Sing a New Tune This Tax Season

Paying taxes is one of life’s certainties and while no one enjoys paying them, their predictable bearing on personal cash flow has always been a known entity. The new tax reform is changing all that. For almost everyone, the still unclear implications of the bill can trigger some degree of uncertainty and anxiety. The tax bill will have a different impact on each person, family and business, but for all, unchartered territory, especially when it comes to money, can be stressful.

In life, every person has negative experiences that are out of his or her control. The way one approaches these unavoidable adverse experiences can have a significant impact on overall happiness. You’re much more likely to move successfully through a negative experience when focused on the aspects that can be controlled, rather than the parts that are out of control, and therefore avoid provoking anxiety. This psychological concept can and should be applied to approaching any negative feelings about the 15th of April.

When it comes to the unknown future connected to paying taxes, it is possible to have a positive outlook by taking steps to feel more in control and less worried. The goal is to demystify the impact of the bill and learn ways to not allow it to negatively impact quality of life.

The first step is real education, beyond what is learned from the media, which delivers only the most basic information and often sensationalizes the delivery of any tax reform, simplifying it to seem either all good or all bad in the service of retaining an audience. It is important to read, watch and listen to as much information as possible from all different non-media perspectives, especially from experts like accountants. Factual data is much easier to understand and manage and much less scary.

For individuals, unbiased research and consultation with financial advisors will reveal, in black and white, the personal or business implications of the tax reform. Even if the news is bad, knowledge is power. Although the tax reform changes are beyond our influence this knowledge provides an opportunity to take control of how to respond and plan for the future.

Learning the facts can also be helpful in managing anxiety because in situations like this, the anticipated worst-case scenario is often much worse than reality. In fact, even prior to having clear knowledge about the impact of the bill, it is possible to reduce associated anxiety by asking oneself, “What is the worst-case scenario?” In trying to answer this question honestly, you may realize that perhaps this is a time to wait before starting a renovation or planning an expensive vacation. It may be necessary to shop less and cut coupons more. Soon, the implications of the bill will become clear for all of us. Until that time arrives, taking control of finances will make the transition much, much easier.

dr. susan bartell

dr. susan bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally-recognized psychologist and author practicing in Port Washington. She also speaks throughout the country on a wide range of topics to help individuals and groups improve emotional and physical health and life balance.