Is Tax Season Taxing Your Marriage? Three Tips to Help

A pen hovers over the marital status section of a tax form.Do you and your spouse fight when you do your income taxes? Do you dread going over your expenses and income each year, and so, put it off until April 14? Do you brace yourself against the inevitable disagreements that come up when you talk finances with your spouse? You can keep a happy marriage during income tax season with some planning ahead.

To begin with, make some early decisions. When you agree on some basic premises about tax preparation, the process is smoother. Most relationships fare better if both partners are involved in decision making. Ask yourselves these questions:

• Are you going to do your taxes yourselves or hire someone?
• If you are going to a service, who will you hire? Who will make the call to schedule the appointment?
• If you do your taxes yourselves, how will you do them? Which software will you use?
• Is one of you in charge of saving receipts, or do you take individual responsibility? How do you track your income and expenses? Which software?
• How detailed do you want to be about verifying expenses and income? Are you comfortable with estimates or do the amounts have to be exact?

Once you have those questions settled, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

1. Set two or three specific times to review and coordinate the process together. Don’t discuss your tax situation right before you go to bed at night. Try to set aside 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, perhaps on a weekend. If you have disagreements about your budget or how money is spent, keep those issues for a different discussion. A relationship can only handle so much stress.

2. Keep an open mind. Remember you may not agree on everything. That doesn’t mean one of you is wrong. Be willing to compromise and shift your opinions.

3. After tense business meetings with your spouse, switch to something fun or relaxing. Nervous systems can get over stimulated, so help each other calm down. Take deep breaths; smile at each other.

Remember, it is just your taxes; it is just the Internal Revenue Service. If you get audited, well, you will deal with that if it happens. Keep the happy elements of your marriage intact. Tax seasons come and go; your marriage is a lifetime.

© Copyright 2010 by By Pamela Lipe, MS, therapist in Saint Paul, Minnesota. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sally

    Sally

    March 10th, 2010 at 5:30 AM

    Save the marriage and hire an accountant for the tax process.

  • tudor bracken

    tudor bracken

    March 10th, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    the last statement of your article is so very right… doing taxes-or anything for that matter-is not more or even as important as your marriage and letting differences develop over these kind of issues would be foolish to say the least.

  • Virginia

    Virginia

    March 11th, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    hehehe I like Sally’s point. On a serious note I totally agree that taxes would be something silly to let arguments or rifts pop up over in the marriage. There are way more important things to be worked on in a relationship. Taxes only typically come up once a year- there has to be a way to find to work through all of that!

  • Pam Lipe

    Pam Lipe

    March 11th, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Unfortunately, many arguments in marriages are disguised as money issues. As a marriage counselor, many of the couples I see are conflicted over money. However, after we have met for awhile, it becomes apparent that the conflict is really over “How committed to me are you? Can I count on you to really be ‘on my side’?”

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