Helping my parents with taxes


So, I don’t yet have a question about taxes specifically, but I’m looking at helping my mother (who was a bookkeeper) do my parents’ taxes for the first time ever this weekend. She has always been more than competent with money and with math, but she’s on pain medication and, happily for all, recognizes that she may not be up to the task. I guess for now, I’m working on strategizing ways to help someone who is undoubtedly very frustrated about needing help with something that has been her area of expertise for nearly 60 years. She’s surely upset by it. I’m upset by it, because even though this is not dementia, it still is evidence that my mother is getting old. Logically, this makes sense - I’m getting old! Emotionally, it’s really hard.

So, we have a good relationship, but let’s just say we’re both strong-willed. The medication makes her easily frustrated. We’re both depressed and a little scared by the necessity. My dad knows almost nothing about taxes (she’s handled the day-to-day finances and he’s handled the investments for their over 50-year marriage), so he’s not likely to be able to help much. We’ll use software, probably TaxAct, and that’s new to Mom, too - she’s always done everything by hand. I can look things up on the IRS website with the best of them, which is a good thing since I’ve not yet handled RMDs for myself, but any thoughts on navigating the emotional minefield while doing fiddly new-to-me tax things will be welcome.


What my general idea would be:

  • Go slow. Give yourself way more time than you think you may need, so that you don’t feel rushed at all.
  • Treat your mother like the expert she is; if you have questions about why she’s doing something some way, ask them, but ask them the way you do when you’re talking to a very well qualified colleague. :slight_smile: This isn’t just you helping her, but is also an opportunity for you to learn.
  • If she gets frustrated with the software, handle that for her. Do the taxes by hand if the software becomes too much of a shitshow.
  • If it gets heated, step back; get a glass of water or make a pot of tea.


Good ideas, all, thanks. Yes, I’d already thought about the time thing. She will want to have it done quickly, but I don’t even plan to get it all done in one trip. Will go back another weekend(s) as needed (assuming that doesn’t frustrate her too much). She’s extremely frustrated by the condition that has her on painkillers, right from the start.
And yes on the by hand. I half expect to make the switch; I did mine by hand (as she taught me) for many years, and it’s not hard. And yes, we should take many breaks. May have to for her to rest anyway.


Could you approach it as ‘teach me how to do this thing’? Good for her dignity and your relationship and your skills with regards to taxes and bookkeeping. You do the work and she guides and oversees?

That all depends on the dynamic between the two of you, of course. The situation sounds hard.


I can imagine the frustration about being on painkillers… ugh.

FWIW, I do mine by hand, too, and I’m like a stone’s throw from Peak Millennial. I can’t use free software (thanks, HSA!) and I find the software way more obtuse than the IRS instructions, which is saying something.


Here to report that Project Taxes went better than could have been expected, and they’re done.

In the process, I learned a lot about my parents’ finances, learned enough I can manage if I need to take on more of it later, and best of all, learned that my mother is still far more capable than either she or I realized. I think she was afraid she had lost much more ability than she has, and therefore was afraid of the taxes.

We did them together, using software recommended for their situation by the IRS FreeFile site, and got it done in a couple of hours. The biggest point of fear was figuring out how much of their Social Security was taxable; apparently that drove her nuts last year. I looked at the forms as well as the software - it would drive me nuts as well. While we were there, I checked to be sure they’re doing their RMDs correctly, and they are.

So, happiness all around, and we’re all better prepared for a time when I’ll be more needed than it turns out I am so far.



(obligatory additional text so the forum will let me post)