Why Tax Season Can Be Challenging for ADHD Adults

It’s that time of the year again… the 90 plus days that are the bane of existence for most adults with ADHD.

Yes, I’m talking about tax season – when all of our best intentions from the year before can either feel like our saving grace or plunge us into weeks of despair. For whatever reason, taxes seem to combine all of the struggles of ADHD into one fell swoop.

Last year, I shared the common experience of “a week with adult ADHD” to show how even the best of intentions can lead to chaos, putting out fires, procrastination and barely making deadlines.
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This year, in the midst of tax season, my thoughts turn to the ADHD challenges that make meeting deadlines so difficult to meet.

Meet ‘Amy’, she is a single mother running her own business and a recently diagnosed ‘ADHD adult.’ Each year, she vows she is going to file her taxes by the end of February allowing her to use the refund to finance some updates on her house and maybe even plan a trip for April vacation. Determined to do it “right” this year, she sets aside a day on the calendar to “do her taxes”… and then the overwhelm hits.

Paperwork. Where are all her receipts, W2 forms, 1099s, credit card and bank statements?

The search begins…

Her first stop is the basket in the laundry room she purposely set there so she could immediately file any incoming mail that has to do with her finances. Success! There are two 1099 forms awaiting her. She is also thrilled to find the letter from the bank with her mortgage interest and real estate tax information, but realizes she doesn’t remember if she received another one over the summer from when she refinanced. She makes a mental note to look for this.

Once in the laundry room, she realizes that she has once again left a load of laundry in the wash too long, restarts it and folds the pile of laundry on top of the drier, puts some of her son’s clothes into soak and makes a mental note (for the second time) to herself that she needs to buy detergent. While folding the laundry Amy looks out the window and realizes it’s past Presidents’ Day and the rose bushes still aren’t pruned. Impulsively, she grabs the clippers and her gardening gloves and heads out to the backyard.

Once back inside and about four hours into the day of “doing her taxes”, she happens upon a W2 form from her part time job, not in the basket, but on top of the microwave. Vaguely she remembers putting it there after her son knocked over a cup of fruit punch trying to make some popcorn. Exhausted Amy decides to start “doing her taxes” tomorrow.

As “doing her taxes,” continues (aka the next day), Amy starts in to collect details on medical appointments and co pays to see if she can claim any deductions. Some of these she remembered are listed in her checkbook. Searching other piles of paper throughout the house, she finds the invoice for her daughter’s retainer ‘filed’ in with old school notices, and the receipt for her contacts is in the medicine cabinet next to the empty box of replaceable contacts. Amy gets distracted by the disorganization and spends the next hour of “doing her taxes”, cleaning out the rest of the medicine cabinet and tossing out expired medications, perfume and lotions.

Once done in the bathroom, Amy’s focus returns to taxes. She remembers that she tucked away a recent letter about her retirement plan form in a ‘safe place.’ Problem is, she can’t remember where that safe place is… maybe in a folder from when she refinanced? But where’s the folder? In the laundry room? An hour later, Amy finishes folding the laundry and starting another load, but forgot why she went there in the first place. Wasn’t she “doing her taxes” today?