How to solve possible legal + close a business/Anxiety ++++ filter
March 1, 2019 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I've always extreme anxiety and its exacerbated itself in a few domains in my life. To the point that .... I can barely and often don't look at mail. This is combined with I had a business (an S-Corp) and stopped filings and stopped looking at the mail because it was overwhelming. I know its not an excuse, I just want to fix what I can/desperately need strategies.

This has gone on for a while, close to a couple years. The smart thing would have been to close it, but I didn't and then I get worried about looking at the mail and on and on.

I no longer live in the city and state (NYC, NYS).

I am up to date on taxes, have not taken any money in via the business for ~2 years. I suspect that there are fines, things I owe, etc beyond that since I don't/haven't looked at my mail and likely notices.

I've tried to solve this many times before (i.e., plan to look at the mail on X day, call someone), but it becomes a bigger and bigger and bigger hurdle in my head and here I am.

I'm hoping for:
1) Is there someone I can contact to deal with this - I suspect a lawyer? Script (There is overwhelming shame and I realize I sound like a crazy person, so I'm not sure what to even say to someone). Is there someone you might recommend in that area who has heard about this before?

2) Has this happened to someone else before? (Its more that there is so much shame involved at this point that if I knew I wasn't the only idiot to have done this, it might make it ... I don't know)

3) ARe there parts of this I can easily deal with on my own? If someone has dealt with branch whatever and they don't act like I'm crazy or horrible and tell me what to do ... better yet if I can log on somewhere and figure out what to do.

4) General anxiety strategies to deal with this? I KNOW I need to do (and have long needed to do much more than this) - but I'm looking how to get through this now and hopefully make it end.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't answer your other questions, but I have had this exact problem. I have generalized anxiety disorder (diagnosed by a psychiatrist). In the past, I would get super anxious about mail, especially bills or complicated things that I thought I might not understand. So I just wouldn't read the mail, which of course makes the real and imagined problems worse, which makes the anxiety worse. I solved the problem by asking my then-partner to go through everything with me and help me understand things, clean them up, and set up a plan. I can't suggest how to address this with a business -- but I wanted to reassure you that you are not alone in having this specific anxiety symptom. I know how awful and stressful it is, and this internet stranger is giving you a big hug right now.

Are you on medications? Anxiety medication has improved my life tremendously. If you have not yet, please talk to your general practitioner about your anxiety.
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:44 AM on March 1 [5 favorites]

Talk to a CPA, just to be safe, but the script is easy. "I have an S-Corp that hasn't been active for a couple of years but I never got around to dissolving it, can you handle any back filings and the final tax return?" Then ask a lawyer to handle the dissolution. You could probably do that yourself, but it sounds like in your state of mind it'd be better to hire somebody.

This is nothing, this is really nothing. If you didn't owe federal taxes (and you probably don't), you are very unlikely to run into meaningful difficulties with the IRS. You probably owe NYS around $50 for the minimum fixed business tax plus interest and penalties (can hardly be more than $100 total). If you missed your biennial statement with DOS, another $9. There's nothing here to be ashamed about. Just a little logistical breakdown.

Can you get a friend to sit with you while you make the call? (And then, yes, consider seeing a doctor about the anxiety.)
posted by praemunire at 11:53 AM on March 1 [8 favorites]

1) Is there someone I can contact to deal with this - I suspect a lawyer?
2) Has this happened to someone else before? (Its more that there is so much shame involved at this point that if I knew I wasn't the only idiot to have done this, it might make it ... I don't know)

Not only is it an anxiety problem that happens to me, too, it is something that clients showed up with when I worked for a CPA on an incredibly regular basis. Not to shame those people, either, but imagine having done the same thing with regards to decades of failure to file tax returns. I absolutely got clients who showed up with sheepish looks and boxes of unopened bank statements. CPAs are usually pretty good about knowing who to talk to to negotiate payment plans if you need them, too, if it comes to that. I can't recommend you a specific practitioner, but my advice is to be up front with the fact that you have a serious anxiety problem and only keep talking to a professional if you see them making the effort to make you comfortable.

4) General anxiety strategies to deal with this?

