Money & Budgets

The ADHD-Friendly Guide to Filing Taxes

Why do so many of us put off doing taxes until April? Because it’s all so overwhelming! Use these tips to overcome common hurdles, find the right paperwork, and simplify the process so you’re done before April 15.

Gold pen laying on calendar belonging to ADHD person for tax day
Gold pen laying on calendar belonging to ADHD person for tax day

It’s time to file your taxes, AGAIN! Didn’t I just do that?

Which would you rather do: work on your taxes or stick a fork in your eye?

PUT DOWN THE FORK! It’s not that bad. Honestly.

For people who have ADHD, one of the hallmark challenges is organization.

And procrastination. Taxes FEEL like an overwhelming task because the project pieces are usually not organized. It’s hard to get started: “What do I do first,” “it’s so complicated,” “I don’t know where anything is,” “I don’t even know what I need.” There are so many reasons to delay and avoid.

[You’re Four Steps Away From Financial Security]

There’s also the issue of MONEY that surfaces when we talk about taxes. How much do I spend? How much do I save? Will I have enough money to pay what I owe? The anxieties that come up around money add to the feelings of overwhelm. And we often feel shame about being late, overdue, delinquent, etc. Understanding what gets in your way, and increased self-awareness, can help. Once you’re AWARE of some of the reasons you’d rather stick a fork in your eye, we can address ways to lessen that impulse!

Keep things simple. What do you need to get started?

1. Create a file EVERY year for tax related documents for that year. Anytime you have a document that may be related to filing your taxes, put it in this file. (i.e., property tax bills, charity payments, 1099’s, year-end tax documents from banks, etc.)

2. You need forms to file your taxes. They are often mailed to you from the IRS. (If you didn’t get them, other resources are available online — many can be printed out or requested from their website.

3. You will need records (papers, forms, receipts, statements) to complete these forms:

  • Income from work, banks, investments, sales, etc.
  • Expenses — mortgage interest, charitable deductions, state income taxes, etc.
  • Previous years’ tax records (if you can find those and if they have been filed!)

[The ADHD Guide to Saving Money]

For a complete list of records you need (should have kept, and will need to keep in the future), and information about how long you need keep them, can be found at the IRS website. There is also a handy tax preparation checklist available on the TurboTax website. If you are missing important paperwork (you know, from that list of things you should have kept), such as 1099’s, bank documents and so on, it is usually possible to locate where you can get copies on each organization’s website.

If you’re comfortable with technology, there are systems that will help you get and stay organized. (You’ll still need to keep some paper records.)

Microsoft Money, Mint, Quicken and QuickBooks are all examples of software you can use to keep, organize and report on your information, although they do require data input on your part!

4. Create the right space for working. What conditions do you need to create to help you begin putting the pieces together? Does music help? Does it help to have a buddy or family member assist you or just hang out nearby doing their own thing? Do you work best if you have a deadline you set with your accountant? Does it help you if you work in small chunks, having a reward after each work session (a nap, specialty coffee, glass of wine.)

Work backwards from THE deadline and set interim deadlines or milestones at least a month before April 15th (or right now!). Enter these dates on your calendar. Schedule an appointment with your accountant (or schedule it with yourself — actually block out the time in your agenda — if your return is relatively simple and you are doing your taxes yourself.) One month before the meeting set a deadline to get your forms and paperwork together — again, this depends on whether you are doing the taxes yourself or hiring someone. If you’re using money management software, plan to finish off any data entry you need to do to complete the year of record keeping. Of course, this means scheduling the time in your agenda to do this as well.

[Tracking ADHD-Related Medical Expenses]

Each week, write down what the next step is and then schedule it (block out the time in your agenda and treat it as an un-miss-able appointment!) Where do you keep the “taxes in process” in between your work sessions? Keep them in one place so that when your next schedule tax work session comes up, you know where to find your records.

By breaking the process into steps, you will make this project much more do-able. You’ll see progress, and even with the occasional setback, you’ll see that tackling one piece at a time can turn a mountain into molehills. Acknowledge yourself for your hard work!

5. Oh, one more thing. Before you send in your taxes, SIGN THE RETURN!