"Money has a lot of symbolic meaning," Tessina says. "It's really important for people to understand there are emotional reasons they might be having trouble."
One of her clients, a computer consultant, was making a "huge sum of money," Tessina says, but hadn't filed her taxes in the eight years since her divorce. "She would have had to go through the last joint return for the marriage. That was what she was avoiding."
The cure was an empathetic accountant who helped her separate the financial issues from the personal ones.
Some taxpayers need to separate their feelings about the government from their legal obligation, she says. It's not uncommon for people to put off paying their taxes if they're not happy with the current administration.
"People feel like they're giving the money directly to the president to put in his pocket," she says.
Massachusetts-based financial coach and CPA Alisa Cohn says the April date is the ultimate insult after months of bad weather. "We have this dreary winter, we get through that and we're rewarded by tax time," she says.
And then there's good, old denial.
"There's this thought of maybe it will go away this year," Cohn says.
Taxes and your financial outlook
Plus, doing your taxes means facing your true financial picture. Another year has come and gone where you made less and spent more than you would have liked.
"Just noticing that is upsetting," Cohn says. "It's very primal. What happens is they ask themselves these questions and there are no answers. They don't know how to take action."
The answer, she says, is baby steps. Look at the April deadline as a second chance at New Year's resolutions. Spring is a time of growth and fresh starts. Your tax paperwork can help you look at your expenses and see if there are places you could trim 5 percent or 10 percent.
"As a coach, I have people look into the future and what they want to see in the mirror," says Cohn. "It's very powerful. Put it on your calendar. Make a plan to make sure you have enough money to pay the tax bill next year."
Help in moving forward
In general, Tessina says procrastination is connected to perfectionism, unrealistic expectations and assorted fears. Her advice: Stop being so hard on yourself and get some help.
An accounting software program you use throughout the year can lower your stress. They're not difficult to learn to use, Tessina says, and at tax time you just have to click a couple of buttons.
If you're married, she suggests letting the spouse most comfortable with the tax-filing process be the one to handle the task. While the husband or wife is slogging through receipts, the other person should be really, really nice to his or her partner.
Tessina says the easiest way to alleviate tax-induced emotional turmoil is to
turn them over to a professional. If you have a simple return, use a service. If it's more complicated, go to an accountant. Besides the financial expertise you'll get, you'll have a professional to back you up if the IRS questions something on your return.
"You can find one who's not quite so uptight," she says. "A number of them are personable."
Pat Curry is a contributing editor based in Georgia