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The 5 Stages of Tax Filing (and How to Overcome Them)

Tax Information Tax Planning
A man in an orange shirt smiles and files taxes on his laptop computer.

File your taxes with confidence.

Your max tax refund is guaranteed.

You’ll likely experience various emotions as you file your income tax return — the good, the bad, and the ugly. To help you prepare, let’s address some common feelings people experience while filing and arm you with tips on conquering them.

Below are the five stages of tax preparation and how you can overcome them.

Stage 1: Hesitation

Many people experience some form of hesitation before filing their tax returns. This is especially true if you are DIYing your taxes using a tax software program such as TaxAct®. The prospect of doing it wrong can deter anyone from filing.

However, the hardest part is often getting started. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just grit your teeth and start filing.

Thankfully, TaxAct makes starting your taxes less stressful by saving your information as you go. If you become stuck or realize you don’t have all the tax forms you need, you can always stop and come back to your return later with a clear mind.

You don’t need to pay upfront either, which makes starting your tax return even less of a commitment.

Stage 2: Apprehension

It doesn’t matter how often you’ve filed your taxes before; there’s bound to be some apprehension as you go along.

It may be anxiety about filing everything correctly — perhaps you got a new tax form this year that you’ve never seen before — or you could worry about owing a tax bill or missing out on a valuable tax deduction. Whatever is causing you apprehension, it can be a tough feeling to overcome.

Remember that TaxAct strives to get ahead of this problem by walking you through your income tax return step by step. If something looks off, we’ll let you know and allow you to correct any potential mistakes. Plus, our Deduction Maximizer1 can help pinpoint possible tax breaks you may have missed.

If you want extra peace of mind, you can always talk to one of our tax experts using our Xpert Assist2 add-on service.

Stage 3: Frustration

Sometimes tax prep software like TaxAct can lead you down a path you weren’t expecting, and it’s normal to experience frustration if you get stuck or find yourself down an unfamiliar tax rabbit hole.

When this happens, you may feel like you did something wrong and get discouraged. But it’s often nothing to be frustrated about.

Take our Alerts feature, for instance. This feature is designed to flag any errors or omissions you might have made when filing. We flag certain parts of your tax return as yellow or red, depending on how significant we think they are.

A Yellow Alert is purely informational and does not indicate that you made a filing error, but many taxpayers tend to think it means they did something wrong. This can make Yellow Alerts frustrating, but just consider that our software is trying to ensure you have a chance to go back and review certain areas for accuracy before filing. It doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong.

The same goes for when you find yourself on a page you weren’t expecting. Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that you made a mistake. Instead, try taking a deep breath and following the prompts until you get back to a familiar point.

And if you do find yourself stuck or unsure of what to do, you can always contact us for assistance.

Stage 4: Excitement (or disappointment)

Stage four can go one of two ways — it all depends on your tax refund.

As you fill out your income tax return, we give you a preview of your potential refund amount based on the information you’ve provided us. This number can fluctuate as you add information, and watching that number go up can be exciting!

Of course, disappointment is always possible when you find out your refund isn’t as big as you were expecting. Or even worse, you owe a tax bill this year.

Just remember that we base your tax refund amount on the information you provide as you go. If your refund drastically differs from what you expected, try inputting your numbers into our tax refund calculator and see how they match up. If there’s an extreme difference, you may have made a typo or omission while filing that, when fixed, could bump your refund back up to the amount you were expecting. One tiny typo can really make all the difference.

Stage 5: Relief

And finally, after a rollercoaster of emotions: relief.

You did it! You pressed the submit button, filed your return, and the IRS accepted it. At this stage, all that’s left to do is wait for your tax refund to appear in your bank account. As you wait, you can always check your refund status to track when your refund may arrive.

If you had a tax bill, you can breathe a sigh of relief as well — at least that’s over and done with.

And if you filed for a tax extension, you can relax for now, but make sure you file as soon as possible to ensure you don’t forget anything important from the previous tax year.

This article is for informational purposes only and not legal or financial advice.
Price paid is determined at the time of filing and is subject to change. All TaxAct offers, products and services are subject to applicable terms and conditions.
1TaxAct’s Deduction Maximizer guides you step by step through the process of completing your return in a way that helps you uncover additional tax advantages and helps you maximize your deductions by checking dozens of additional deductions we know from experience folks don’t think to look for. Each deduction you claim may reduce the amount of tax you owe, resulting in a lower IRS bill overall.
2TaxAct® Xpert Assist is available as an added service to users of TaxAct’s online consumer 1040 product. Additional fees apply. Unlimited access refers to an unlimited quantity of expert contacts available to each customer. Service hours limited to designated scheduling times and by expert availability. Some tax topics or situations may not be included as part of this service. Review of customer return is broad, does not extend to source documents and is not intended to be comprehensive; expert is available to address specific questions raised by customer. View full TaxAct Xpert Assist Terms and Conditions.

File your taxes with confidence.

Your max tax refund is guaranteed.

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