Tax procrastination: Who does it and why?

Americans procrastinate on tax filing because of lengthy forms and confusing jargon, but simplification can make all financial services easier for them.

Who’s putting off filing taxes?

Government statistics show that most Americans receive a hefty refund, yet more than a third of U.S. adults are in no rush to tackle their taxes: 37% filed their 2017 taxes on April 1 or later.1

Bar chart on when people file taxes

Women and men are equally likely to wait until the last minute, with 12% of both men and women waiting until April 15 or later to file.2  Higher earners were less likely to file early, with 56% of those with household income over $100,000 filing before April 1.3  By comparison, 67% of those with household income between $50,000 - $100,000 filed before April 1, and 69% of those with household income below $50,000 filed before April 1.4

Why do people procrastinate?

Why do people wait to file when recently published IRS data show that 75% of tax returns filed in 2018 received a refund?5 Forms can be lengthy and daunting, jargon can be confusing, and it’s often necessary to gather information about one’s personal financial situation.

How is this similar to retirement saving?

These barriers are similar to the potentially not-so-user-friendly aspects of saving for retirement. If people are willing to delay filing their taxes—even when they’ll get a refund—because they find the process to be a chore, they’re also likely to procrastinate on other financial tasks, especially tasks that offer delayed gratification, such as saving for retirement.

Simplification makes financial tasks easier.

How can we overcome these barriers to saving? Make retirement planning simple and provide resources that are easy to use. 

From an intuitive online account to a QuickEnroll option for new retirement savers, Lincoln continually improves our technology to make retirement planning easier for participants. Streamlined technology isn’t just for participants; plan sponsors benefit from an enhanced online experience that puts data at their fingertips and eases their administrative burden. To make it easy to take positive action, we’re committed to providing a high-tech, high-touch experience for your clients and their participants. 
 

1CivicScience, civicscience.com, data gathered May 1, 2018, to May 4, 2018. Percentages are representative of U.S. adults ages 18+ who could remember when they filed their taxes.

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4Ibid.

5IRS, Filing Season Statistics for Week Ending May 11, 2018, www.irs.gov/newsroom/filing-season-statistics-for-week-ending-may-11-2018, May 17, 2018.