For many people, filing their tax return is already a stressful endeavor, especially if they owe and cannot pay.
This week millions of folks awoke to a horror show. They had trouble filing their return electronically because the IRS systems were down. There was a hardware issue in a section of the agency’s system that contains taxpayers’ personal tax records, the agency told The Washington Post.
Before you shake your head and chastise the IRS for the Tax Day delay, read this: IRS systems crash came after years of warnings to Congress: Officials have been warning Congress for years of the dangers of outdated technology.
“Defenders of the agency say it is suffering from more than a decade of budget cuts, pushed by Republicans who have an ideological aversion to the agency, especially after a controversy over IRS scrutiny of conservative nonprofits exploded in 2013,” Aaron Lorenzo reported for Politico. “Occasional breakdowns less dramatic than the one on Tuesday have been happening with increasing frequency.”
The cuts are still coming. “Lawmakers cut another source of IT funding called business systems modernization to $110 million this year, after three straight years of giving it $290 million,” Lorenzo reports.
Still, setting aside the systems failure, by 9 a.m. Wednesday, the IRS said it had accepted more than 14 million tax submissions since processing systems reopened following the early morning system outage on Tax Day.
Think about that. Millions of taxpayers — 14 million — waited until April 17 to file. It is great they got a reprieve, but why were so many cramming right up to the tax deadline?
When it comes to an important financial task such as filing your taxes, why are you waiting so late?
Why are you a procrastinator?
“Psychologists say we tend to procrastinate when we fear or dread doing some task,” Kay Bell wrote for NerdWallet during the 2017 tax season. At the beginning of April last year, the IRS was still waiting for more than 59 million taxpayers to finish their returns, she reported.
Bell offered advice on five procrastination pitfalls if you are prone to wait to the last minute. For example, what if you find a mistake on your W-2?
“Your last-minute filing might reveal you owe the U.S. Treasury more than you expected,” Bell writes. “Suddenly you have to scramble to come up with the payment or pay less than you owe. If it’s the latter, the IRS can start running a tab for penalties and interest on the amount of unpaid tax.”
If you are a financial procrastinator, it is not just because you are trifling.
There is often a price to procrastination.
It might make you feel a little better knowing that even experts can have problems taking care of business. Personal finance writer Gerri Detweiler wrote about how her waiting cost her money.
“I discovered I could recall a horrifyingly long list of ways I had thrown away money by putting off essential tasks,” she wrote for Credit.com “But at least I am not alone. When I polled friends and colleagues, several quickly rattled off their own experiences.”
After listing the pitfalls of procrastination, Detweiler offers tips on how to get your business done so that you can stop wasting money.
Here is additional reading on the topic.
Color of Money question of the week
Was there a time procrastination cost you money? Send your comments to email@example.com. Include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “The price of procrastination.”
Live chat today
I am all yours today. So, what is on your mind about your money? Please join me today at noon (ET), when I will be live taking your personal finance questions.
Here is the link to participate in the chat.
Here is what not to do if you can’t pay your tax bill
Back to your taxes. If owe taxes this year and cannot pay your bill, read the newsletter from last Thursday. There are good tips on what not to do if you owe.
Also last week, I asked: What have you done when you could not pay the IRS on Tax Day?
I did not get any responses, so thought I might offer additional information on what you should do if you cannot pay and why it is important to run the numbers to make sure the right amount of taxes are being withheld from your paycheck.
This is a great blog post on tax-resolution companies that advertise they can save you pennies on the dollar. Word to the wise: Do not believe the hype.
“To the unsuspecting taxpayer, these claims sound very attractive. However, you should be very wary of these claims and the tax debt relief companies that use them,” says the blog post by the Nevada-based CrossLaw. “More often than not, these companies are looking to scam people like you out of their money with false promises and dishonest practices.”
Read about the four red flags to look for in dealing with such companies that promise relief from your tax debt.
Now that you have filed your tax return, The Post’s Heather Long says you should try out the IRS withholding calculator.
I also wrote about why it is important to review your withholdings. Read: Check your paycheck — you might be getting too much money
Color of Money columns this week
“Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.”
Stay informed about your money.
In addition to this newsletter, please read and share my weekly personal finance columns.
Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I am happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I am asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.