How can I help my mother catch up on her taxes?
April 14, 2006 12:10 PM   Subscribe

My mother owns a small business. She has not filed her taxes in several years. I need advice on what to do to either do the taxes for her or make it easier for her so I can get her do do it.

Everytime I try to talk to her about it, she says she does not have time and will get to it, gets really mad, etc. Does not take it seriously at all. I do not think she even knows how to go about doing it. I know nothing about filing taxes for a business, very little about filing in general since I would rather pay someone to do it for me. She will not do that. Or let me take it to someone to have them do it for her. Is there any software that I could get to do this for her, is it something I can manage? Especially with her behind several years? Before my father passed away he was paying several thousand more than needed just because she would not get the taxes done and did not let him do it. She is very smart and yet it is impossible to get through to her and make her understand that this is something that needs to be done NOW. I have no clue what to do, but I do know she is going to get herself in legal trouble if she does not get her taxes done.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) they really walk you through it.
posted by mdn at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2006

there are versions of TurboTax for small business (Premier and Ultimate) that may be helpful, if nothing else for this year's taxes. not sure how useful it'd be if you're several years behind, though.
posted by mrg at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2006

Its lawyer time. Possible criminal penalties. Don't wait.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2006

Yes, yes, yes. Get a tax lawyer. This is very scary - you don't want to fuck with the IRS.
posted by agregoli at 12:54 PM on April 14, 2006

Years of no taxes? Yup, she needs a tax lawyer. Now. This goes beyond just starting to do them now. She's looking at massive penalties, and it can only get worse. And worse. And worse. Agregoli is right, you don't want to fuck with the IRS. They are scary, and they WILL make you hurt.
posted by moira at 1:07 PM on April 14, 2006

Not doing your taxes and refusing to let others do it for you seems like a recipe for diaster. She does realize that she needs to pay her taxes?

Can you even legally do someone else's taxes for them? You need to engage a professional. Prehaps you can talk to a lawyer to find out the facts and tell your mother about the lay of the land. That might jump start the discussion with her and make the fines and interest seem more real. After that, I am not sure what you can do.
posted by mmascolino at 1:34 PM on April 14, 2006

Tax Mama. Seriously. She works over the internet too.
posted by zaebiz at 2:11 PM on April 14, 2006

You don't have a tax problem, you have a personal problem. The fact that it's taxes is irrelevant.

Everytime I try to talk to her about it, she says she does not have time and will get to it, gets really mad, etc. ... Before my father passed away he was paying several thousand more than needed just because she would not XXXXXXX and did not let him do it. She is very smart and yet it is impossible to get through to her and make her understand that this is something that needs to be done NOW.

Look at what you've written about the situation with the subject obfuscated - your mother, for some reason, has a serious aversion to doing something that presumably she knows she needs to do. I think you're just going to have to view this like you would a problem with alcohol, refusing to monitor insulin levels, cut back on salt, quit dating crappy people or... anything.

You can't do this for her, even aside from the practical problems of having to write all those checks for back taxes. The best you're going to be able to do is tell her you're worried for her and offer your assistance when she's ready to deal with it.
posted by phearlez at 2:13 PM on April 14, 2006

what phearlez said, taxes aren't the problem, they're just a symptom of it
posted by matteo at 2:31 PM on April 14, 2006

Yes, there may be other underlying personal problems, but the consequences of being pursued by the tax authorities are pretty darned bad!

I am in the same position as your mum, and I have hired a tax accountant and lawyer to clean it all up under amnesty provisions. It'll cost a bit but everything will be squeaky clean once we're all done -- the peace of mind is well worth the price to me.
posted by randomstriker at 3:00 PM on April 14, 2006

I had a not entirely dissimilar experience. For me it was my personal income taxes, not taxes for a business, but still. Basically, I was being treated as a (very low-paid) independent contractor, with no taxes being taken out of my pay, and I made so little money that I spent it all just to live, and had no money left over at the end of the year to pay taxes.

So I didn’t. Didn’t even file. For 2 years in a row.

Until I got a letter from the IRS saying, basically, “Uh, excuse us for inquiring, but we’re wondering why it appears that you haven’t filed your taxes in a couple of years. Please come talk to us at X time on Y day, at Z address.”

After some days of significant panic, I went and talked to them, got myself a very good tax accountant (not a lawyer, by the way), and got my shit taken care of, got on an IRS approved payment plan for back taxes plus interest and penalties, and it was all over and done with in another two years or so.

I remember being surprised by two things during this process: first, the IRS people were surprisingly nice and helpful, and, second, the interest and penalties were much less than I had feared.

Now, I’m not saying my experience was typical, and I was a low-paid wage-slave being (possibly illegally) treated as an independent contractor, rather than a business owner like your mother, but once I finally mastered my panic over being “busted,” it all turned out to be much less difficult and scary than my imagination had built it up to be.

And I guess that is my larger point, here: that it sounds as though your mother is in some denial, and in full-on avoidance mode, but if you can convince her to bite the bullet and get a good tax accountant, things may turn out to be a good deal less scary than she fears.

Of course, part of your problem is that she is refusing to LET you use an accountant, and, unfortunately, I have no useful advice to offer there, except to say that I wouldn’t have done it either UNTIL I GOT THAT LETTER FROM THE IRS, largely because I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) admit even to myself (let alone to anyone else) how scared I was of the whole situation. It wasn’t until my worst fears were realized that it became easier to turn the whole mess over to a professional and let her handle it. (Which is, in its own way, just as much avoidance as my earlier behavior.)

I seem to have strayed from my point here. If, in fact, I ever had one. Sorry. I’ll shut up now.
posted by dersins at 3:14 PM on April 14, 2006

Part of the problem may be that your mom is scared about the consequences of going forward, because of the fear surrouding the IRS. What might help in that regard is hearing that it's not quite as scary as many people make it out to be.

As dersins pointed out, the IRS can be relatively easy to deal with if you cooperate and make it clear you want to make good on any amount that you owe.

I know a couple of people who've been in that boat, and the financial penalties have been unpleasant, but not "take your house and car and 50% of your wages" unpleasant -- fairly hefty penalties and so forth, but they will allow for a payment plan that's workable.

As others have mentioned, though, it's really up to your mother to get a grip and deal with the problem. If she won't cooperate, there's not much you could do -- shy of turning her in to the IRS, and that certainly wouldn't be very nice.
posted by jzb at 3:28 PM on April 14, 2006

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