxes. Doing 3 or 4 shots of tequila before you start is the recipe for vomiting. Then again, doing taxes can also induce vomiting. Pace yourself. That’s all we’re saying.
Tip: Tacos or subs are easy and don’t require utensils. Pick a proper beer to go with those.
Have a Tax Party
These things are not too common, but they should be. Yeah, they’re dorky, but it will take the sting out of the process. Basically, you host a party for your friends — some single, some couples — and they all bring their tax crap with them. There is food, drinks, entertainment,…all that good stuff. The night will last a few hours, but the goal is for all of you to get your own personal taxes finished before the night is over. Some of the taxes will be easy, some difficult. But at these parties, everyone tends to help each other and have fun while doing it. It seems less like work and more like a bunch of friends hanging out while doing nerdy paperwork stuff. Which is what you are doing.
Tip: Always invite an accountant/banker/finance person. They will unknowingly be doing everyone’s taxes for them by doling out free advice all night.
Pick the Best Night
Which night you choose is also key to your stress-free tax filing. If doing them during the week works best for you, go for it. We discovered doing taxes on a night where we have the next day off takes a load off, because you aren’t racing the clock to get to bed before work the next morning. Weekend tax work sucks, but it might be best for you unless you have a day off during the week. If you decide to do it on a Friday night, you’ll be finished and have the rest of your weekend free to go out and fail at scoring with women. Again, the night is a personal preference, but not having to get up early the next day will keep some of the tension out of the task.
Tip: Call in sick. You deserve it.