April 14, 2009

Why some procrastinate income tax filing

The reason some file U.S. income taxes promptly and some procrastinate may be a combination of cash and psychological issues, a researcher suggests.

Dr. Steven Krebaum, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says economics sometimes takes a back seat to psychology when it comes to tax season.

Based on the literature, when a person files taxes is largely based on variables such as the individual's current cash position and return expectations, Krebaum says in a statement. Those with higher incomes tend to file later, particularly if they anticipate large tax payments, while those who expect refunds file earlier, especially if they expect large refunds.

However, these trends are not always consistent.

A number of psychological issues may cause even those who expect refunds to delay filing, such as being upset because stocks have taken a dip and you don't want to face facts; not wanting to be realistic about finances, which filing taxes forces you to do; anger toward bureaucracy -- you don't want to 'pay the government' -- or not wanting to be reminded of distressing personal issues, such as a recent divorce, Krebaum says.

Generally, it may be that psychology plays a larger role than economics in decisions of when to file, Krebaum says.