Taxes & ADD/ADHD

TAXES? Is he kidding? I don’t have to think about that until next April. How about something useful like relationships, school, relationships at school, stress from relationships & school. How about fishing or hiking? Exercise? Why this now?

Why this now? Because now is the time to catch up on getting taxes for this tax year organized. We’re already halfway through it and you don’t know where all your receipts are, haven’t kept the checkbook balanced and/or haven’t entered everything into your accounting program that you haven’t updated, etc.

The simple fact is that taxes are a year-round reality, not just something that happens in April and, as Inspector Harry Callahan said, “Man’s got to know his limitations.” Sure, you’ve been downloading all your credit/debit transactions into your accounting program, but what about the cash purchases that you can’t download? Does your accounting program properly itemize or hasn’t it been set up to do that properly? What about the receipts for the donations of clothing, etc. to your favorite thrift store? Do you know where they all are?

ADD/ADHD comes in different “flavors:” Disorderly/energetic, distracted/daydreamy & highly structured. These aren’t distinct categories and hardly anyone is all one “flavor,” but knowing or recognizing what type you are can lead to different strategies for dealing with taxes (and money in general.)

The highly structured kind has the easiest time with taxes, right? Everything is in its place and everything is OK. But is that true? I did ask about “all” the receipts for expenditures, tracking of income, donations, etc. All means just that: ALL. One missing receipt can throw the highly organized person into a frenzy of activity, holding up everything until that one missing piece of paper is found, often just before April 15th, with all the resultant anxiety and recriminations that go with not having everything under control and in place.

The disorganized and distracted types often have the opposite problem. Instead of everything being in “its place” everything’s place is everywhere and anywhere. Receipts were put away to keep them together only now that location is forgotten and so others get put in another place or nothing was really “put away” but was left to sit where ever a wallet or something got emptied. Stuff is all over and the end of March/beginning of April is a frantic search to assemble a year’s worth of documentation, enter it somewhere, and get the taxes completed in time.

Any of this sound familiar? Many people go through this same scenario, whether they are diagnosed with ADD or just not thinking about money & taxes until the subject is shoved in their faces. It’s stressful, can lead to problems in relationships, takes time away from other things and can take over your life for a while. So what can be done?


“Man’s got to know his limitations.” So true in so many things. Happily there are more ways than one to work with limitations. One size does not fit all, at least not with any degree of comfort.

Try to recognize where those limitations are.

Organizing? There are people who can work with you around getting organized. Some of them “specialize” in working with ADDers. There are “tax organizers” sold commercially that not only create a central place to keep everything but also have pockets for sorting into categories. Don’t like that? Make your own organizer using file folders and labels. If you don’t want to keep all that paper around there are scanners that will make a digital record of your receipts, etc. keeping both the image (in case you need to produce a copy) and a record in a database that you can use with your accounting program.

Filling out the forms a problem? There are plenty of accountants who will do that, though they will charge a fee for the service. Everything from store-front solo operations to accountancy and financial firms will help you, as long as you’re willing to pay. This is especially helpful if you’re not sure about what’s deductible and what’s not. Some accountants will even take a shoebox full of papers and turn them into the tax returns but, of course, you’ve got to pay for the time it takes to do this. Don’t want to pay for an accountant? There are on-line and purchasable tax programs that will help you with the forms and produce the necessary output.

The most important thing to remember is that whatever “system” you use to get this necessary bit of stuff done has to work for you. It doesn’t matter if someone else says that what works for them is the way to go. It’s true that it’s the way to go – for that person. If it isn’t working for you, and that’s over time with persistent effort, then it doesn’t work for you.

Ah, what was that about “over time with persistent effort?” Yeah, well, there’s the catch (there’s always a catch, isn’t there?) It’s easy to say that something doesn’t work if on the first try or so it gets abandoned. True, some things may be too complicated or involved. Things like double-entry book keeping aren’t absolutely necessary (unless your accountant tells you it is, in which case maybe you need to keep him/her on retainer to do all this for you.) Simple (easy) systems are better at being used consistently because they are more “friendly.” They take less time. Time is the enemy of most ADDers because attention spans can be limited. How much energy and time will get allocated to any task sometimes depends on how “interesting” it is. Keeping track of money is hard to think of as “interesting,” though it truly can be if thought of as a record of what you find important in your life (watch for a future blog about this.)

Persistent effort doesn’t mean long hours toiling over ledgers. It means taking care of this stuff on a regular basis using whatever method you pick. Make an appointment with yourself in your planner (What? No planner? We need to talk. Yet another future blog post) and keep it as you would any other appointment for which you will be charged whether you keep it or not. Set aside time at the end of every day, every other day, or whatever. Just do it. If the best you can do is put everything in a shoebox, so be it. At least you’ll have a complete record in there to hand over to whoever is going to make sense of it.

Sorry, no easy answers. No universal solution other than to do what works best for you and to keep doing it. If you fall behind in your planned method you can catch up. Don’t give up or start all over. Learn from what doesn’t work as a guide towards what does. If you truly can’t do it by yourself find someone to assist you with it until such time as you can or who’s willing to keep helping as needed.

The only answer lies in Harry’s statement. By knowing your limitations you know your capabilities and can adapt accordingly. If you don’t know what you can’t do it’s hard to define what you can. If you only know what you can do you may have unreasonable expectations, and those just invite stress and discomfort.

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