7 Tools to Transform Your Tax Day

written by Bari Tessler April 11, 2017

If you’re in the United States, you know what April 15th means.

Tax Day.

Before we get to the beautiful opportunities this day can hold (promise — no Pollyanna-ing required!), take a moment and feel what you’re feeling, right now.

What happens for you, when you read those two teeny little loaded words? Tax Day. Notice your feelings, sensations, thoughts, emotions, and memories. (Do a full-blown Body Check-In, if you like.) Breathe into Tax Day. Take a peek at what’s there for you. No judgment, just curiosity. What comes up?

Tax Day … is most people’s least favorite holiday.

For many people, Tax Day means dread, shame, fear, anxiety. Contraction. Avoidance. Tension. And utterly confounding confusion. Sounding familiar?

As student in my Art of Money community recently expressed (with some expletives edited out): “Who gives us a manual on these things?!”

I wish, wish, wish taxes were taught in schools, along with other basics around money and navigating our emotions about it. The sad truth is: the vast majority of us were never given an education about money, in age-appropriate increments, from grade school on up. We should be. But we aren’t. So it’s no wonder we reach adulthood (and all its responsibilities) with a whole lotta confusion, shame, and fear.

It’s high time to infuse a little love + healing into this day.

Many years ago, I began celebrating Tax Day in a completely different way. I began holding it as a ripe opportunity. For growth. For healing. For celebration and clarity. For forgiveness … and empowerment.
You can’t choose when Tax Day is. But you can claim your own relationship with it.
How do you want to engage with Tax Day? With a ginormous chip on your shoulder … or with some un-shaming, compassion, and clear-headed consciousness? It truly is up to you!

First off: things are complicated.

Our current money system is far from perfect. Oh my, oh my — so far.

Our political scene is more complicated and contentious than ever — and of course this includes where our tax dollars go. Many of you may feel rebellious about taxes, especially given our current financial climate. If you take a strong stance against the system and refuse to participate in its brokenness: I hear you.

I believe we all must find our way way to work within, outside of, or through the larger systems at play. What works for your moral code, lifestyle, and situation may not work for others.

Personally, I choose to engage with our system, as imperfect as it is WHILE working towards creating a better one.
If it feels right to you: can you engage with our current money system in an educated, empowered way — while still allowing yourself to grieve how flawed it is and seek ways to improve it?

Are you with me?

So. Let’s start with the right-here-right-now.

How are you and Tax Day doing? Are you good friends … or barely on speaking terms? The answers I get each year from you, dear community, are all over the spectrum. They’re all unique, complex, challenging, and beautiful in their own ways. And I hope that, wherever you’re at today, these make you feel less alone:

  • Some of you filed months or weeks ago. Zim, zam, done.
  • Some of you haven’t filed for years. The thought of all those back taxes is so overwhelming, you’re paralyzed and don’t know where to begin.
  • Some of you wait ‘till the very last minute, and might be cramming and number-crunching right now.
  • Some of you may choose to file for an extension, to give yourself a little breathing room.
  • Some of you may be facing more taxes than ever before, thanks to a profitable year. (So many of us have a “shock year” where our extra tax debt catches us by surprise.)
  • Some of you may be celebrating a big ole tax return coming your way, and musing on how/if/when you’d like to spend it.

When it comes to taxes, education = empowerment.

(That’s true for many things!)

When I say “education” around taxes, I certainly don’t mean we should all become accountants. You do NOT have to be an expert in taxes to be educated and empowered!

The money education you need — the one that will empower you — is all about:

  • Your unique Money Story: all of your unique history, gifts, challenges, and beliefs around money, past, present, and future
  • Your (general) numbers: what you earned, spent, saved, gifted, and owe
  • What your options are for possible tax deductions and other strategies
  • Who you need on your financial support team to collaborate with you on all of this.

What are YOU ready for, this Tax Day?

These aren’t To Do’s to cause you more dread or overwhelm. They’re loving suggestions. Little elements you might want to incorporate into your personal Tax Day transformation. See if any of these sound healing and good

1. Celebration!

As one of the Guest Teachers in The Art of Money said …

I hope you celebrate that more taxes = higher income = higher impact in the world. ” – Nona Jordan

Yes! Oh yes. Take a little time to celebrate the income you brought in, last year. Pat yourself on the back. Honor your work and whatever else brought that income to your door.

2. Forgiveness.

I once knew a woman who renamed her taxes IRIS instead of IRS. Each time she set aside money for IRIS, she imagined a little old lady, surrounded by teacups and plants and Scottish Terriers. This playful little touch helped her soften, around her taxes … and most importantly, it helped her forgive.

