5 Ways to Keep Tax Day From Wrecking Your Marriage

couple going over tax prep

Even if you're looking forward to a sweet return from Uncle Sam this year, tax season can be a stressful time for even the most financially on-the-ball couples. Making peace, as a team, with how you're going to spend your return, or what you're going to do if you owe the government a check is no piece of cake! 

 

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"If you’re not on the same page with where your money is going or your financial goals, each party may have a different plan for what they want to do with their tax return," says financial coach Chris Hogan, who works with Dave Ramsey, host of The Dave Ramsey Show. "And because tax returns are often a large sum of money, it can be a point of conflict if you’re not on the same page with where your money is going."

Thankfully, there are five practices you can implement -- now and well in advance of filing next year -- that can keep conflict at bay while benefiting your finances and your marriage.  

1. Weigh your options as a team. Maybe you met with your accountant or used an online program to file, and now, you've been in a bit of financial limbo, waiting to make a final call on what to do with your return. Well, no time like Tax Day to bite the bullet and talk it out. "Whatever you decide to do with the money, you need to make that decision together," says Hogan. "Sit down and talk through the options for the tax return, weigh the pros and cons of each, and see if you all can make a decision together. If you can’t agree, park the money in the bank until you can get on the same page with what it should be used for."

2. Make sure your financial foundation is solid. "Couples should have a complete picture of their debt situation, of their emergency fund, and of their retirement goals before they start dreaming of what to do with the money," says money management and frugal living expert Lauren Greutman of MarkandLaurenG.com and I Am That Lady. "It's okay to use some of it as 'play money,' but address your financial goals first. For the long-term health of a marriage, being financially smart will be the better choice for a relationship."

In other words, before you get frisky with booking that Expedia package, make sure you've covered the basics. "If you don’t have at least $1,000 in the bank, start there," says Hogan. "If you have a starter emergency fund, but still have debt, put your refund towards paying off debt. Remember, this isn’t a gift from the government – it’s your money."

More from The Stir: Marriage 911: What Do You Do When You Don't Agree on Money? 

3. Plan a "money date." Once you know where your return is going, it doesn't hurt to plan ahead. "Set aside a night for to have a 'money date,'" advises Hogan. "Let each person talk about their dreams and wants -- do you want to pay off debt, go on a nice vacation, or remodel the kitchen. Whatever it is, dream out loud! Then, start to set some goals that you both agree on paper and prioritize together." This is one of the most efficient ways to get on the same page (literally and figuratively!) with your financial vision, which will make for smoother sailing during tax season -- and anytime you're dealing with money matters.

4. Make adjustments for next year. "If you received a significant tax return this year, make some adjustments so that your return isn’t as large next year," recommends Hogan. "When you receive a large return, you’re essentially loaning your money to the government."

5. Call in a third party when necessary. If you're not in agreement on how to proceed, or you're concerned about how to cover a tax payment, you can always get professional help. "Talk with a tax professional to have them double check all of the numbers," says Hogan. "Make sure you get the full picture about what is owed. Then, sit down with your spouse and determine what can be paid and when."

Playing it safe -- by funding an emergency savings account, paying off debt, or adding the money to a retirement fund -- may not be the most exciting way to spend a return. And no couple wants to have a tough conversations about how you're going to pay the IRS if you owe.

But doing what you can to minimize financial snags down the road is an investment in your relationship, too. As Greutman notes, "Finances are the number one cause of divorce, so if you can decrease the chances for financial problems, then you increase the chances of a successful marriage."

What do you and your spouse fight about the most when it comes to taxes? What do you agree on?

 

Image via iStock.com/RichLegg

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