CBT therapy helped me a lot, but I still need anxiety medication. If your doctor is a bit iffy about that, just a beta blocker can make a huge difference to ability to deal just enough to get the really hard task done. That aside, the way I usually work with these sorts of feelings is to break the first few steps into absolutely tiny things. If you still have the mail and just haven't opened it, then maybe your first step is to just sort the envelopes into piles on your desk depending on sender, but not to open them until after you've had a break. Or even just "move the box of mail to my desk". Once you get a few tiny steps like this moving, often they get easier as you go.
posted by Sequence at 12:15 PM on March 1 [3 favorites]

I can't give you legal advice. But oh dear heart, I have been here. First, you are not an idiot. You do not sound like a crazy person. You are not horrible. You have anxiety, and it's okay to have anxiety. Do not be ashamed you have anxiety. Do not be ashamed this has happened. You are not the only person this has happened to, either. Those negative thoughts - you don't have to listen to them, and you can let them go. Please take a deep breath and try to reframe this, perhaps like: This is a solvable situation and I can solve it! I am choosing to solve this very solvable problem. Which it is and you are, by asking for help here you've taken a step towards doing so - way to go. Be proud of yourself for starting this process. Keep telling yourself that.

Secondly, having been through something similar, I know the aching need to handle it yourself because you feel ashamed and other negative feelings, or you feel some kind of internal pressure not to let someone help you because you "don't feel ready to deal with it right now"/ something similar, but if you can get enlist an advocate on your behalf, do so. If you have a trusted friend or partner who can go through the mail with or even for you and sum it up, or help you with whatever legal advice gets given to you here, it will be easier (on preview from praemunire said - hey, look, you can even hire someone!). (PS My goodness, if you happen to live in Colorado, and need someone, shoot me a MeMail!)

Third, yes, people go through situations like this, and it does turn out okay! Just recently someone here summed up a really great way to approach doing this: "I always prepared for everything to go wrong. Then, my therapist asked me to also start preparing for what would happen if everything goes right." And every time I've been in a situation like this, it really has gone so much better than I thought it would, and almost every time it was because I was turning it into a bigger situation than it actually was. That's the shitty part about anxiety. Anxiety LIES. One - now two- answers here and it already looks like this is a not very big deal at all.

Fourth, even as you're getting this situation settled, go to a doctor or therapist about your anxiety. You may need therapy like CBT or medication or both, but even the first step in that process (going to a professional) will help you as you solve this.

If, for whatever reason you cannot do that right now, someone here on MeFi that I wish I could give a million hugs to pointed out this incredible resource from an Australian psychology center that has a whole slew of worksheets on mental health. They offer modules that basically take you through the basic tenets of CBT. Note: they do not take the place of a diagnosis from a medical professional. They are not a substitute for managed therapy from a professional in a safe environment. But if you need some self-help to get to the next step of working with a therapist, or for a resource to revisit some of the things you've learned once you've gone through therapy, they offer good guidance. There's one on anxiety, but when it came to dealing with things like mail I also found the procrastination module very helpful - even though I had a lot of work to do to deal with why I was doing it, which is the real goal, it was incredible how even working through the first 2 modules gave me some basic tools to tackle things I had been putting off for weeks. Like even just starting the task by working on one small step is enough to propel me through the wall and actually get it done (on preview, like what Sequence said! See, you are not alone, this is a common problem, with common solutions).

All the hugs! You can do this and you are doing it. Please feel free to memail me if you need more hugs or to hear about a few specific situations of my own, which at the time seemed like the worst, most insurmountable problems in the world but turned out to be relatively easy to solve - one of them turned out to be solvable with one or two phone calls. If I'm hammering home the point that it will work out a little too hard, it's because I know that's one of the things I needed to keep hearing on repeat in my own situations. And also because it will turn out okay in the long run, even if you need to pay some fines or penalties (which sound pretty minimal) - if only because dealing with this and knowing what you have to do to solve it will feel so much better than all the lies your anxiety has been giving you. I believe in you, because by asking for help here you have already demonstrated strength.
posted by barchan at 1:13 PM on March 1 [4 favorites]

I did the same thing once -- not close out a business for a while after it was really over. Especially with an S-corp it is SO not a big deal. It's also really common. No CPA is going to judge you about this. Here's how my accountant explained it to me (IANACPA):

Corporations have personhood. So you made a corporation. Let's call it Steve. You want to close it out -- Steve is going to disappear. All tax liability is Steve's, and you're not Steve. A CPA will be able to put Steve gently to rest. Remember, no income = no profit = no tax liability. Some states have a mandatory minimum tax on corporations, California's is considered very high at $800 per year. NY is not going to be more than that, and again -- it's Steve's responsibility.

Thank Steve for his service, and let him go. He is no longer sparking joy.
posted by ananci at 1:45 PM on March 1 [5 favorites]

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