The pre-deadline that worked
TurboTax sent around a catchy press release today naming San Francisco the “Most Tax Procrastinating City in America.” We file our online tax returns at the last possible minute—moments later than Houston, New York and Chicago.
It could be fun to speculate about the reasons—we’re so wired we can afford to be lackadaisical? We’re such crazed multitaskers that deadline pressure is the only thing that gets our attention?
But here’s what really interested me. I’m a San Franciscan, I’ve been known to procrastinate, and I got my return in early. How’d that happen?
Interim deadlines. Financial incentives. From a smart tax preparer who didn’t want to spend the first two weeks of April camping in his office.
My tax guy has always given discounts to clients who mail their materials to him instead of making an in-person appointment. This year he added a new twist: 15% off for returning your receipts in February, 10% in March, and 5% in April. I read that memo and thought, You had me at February.
Most years, I do my scrambling at the end of March—sending him my docs after he’s made a couple of reminder calls. We end up filing just before April 15.
Not this year. He had my stuff on February 28. It’s a recession. I wanted the discount.
I know that a fake deadline, well ahead of the actual due date, is one way—theoretically—to keep a project on schedule. I also know that it’s tough to take a fake deadline seriously.
So now I’m looking around at my stalled projects and asking: Who can be my tax guy for these other deadlines? And what incentive will motivate me?