Rewards for Tax-Filing Procrastinators?

It’s tax season, and researcher Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D. is talking about procrastination on today’s Talk of the Nation radio show. He suggests that a “reward system” might combat our national tendency to procrastinate on filing tax returns. You can listen to Ferrari make his case on the show’s podcast.

Trouble is, Americans procrastinate in many other areas, from starting a work project to washing those dirty dishes. In fact, Ferrari says that 20 percent of the population are chronic procrastinators. (That 20 percent figure caught my attention, because it’s very close to the higher estimates of ADHD prevalence; more below.) As Ferrari’s profile on the Adelphi University website explains:

“Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator,” says Ferrari.  “We all put tasks off, but my research has found that 20 percent of U.S. men and women are chronic procrastinators.  They delay at home, work, school and in relationships – procrastination is a way of life for them.  Let’s put 20 percent in perspective.  That’s higher than the number of people diagnosed with clinical depression or phobias that are considered to be major problems.”

Yes, the “official” research tells us that only 4.4 percent of the U.S. adult population has ADHD (and only 10 percent of these adults are being treated for it). But there are problems with that 4.4 figure, as I wrote in my book, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?:

Many researchers suspect the true adult population with ADHD lies closer to 10 percent – and possibly as high as 16.4 percent. It all depends on how broadly the diagnostic criteria are applied.  The bottom line: Anywhere from 9 to 35 million U.S. adults age 18 and older likely suffer some degree of impairment from undetected or untreated ADHD.

If you have a tax-filing strategy – a way to get past the mind-numbing tasks involved – please share it with us!



7 thoughts on “Rewards for Tax-Filing Procrastinators?”

  1. I’ve found only one successful strategy for filing taxes: hire an accommodating independent tax preparer. Tell them about your finances and ask for a list of all the documents they need to see. With luck, you’ll have been throwing those papers into a TAXES box over the past year (nothing so sophisticated as Dylan’s folder for me 😛 ).

    1. Good strategy, Summer. Also, working with a bookkeeper on a monthly basis can help, too.

  2. I just filed 7 years worth of taxes, it is time to get my life in order! After a couple of years go buy, lost papers etc.. it gets much harder. I went way past procrastination to paralysis.

    Interesting figures. Many consider the criteria too broad now.. but perhaps not.

    1. Seven years??? Omg, that gives me palpitations just thinking about it. It must feel a great relief to be done with THAT.

  3. My strategy is to get it done as soon as possible. I’ve waited to the last minute probably once in many years. The real reason is because I’ve needed money back.

    I think something else that helps is to have a “20xx taxes” folder in a box with previous years returns waiting for tax documents to be placed in it. I’m very organized in this context. I wonder if having the organizational structure in place has helped me overcome the procrastination and overwhelming feelings that tax season brings to me.


    1. Great idea, Dylan.

      Knowing that you don’t have to go scrounging through boxes and piles has GOT to help reduce procrastination. 🙂

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