How to catch up on back taxes

How to catch up on back taxes

What do you do when your partner is eight years behind on their taxes? Bruce Sellery has some advice to help ease the tension.



My husband hasn’t done his taxes in eight years. I am totally on top of mine, but I’ve have had no success convincing him to file. How can I light a flame under his butt to get this done?


Opposites attract. You are buttoned down, organized and on time. Your husband—at least when it comes to his taxes—is clearly not.

It’s like cat people and dog people or triathletes paired with couch potatoes. Even a hard core Dylan fan can live a long and happy life with a Celine devotee, provided ear phones are involved.

But staying married to a partner who doesn’t complete such a basic and important task as filing their tax return will be tough. No doubt you’re writing because this is starting to become an issue between you.

Here’s my advice: Do his taxes for him.

You probably weren’t expecting that response. Perhaps you thought I would tell you to be supportive, help him identify his blocks, reward him for his progress. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Nope. This has become your problem and now is the time to deal with it. Have a conversation—something like the one detailed below—then pack-up his receipts, take them to a professional tax preparer and consider it a bonus birthday present for him.

Every relationship experiences stuff like this. I’m married to someone who hates to pack for vacations. He hates it. And he’s bad at it. I like it and am good at it. I’m one of those guys who love the challenge of a huge pile of mismatched bags sitting in front of a tiny trunk. So I do the packing.

On the other hand, I hate washing dishes. And I’m bad at it. So he does the dishes. You get the point?

When opposites attract it can really help clarify the division of labour in the marriage. And that is how I would frame this issue. He does some things. You do some things. And it works out.

Sure, he may have some hurdles: a psychological block about taxes (“I’m terrified of seeing how big a mess I’m actually in”), a philosophical block (“those damn socialists in Ottawa”), or a financial block (“I owe thousands of dollars I don’t have”). Working through all these blocks could be a tremendous amount of work and take a good chunk of time. So I recommend you get the taxes done for him and deal with the actual fallout rather than the fear of the fallout.

Here is how I would frame the conversation: “Honey. We’ve talked a number of times about your taxes. I know you mean to do them, but they still aren’t done. You do things for me [Insert examples here] so I’d like to get this done for you. Consider it a bonus birthday present. I’ll need some help finding the papers, but then I’ll just take it to a professional and have them do the work. If there is a refund, hooray. And if there are taxes and penalties to be paid we’ll figure out a way to pay for it.”

Note that this conversation is assumes a few things: That you love him, and are committed to the marriage and that you ready to put this behind you rather than making him out to be an incompetent villain.

If these assumptions aren’t true, and you really aren’t committed to the marriage, you may still want to get those taxes done before you file for divorce.