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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Niedrich: Procrastination doesn’t pay

By Anastasia Niedrich

Every year around this time, millions of procrastinating Americans flock to post offices and other mailing stores to postmark their tax returns before the midnight deadline on April 15.

The ones that aren’t flocking to physical mailing establishments are likely either sweating potential penalties and audits they might get from the IRS for failing to file their return on time or flocking to a computer to file their tax returns or extension requests electronically.

Just how many Americans procrastinate filing their taxes until the last possible second? According to the IRS, more than 20 percent of all taxpayers — around 30 million people each year.

This seems ridiculous to me for several reasons.

First, businesses are required to send out 1099-S and other tax forms by Jan. 31 every year. When businesses mail out their tax forms late, they risk incurring penalties and losing deductions from the IRS, among other things. Many businesses, therefore, choose to send out all of their tax forms, including W-2 that most of us use to file our taxes, by Jan. 31.

That means that most of us have the tax forms we need to file our income taxes by the first week of February, or about two-and-a-half months before the April 15 deadline.

Second, filing your tax returns is quick and relatively painless for most people, especially us college students who shouldn’t have complicated tax situations at this point in our lives.

Taxes can be filed electronically online via the IRS’ e-File program 24-7. According to the IRS, filing your taxes online is the quickest and most accurate way to file. Electronically filed returns have a 1 percent error rate compared to 20 percent for paper returns. This is important to keep in mind because generally, the more errors your return has, the more likely you are to get audited. Everything needed to e-File is available at

Third, there are many free programs that you can use to file your taxes. The IRS even offers a free tax preparation and filing service called Free File. Although the program does have some income, residency and other restrictions, the majority of people who make less than $54,000 annually qualify for the free help and filing services.

So, when people have about a quarter of every year in which to find time to file their taxes and can do so easily for free or for a low cost, why do so many of them still procrastinate?

Some of the explanations procrastinating tax filers offer for their tardy tax filing include not wanting to pay the IRS money they owe for as long as possible.

I guess the logic goes that if you know you’re going to owe the IRS money before you file your taxes, you should put off paying them for as long as possible so that you’ll have your money for longer. This doesn’t make sense to me. I’d rather pay my debt sooner and worry less than have it hang over my head, but maybe it does make sense for some people. I guess it depends.

Even if that makes sense, what doesn’t make sense is that about 30 percent of tax returns filed at the “last minute” — during the week of April 15 — are tax returns where people will be getting money back, not paying it out.

I don’t understand procrastinators, but then again, I’ve never been one to procrastinate. I’m the type of person that usually completes the assignment the day that they get it and then spends the rest of the time until the assignment is due working on other things or, very rarely, relaxing.

It just doesn’t make sense to me why anyone would want to put something off to the last minute that can be done and not stressed about today. For that reason, and also because my mother is someone who has to process all of these procrastinators’ tax returns, I have a real hard time feeling sorry for people who pay for procrastinating.

Now, I’m sure there are some situations that make for good reasons to procrastinate filing your taxes or other things. If there were a death in the family late in the year or something else that complicates a tax situation, it makes sense that it would take more time to deal with that, resulting in a last-minute filing. But I doubt that most last-minute filers are in such situations.

Procrastinating can lead to all sorts of terrible outcomes depending on the situation, including not getting done what needs to get done on time, missed opportunities, fines and other punishments, failing grades and more.

If you’re a procrastinator, whether it’s with filing your taxes, doing your homework or anything else, please consider the price of procrastination. Ask yourself if you really want to risk a negative outcome in a given situation by “putting off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Doing things early means less stress and more time later down the road, and we could all use less stress in our lives.

Please, for my mother’s, the IRS’ and your own sake, don’t procrastinate.

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