How to File an Amended Tax Return

Amend tax return website

So you filed your tax return but noticed you made a mistake.

Suddenly, you’re in an awful mood because you now have to figure out how to fix the mistake.

Don’t worry!

Your taxes can be hectic and mistakes happen.

Thankfully:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a process for how to fix a mistake on your tax return.

The process is called filing an amended tax return. You’ll need to fill out IRS Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. While filling out another tax form may sound like a nightmare, it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s what you need to know about filing an amended tax return so you can get on with your life.

Why File an Amended Tax Return

There are a number of reasons you may want to file an amended tax return.

Mistakes

One of the most common reasons to file is you made a mistake when filing your return.

You might have claimed a deduction or credit you shouldn’t have.

Alternatively:

You might have accidentally claimed the standard deduction instead of itemizing your deductions.

You can file an amended return if you forgot to claim a deduction or credit, too. Doing so will likely reduce the tax you owe or result in a refund if nothing else changes.

While it won’t be fun, you do need to amend your tax return if you forgot to include all of your income.

The IRS will likely find out anyway, so it’s better to amend your return and pay what you owe as soon as possible to avoid paying extra penalties or interest.

New tax documents arrive

Sometimes other people force you to file an amended return.

If you receive corrected tax documents like 1099s or W-2s, you’ll need to update your tax return to report the new information.

Filing status

Finally, you may realize you made a mistake with your filing status on your original return.

You may have marked the wrong box or realized filing as married filing separately could save you money.

Either way, you can change your filing status by filing an amended return.

When You Shouldn’t

If you filed your tax return by hand, that means you did all of the calculations.

Humans make mistakes, and it’s possible you made a math error when filling out your return.

Thankfully:

The IRS will usually correct your return and send you a notice letting you know they did.

For example, you might have realized you forgot to attach your W-2 after you file your return. While you should always make sure to attach your W-2, the IRS will contact you if they need the form. If the IRS never asks, you don’t have to do anything.

If you get an IRS CP2000 notice, you shouldn’t automatically file an amended tax return.

Typically:

These notices are sent out because the income or the payment information you reported on your return doesn’t match what the IRS has on file.

In this case, you’ll need to make sure to read the notice carefully.

Rather than file an amended return immediately, you should do what the notice or response form says to do. In some cases, you may not have to file an amended return at all.

In some cases, the IRS may file a substitute return on your behalf if you don’t file a return for yourself.

If this happens to you, don’t file an amended return.

Instead:

File a regular tax return if you want to replace the substitute return with what should be filed.

Deadlines

There are two potential deadlines for filing an amended tax return.

The IRS will accept an amended tax return based on the later of the following two dates:

  • Up to three years after the date you filed the original return OR
  • Up to two years after you paid the tax due on the return

Keep in mind, if you file before the April 15th deadline, the IRS considers your return to be filed on the deadline.

Ways to File an Amended Tax Return

Filing an amended tax return can be super easy or more complex depending on how you go about it.

Paper forms

If you’re old fashioned, you can fill out the forms yourself.

This could save you money rather than selecting one of the below options, but it leaves room for errors.

Additionally, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it could take quite a while to figure it all out yourself.

Tax software

The next least expensive option is usually using tax preparation software like you used when you originally filed your return.

Most major tax software providers such as TurboTax offer a product to amend tax returns.

Simply import your tax return, fill out the new information and the tax software will fill out the forms as needed.

Tax professional

The most expensive but least time intensive option is hiring a professional.

You can hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or most other tax preparers to file your amended return for you.

Give the preparer the information and let them know why you need to amend the return. They’ll prepare the forms for you and let you know how to file the amended tax return.

What You Need

Filing an amended tax return doesn’t involve too much.

That said, to make sure everything is accurate, you should pull together the following documents:

  • Your original tax return
  • All supporting documentation from your original tax return
  • Any new information you’ll be including or changing in your amended tax return
  • Tax forms or software for filing your amended tax return

Once you’ve gathered the necessary documents and information, it’s time to get started.

Filling Out Form 1040X to Amend Your Tax Return

To amend your tax return, you’ll need to fill out IRS Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return.

The form should look fairly familiar as it is modeled after your normal tax return. You’ll need to fill out the typical identifying information including:

  • Your name
  • Your spouse’s name
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Address
  • Phone number

You’ll also need to fill out what filing status you want to file with your amended return. If you don’t want to change your filing status, you still need to verify your original choice.

You’ll also check a box to indicate if your family had full-year minimal essential health care coverage.

Once you’re done with this basic information, the form gets into the main portion of amending your return.

This portion of the return has three columns which are as follows:

  • The first column is for the original tax return amount
  • The second column is the net change between the original return and the amended return
  • The final column is the correct amount you’ll file with your amended return

You’ll have to fill out all three columns for the following information:

  • Adjusted gross income
  • Itemized deductions or standard deduction
  • Exemptions (for tax years with exemptions)
  • Taxable income
  • Tax
  • Credits
  • Health care: individual responsibility
  • Other taxes
  • Total tax
  • Federal income tax withheld and certain other taxes withheld
  • Estimated tax payments
  • Earned income credit
  • Refundable credits from certain schedules and forms

You’ll then report the total amount paid with your request for extension of time to file (if applicable), tax paid with the original return and additional tax paid after the tax was filed.

You’ll then calculate the total payments made based on the form’s instructions.

The form has you calculate your refund or the amount you owe on lines 18 through 23.

The form also has three parts on page two.

Part 1

Report any changes to exemptions from what you filed on your original return. If there were no changes, do not fill out this part.

Part 2

hange whether you want to contribute $3 to go to the presidential election campaign fund from your original decision.

Part 3

Explain why you’re filing an amended return. You can write an explanation in the blank box.

This part also requires you to attach any supporting documents and new or changed forms and schedules that differ from your original tax return.

Finally, you’ll sign the amended return. Just like with an original tax return, don’t forget to make a copy and keep it for your records.

You Can’t E-File an Amended Return

Most people e-file their original tax returns.

However, you can’t e-file when you’re amending a tax return.

Instead:

You’ll need to mail your IRS Form 1040X to the proper location.

You’ll have to submit your amended tax return according to the Form 1040X instructions, which you can find here.

If you’re amending your tax return due to an IRS notice, it’s important to only submit the amended return to the address shown in the notice.

If you’re filing to claim the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) for the tax year 2014 or with Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ, you’ll need to mail your return to a special location.

All other locations should mail their returns to the location in the instructions based on where you live.

Final Thoughts

Amending your tax return isn’t super difficult, it just requires a form most people never use.

Learn the forms, use tax software or hire a professional to get the job done.

Just make sure you fill out the amended tax return correctly so you don’t have to file yet another amended return in the future.

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