5 Psychological Reasons Why People Get in Trouble with the IRS

Grumbling is only natural when tax season arrives, but most people ultimately file and pay their taxes on time. However, others fail to take action until faced with liens, levies, and other penalties. The tendency to procrastinate or cheat on taxes is underpinned by some intriguing psychological phenomena, and it can get you in trouble with the IRS — keep reading to learn more:



In the struggle between immediate gratification (associated with the brain’s reward center in the limbic system) and responsibility (which is tied to the prefrontal cortex), immediate gratification often wins out. During tax season, this battle may lead to an unfiled or hastily completed tax return. Thus, leading to trouble with the IRS, especially if you owe.


Some people procrastinate on their taxes because the mere idea of completing their tax returns makes them feel anxious. Unfortunately, those who fear that they’ll make mistakes on their tax returns often fail to get started at all, landing them in even greater trouble with the IRS down the road.

Thrill Seeking

Some procrastinators actually thrive on the rush they experience when they save something until the last minute. Unfortunately, procrastinating on taxes can lead to significant errors, which, in turn, increase the potential for audits, increase balance dues, and increase the trouble you may face with the IRS.

Reward System

Most American taxpayers receive refunds, but many don’t actually expect to get their refund — so they don’t bother to do their taxes at all. If taxes were easy, and people knew that they would ultimately score a rush of dopamine, they might be more inclined to finish them on time, and ultimately run into less trouble with the IRS.

Optimism Bias

Those who file their taxes incorrectly or don’t do so at all often assume that they will not face consequences from the IRS. This phenomenon is known as the optimism bias, in which people justify bad choices by assuming, “It won’t happen to me.” The optimism bias is stronger in those who don’t feel stressed, so a lack of tax-related anxiety can, in some situations, actually increase the potential for conflict or trouble with the IRS.

Call Our Office

If you are worried about your tax situation, you’re in trouble with the IRS, or your current standing with the IRS, now is a great time to get in touch. Contact us at 720-398-6088 to learn more about our tax services.