Who do you need to forgive, this Tax Day? Your government? Your auditor? Your boss? Yourself?

Oh, so many of us carry around big shame around our taxes. About what we haven’t done, haven’t paid, haven’t figured out, and on and on and on. (It’s almost like we’re looking for any reason to shame ourselves!)

Give yourself the gift of forgiveness, this Tax Day. Even a tiny dose can create a big shift.

3. Completions.

Money is a practical matter, too. So … what needs to get done? What feels doable to take care of?

Perhaps you’re ready to sit down with a big, delicious chai latte and fill out all of your tax paperwork. Or maybe you decide to file for an extension, this year — but make a plan to get things filed properly, before it expires. Maybe you see that it’s time to hire a bookkeeper to help you get organized and supported, so it’s different next year. Or maybe you’re ready to start the process of clearing up your back taxes, so you can move forward on solid ground.

So often, actually getting things done feels really, really good. Here’s what some Art of Moneyers have said …

Reached out to my tax planner today. Better late than never! Seeking Zen instead of overwhelm … I can do this!”

“Embracing the theme of getting current and completion. I sat down to spend 2-3 hours working on taxes Sunday. A few hours and several Body Check-Ins later, I am almost done. Happily, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. All that anxiety and dread seems like a waste of energy now that the task is nearly complete. How much energy is spent in fear and avoidance?”

“Had the meeting with my wife about taxes… had to do some breathing to get through it. Still breathing . . .”

4. Clarity.

So many people feel a little safer within a protective fog of ignorance, around their money. It’s a Big Scary Deal to muster the courage to look our numbers square in the face. But it’s Square One in creating an honest, engaged relationship with money.

It is a relief to have faced those numbers… and I grew to kind of like them by the end of the day-long ‘intervention’ I had with myself. No, the bottom line is bleak … but it feels better to know where I stand than to not.”

I’ve heard this over and over again, for years, from students and community members: knowing is so much better than not knowing. So often, we avoid finding out how much we owe, what our credit score is, how bad our credit card debt is … but simply knowing the truth is a huge relief. Whether it’s better or worse than we’d thought … the truth is always better than fiction.

5. Learning.

We’re never “done” with our money journey. And that means that with money (as with everything in life), there’s always more to learn.

I’m no exception! I’m not an expert who knows everything under the sun, about money — far from it! But I do enjoy learning a little more, each year — especially as my business grows and evolves. One year, I posted this on Facebook, right before Tax Season:

Got my chocolate and candles all ready to go! I am getting ready for a 2 hour tax + planning meeting with our Tax Preparer, who is also a Financial Coach. I am really excited about it. I simply want more clarity about 2012 + 2013 taxes, deductions and Sep IRA amounts. I can remember the other side of not knowing, not looking, not caring from years ago. So, this clarity stuff is so empowering and supportive for all areas of my life.

6. Feeling.

Tax Day often brings up big feelings for people. Take this opportunity to get to know yourself! Notice what you’re feeling, where you feel it, and how you react to your feelings.

Check in with yourself before, during, and after the whole process of engaging with your taxes. Do it as many times as you can. Honor your emotions. Do your best to listen to what they’re telling you. Here are some body-based tools to help with this.

You might feel anger, grief, confusion, or fear. You might actually find some joy, gratitude, or excitement in there, too! Perhaps your emotions feel distant and quiet, or a little numb. Or maybe they’re so big, they intimidate you a little.
Sometimes, the best we can do is simply allow ourselves to feel what’s there. Sometimes, that’s enough. Sometimes, that’s huge progress. Simply feeling. Noticing. Honoring. This is progress, too — don’t doubt it.

7. Visioning. Tax Day is a great time to plant seeds you’d love to harvest, this time next year.

What do you want next Tax Day to look like? Feel like? What’s one baby step you can take now (or soon) to move you towards this vision?

Wherever you are, whatever you do . . . I invite you to show up to Tax Day in a way that moves you forward into love, empowerment, clarity, and peace.

This is a ripe opportunity, yours for the taking.

What’s your next step here?

It could be one deep, self-loving breath. It could be a full-on overhaul of your tracking system. Or a simple sharing of what’s true for you, to someone you trust. Or it might be a phone call to someone who can help. (Getting support from a professional is huge … and incredibly smart.)

Whatever your next step is, do it in a way that feels grounded and loving, to you. Do a Body Check-In. Light a candle or grab your chocolate. Place your hand on your heart or do a silly dance. Do whatever you need to start reclaiming this day as the ripe opportunity it really can be.

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You have my full support,

Barisig

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