OfficeMax’s National Survey Reveals Americans Would Rather Cut Their Own Hair than Do Their Own Taxes

2011 OfficeMax survey explores how Americans and accountants gear up for tax preparation season — one of the most dreaded times of the year

Naperville, Ill., April 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — With so many Americans anxiously awaiting the springtime, there is one part of the season that many could do without: filing income tax returns. According to OfficeMax’s 2011 “Tax it to Me” survey¹, tax preparation season musters up feelings of nervousness and confusion for the millions of Americans who file returns – feelings that are amplified for those brave men and women who invest their time and energy into preparing their own taxes. Sometimes their hard work makes the end result all the more sweeter: a refund check they can use however they choose.

For busy accountants responsible for filing taxes on behalf of the approximately 82 million out of 228 million American adults who opt to use professional services, tax season is perhaps even more emotionally wrought. A busy plate often leads to a poor work/life balance, botched sleep schedules, poor eating habits, and problems in personal relationships. Perhaps these drawbacks are why many accountants heavily scrutinize potential clients. Some reasons why clients get turned away include having a questionable or an overly complicated tax situation, or because the accountants are already working with an overloaded client roster. Fortunately, having organized, take-charge clients makes the season just a bit more bearable.

During tax time, many Americans prefer to take financial matters into their own hands. Nearly half (46%) of those who have ever filed an income tax return prefer to invest their own time and energy by preparing and filing taxes themselves. Others opt to rely on someone else, like a professional accountant (34%) or a friend or family member (14%). More men than women (51% vs. 42%) prefer to prepare their own tax returns, while women are more likely than their male counterparts (38% vs. 33%) to seek out the services of an accountant. Perhaps even more Americans would prepare their own returns if there wasn’t a perceived risk involved. In fact, four in ten of those individuals surveyed think that taking a pair of scissors to their own hair is less dangerous than filing their own taxes.

These days, most Americans are just feeling generally uneasy about their taxes. Sixty percent admit they are nervous about having their taxes audited. That’s more than those who are worried about other nerve-wracking situations like receiving a performance review at work (39%) or visiting the doctor for an annual check-up (35%).

Regardless of whether Americans do their own taxes or hire a professional, certain emotions can get in the way of filing income taxes in a timely fashion. Procrastination (45%) is one of the biggest challenges those who haven’t filed in a suitable timeline are up against this time of year. Others blame nervousness about filing taxes correctly (28%), confusion about the process (26%), self-admitted laziness (23%), and lack of organization (20%) as reasons they may have dropped the ball in getting their taxes completed in a desirable timeline. Most Americans who file tax returns hope for a refund check when all is said and done. Over half (57%) of them think of this refund as a means to pay bills and other expenses. Others think it’s a reward for taxes they pay every year (30%) or simply something that every American deserves (23%).

Fortunately, accountants can take on more work as tax returns can be completed much more accurately and swiftly in recent years as they move away from traditional methods of computing towards more advanced processes. Seventy-five percent of accountants plan to use tax preparation software to file taxes this year. Others will rely on accounting (18%) and business and tax software (13%) to get the job done.

Using cutting-edge tax software or income tax programs doesn’t take away most of the daily aggravations accountants face, however. Many of their frustrations are rooted in the service aspect of their jobs. Dealing with unprepared or careless clients (64%), handling complex tax situations (36%), managing aggressive clients (23%) and even obtaining new clients (14%) can be quite the headache for these professionals.

Tax preparation season affects everyone differently — and accountants have just about seen it all. Over half (53%) say their clients’ overall mood is generally anxious, while others seem worried (29%). Far fewer clients visit the office feeling confident (14%) or relaxed (14%). Perhaps it’s due to some of the interesting write-offs they provide to their accountants. According to accountants surveyed, they’ve seen almost every type of deduction attempted — from the depreciation of cows, expenses of raising a cat and a hot tub for medical purposes. One accountant had a client who tried to claim water bottle costs towards healthcare since his doctor told him he needed to drink more water.

Accountants say they’re far more likely to see these types of deductions from their male clients as opposed to their female clientele, admitting that nearly three-quarters (74%) of women are typically more put together when filing taxes than men. Age can also play a role in how efficient and organized clients are. About two-thirds (65%) of accountants think that their 45 and older clientele are generally more organized and efficient than their younger counterparts when filing their tax returns.

Regardless of gender or age, many Americans have a chance to make their accountants life at work a bit less harrowing. Nearly six in ten accountants say their jobs are made easier by working with clients who take charge and are on top of what needs to get done, rather than those who are laid-back and happy to turn everything over to them. And for the most part, most of their clients are efficient when filing their taxes. Close to eight in ten (79%) accountants say their clients are organized, such as having their W-2 forms and receipts in order, when it’s time to work on their income taxes — as long as those receipts don’t include pet food for the “dependants” they’re claiming.

To learn more about tax software solutions and last-minute tax essentials to help you make the April 15th filing deadline visit www.officemax.com.

About OfficeMax

OfficeMax Incorporated (NYSE: OMX) is a leader in both business-to-business office products solutions and retail office equipment. The OfficeMax mission is simple. We help our customers do their best work. The company provides office supplies and paper, in-store print and document services through OfficeMax ImPress®, technology products and solutions, and office furniture to businesses and individual consumers. OfficeMax customers are served by approximately 30,000 associates through direct sales, catalogs, e-commerce and approximately 1,000 stores. To find the nearest OfficeMax, call 1-877-OFFICEMAX. For more information, visit www.officemax.com.

All trademarks, service marks and trade names of OfficeMax Incorporated used herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of OfficeMax Incorporated. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Research Methodological Notes – Consumer Tax Season Survey

The 2011 OfficeMax Custom Survey was conducted by Kelton Research between February 18 and February 25, 2011 using an email invitation and an online survey. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 2.9 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with All persons in the universe represented by the sample.

Research Methodological Notes – Accountants Survey

The Accountants Survey was conducted by Kelton Research between February 28th and March 7th 2011 using an email invitation and an online survey. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 6.6 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.



  1. Two national online surveys conducted by OfficeMax: the first of 1,124 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older and the second of 219 accountants.