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Romance & Money

Dealing With Your First Joint Tax Season

Stop complaining about taxes

Caroline in Sacramento, Calif.:
"When my husband of two years and I try to do our taxes together, he complains about everything as if taxes were a physical wound. I tried to tell him for the last few years that if he’d just keep things a bit more organized all year long, tax time wouldn’t be so traumatic. He then criticizes me for my organized bookkeeping and the ease with which I approach tax season. (Let me just say that we both work in the same commission-paid career and make approximately the same amount of money.)

His comments hurt me because I’m trying to help.  It can take me days to get over these comments. He says it’s just part of his "tax mood," and that I should get used to it since it’s only once a year. (Once a year for thirty-days!) I should add that every year, by June, he’s back to being himself: a romantic fool. 

But I still think he’s a tax time bully and takes his frustration out on me. I get angrier with him each year. I’m getting worried about how this might affect our relationship in the long run. Help!"


Caroline, congratulations on your organizational skills; I’m still working on those myself.

I know people like your husband, and all I can say to that is he’s dug himself a deep hole. By criticizing you and refusing your help and guidance, he’s making it deeper.

"The first rule of holes: When you are in one, stop digging."
Molly Ivins

Harsh words are not easily wiped away by gentle behavior after the fact. Becoming a considerate friend/spouse year round would go much further in ensuring your marriage stays a happy one. It takes wisdom to learn from others.

"Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain-and most fools do."
Dale Carnegie

Your husband needs to stop complaining about tax time and ask himself some hard questions:

  • Why is he unprepared for an event that happens every year?

  • Why does he resent your advice when it’s clear you have tackled the issue successfully?

  • (You may also want to take a look at how you are offering the advice; is your tone critical or sarcastic?)

  • Does this lack of preparedness permeate other areas of his life, like bill paying?

If it does, then he would improve the situation greatly by implementing some time management skills. There are hundreds of time management books and tapes on the market. If time management is the problem, then it can be altered like any other problem, one day at a time.

These three Tax-Time Management Tips will help alleviate some of the stress of tax time:

  • JUMP START your tax preparation time by starting in November. Set aside one hour a month to begin the preparation of your taxes by gathering the information you will need.

  • SAVE RECEIPTS in separate files all year long. Label the files: office supplies, lunches, medical, mortgage, etc. At the end of the year, all you have to do is add them up, or add them into your accounting/booking software at least every 60 days all year long.

  • BUSINESS EXPENSES: use credit cards that you pay off monthly, and that send you an annual itemized report of your spending. At the end of the year, it’s handy to have and saves hours of calculating what, when, and where you spent money.  

Another good investment can be personal/business finance management software.

If your husband’s problem comes only at tax time and is related only to paying taxes, then he needs to figure out why he resents taxes so much that he becomes angry and takes it out on you. That is not OK. We all have to pay our share into a system from which we benefit, whether or not we always agree with it. He is not alone in his frustrations. However, we do not all turn around and argue with our spouses because of it.

I think you are wise to worry what kind of damage this annual stress and resentment may cause to your marriage long term if it is not addressed satisfactorily.
 

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