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March 21, 2014 — “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” - Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities 

There’s no better time of year than the spring. The flowers are blooming, the sun has come out, some people are daring to expose their milk-white shoulders and knees in public with the earnest hope of finally getting a tan this year, and you’re really looking forward to that Mexican cruise that you’re finally going on after years of talking about it.

But there is a dark shadow lurking around the edges of this beautiful season: taxes. Taxes don’t have to be the worst thing in the world if you don’t procrastinate and get all your questions answered early on, but we both know you’re going to wait till the last minute and torture yourself in the meantime. Here are the eight stages of that process.

1. Casual Nonchalance. Oh, it’s still February? Yeah, I totally have plenty of time, I can do it later. No worries, let’s hit the slopes!  

2. Encroaching Anxiety That month flew by, maybe I should start getting my papers together. Yeah, I should really get going on that… Where’s my W-2 form again?  Crap, I don’t really know what I’m doing… What self-employed tax deductions can I take? Is that even allowed? I don’t know the first thing about preparing my small business taxes! Is this even legal?!  

3. Primal Fear And Breakdown Maybe I shouldn’t write off that basketball game I took my client to? I’M GOING TO GET AUDITED. I’M TOTALLY GOING TO GET AUDITED.  

4. Gradual Acceptance and Recovery [Takes deep breath.] Okay, this isn’t so bad. I know about all the weird loopholes. I’ve talked to an On Call® attorney and gotten my estate planning and compliance questions answered. I’ve got this!*  

5. Full-Fledged Relief A wave of serotonin hits you like a freight train when you click submit. You’re done! So this is what being a responsible, competent adult feels like.  

6. Sobering Epiphany Wait, I have to pay how much?! You realize that unless you move to Monaco where there are no income taxes, you’ll have to go through all of this again next year (and the year after that… and the year after that…).  

7. Shiny Object Syndrome Hey look, your refund check arrived!  

8. Contentment. Enjoy that cruise and tell yourself you’ll be a lot better at this next year.   

* Gather your documents. For most people, this includes:

  • W-2 (if you’re an employee)
  • 1099 from your bank (if you received any income from interest on a savings account)
  • Receipts or confirmation letters regarding any charitable donations you made

Depending on your situation, you might also need:

  • Brokerage statement listing dividends you received on any non-retirement accounts
  • Mortgage interest statement from your bank (if you own your own home) and copy of your real estate tax bill
  • Records/receipts from any major medical expenses
  • Documents regarding any purchase/sale of property or other assets

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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