What Does Your Tax Return Reveal about You?

Like most people this time of year, I am working on my taxes. I kind of enjoy working on them, except the time it takes me to do it. I know, I am a little strange.

I know that for most tax time is stressful. Really anything that has to do with finances is stressful

Tax time adds the stress of meeting a deadline, wondering if we will get money back or owe money, and an in the face look at what our income was for the past year.

It is easy for tax preparation work to turn into a pile of tax forms, receipts, looking for tax shelters, and working with numbers. Lots of numbers.

I guess some people don’t mess with it at all. The only thing they want to know is whether they owe more taxes or not. So they put all their stuff in a box and give it to a tax professional to take care of it.

Maybe the truth is too hard to look at. Been there before. We don’t want to know how little we really made last year. Or how much we are paying in taxes. Or how we are not making ends meet.

I did an internet search about tax returns. Tons of articles about how to cut my taxes, what to do with my refund, how to avoid an audit, and so on.

But I didn’t see anything about what our tax return tells us about ourselves?

What does my tax return say about my behavior when it comes to money.

Think about it—that tax return is a snapshot of how I handled money last year. Not just my income, but how much I spent, saved and how much I gave away.

Money is not about math. It is about behavior.Dave Ramsey

So what can a tax return say about our behavior?

Do I make enough money?

I just heard you laugh. Of course not you say. Really though, do you need to make more money? You might if you are strapped with debt, or have college tuition on the horizon.

I am not advocating working 120 hours per week and never have time to spend with your family and friends. But your tax return will have it right there in black and white. Exactly what your household income was for last year.

Nothing wrong with having an honest conversation with yourself or between you and your spouse and decide if some changes need to be made.

Maybe it means a job or career change. Maybe you pick up a part-time job or even start a small business on the side.

Is money controlling me or am I in control of it?

Do you have a plan? Maybe it is paralyzing to think about a longterm plan. What about one just for this year. Think about it for a second. Think of one financial goal you can set for this year. That’s a start. Then put together a plan to meet that goal by the end of the year. Then work the plan.

Am I a generous person?

Now this is a real eye-opener. Look at your tax return. How much money did you give away last year? 1%? 5%? 10% Maybe you are one of the radical ones and gave 50% or more of your income away.

Most people like to think of themselves as generous. What does your tax return reveal?


Thinking about this from a missional lifestyle context…

Using tax time to do a self-analysis is healthy. I don’t know about you, but I want to have a financial plan that includes making more money than I need. Not so that I can have a bunch of houses, and cars, and expensive toys, and take extravagant vacations. Nothing wrong with that in principle.

I like this approach—

Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church

What is one financial goal you have for 2014?

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “What Does Your Tax Return Reveal about You?

  1. Contrary to Wesley, most people’s financial goal is to make all the money they can, put it in a can, then sit on the can. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Yes, that was Jesus, not Dave Ramsey. The word Mammon, actually used in this text, is more than money. After all, we all have to use money as a tool in this economic system. But Mammon is a spirit producing greed in our lives. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Notice Paul wrote to Timothy (I Timothy 6:10) that money was not the root of evil, but the LOVE of money.
    As we use tax time to evaluate the financial snapshot of our relationship to money we must ask ourselves. Does God control my money? Do I control my money? Or does my money control me?

    • Thank you Max for bringing this perspective to the conversation. We need to be reminded that money is simply a tool. And I agree without Jesus Christ in control our desires, money will most likely become an evil ruler in our lives.
      “Does God control my money? Do I control my money? Or does my money control me?” Better said.