Because nobody is perfect, including taxpayers, the IRS has a process for correcting errors on previously filed income tax returns. Errors may happen for any number of reasons. You may have forgotten to include some of your income, or you may have been unaware of a deduction that would have saved you money, for example.
To correct these errors, you will need to file an amended tax return. IRS Form 1040-X, the Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, is used to amend previously filed forms 1040, 1040-A, 1040-EZ, 1040-NR, or 1040-NR EZ.
While it may be tempting not to file an amended return if it means you will owe more taxes, it’s important that you remain compliant with laws and avoid potential legal problems later on. The sooner you file an amended return, the better because late fees are applied and accrue the longer you wait.
Amended returns can result in a refund if you didn’t claim qualifying credits on your original return. There are limits (within three years after your original return was filed) in which you must file your amended return to have it accepted, so it’s important to take care of amending as soon as possible to receive your money before it’s too late.
Read on to learn when you might need to file an amended return and how to go about doing so.
When to File a Tax Amendment
There are many reasons you may need to file an amended return. If any of the following apply to any taxes you have filed within the last three years, you should file an amended return as soon as possible:
- You need to correct your filing status: For example, if you filed as the head of your household but should have filed jointly, this can change your calculated tax burden, so you should amend your return to account for the difference.
- There were errors in your claimed income: Perhaps you forgot about a job earlier in the year and needed to include that income and taxes paid through that employer or client in your return. Maybe there was investment income you overlooked that should be included.
- You need to change the number of dependents claimed: Changing the number of dependents also changes your tax burden.
- You would like to claim additional deductions or credits: If you overlooked deductions or credits on your original return, you could claim them on an amended return to receive a refund.
- Other reasons: The instructions for IRS Form 1040X list additional special cases in which you may need to file an amended return.
When Not to File a Tax Amendment
For some errors, you may not need to file an amendment. When the IRS processes your original return, they check it for errors and missing information or forms. If they find a problem, they will send you a notice requesting the missing information or item and will usually handle fixing math errors on their end.
You also do not need to file an amendment if a certain amount of time has passed. In most cases, you cannot file an amendment if it has been more than three years since your original return was filed; however, exceptions exist, which are discussed in more detail in a later section.
How to File More Than One Amendment
If you need to change more than one item on a single return, this is all completed on the same Form 1040-X. For example, if you need to include additional income and claim additional credits, this is all done on the same form.
If you need to amend returns for more than one tax year, each amendment needs to be filed separately. This means filling out separate forms and mailing them in separate envelopes. You cannot file a single amendment for multiple years. For the tax years before 2019, Form 1040-X must be filed in paper format. However, for the 2019 tax year, you can file your amended return electronically, provided your original return was an electronically filed Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
How to File Form 1040-X
Collect Tax Documents
Collect all of the tax documents included in your original tax return. This includes your original Form 1040 with any included schedules, W-2s — including any new W-2s — and Forms W-2G and 1099 that support any of the changes being made.
Not all of these forms will necessarily need to be included in your amended return, but you may need additional information from them. If you are filing by paper, you will need to attach copies of any forms affected by the changes. If you e-file, you must submit all original forms, including ones not changed by the amendment.
Download the Needed Forms
From the IRS website, irs.gov, you can download all needed forms. This includes IRS Form 1040-X, Form 8938 if you need to report foreign financial assets, Form 8879 for e-file signature authorization, and Form 1040-V, the payment voucher form that must accompany mailed payments.
Fill Out Form 1040-X
Once you have all of your information and forms in one place, you are ready to begin filling out your amended return. The main portion of the form has three columns. In column A, you will record your original amounts reported on your original return. In column B, you will record net changes (positive or negative) from the original amounts. And in column C, you will record the correct amounts.
Among the information that you need to include on the form is the following:
- The tax year for which you are filing an amendment
- Your name, address, and Social Security number, including that of your spouse if you filed jointly
- Filing status
- Adjusted gross income
- Itemized deductions
- Credits, such as the child tax credit
- Tax withheld
- Tax payments made
- An explanation of the changes being made
You will also be guided on how to perform the required calculations to determine if you have a tax liability or are owed a refund.
Submit the Amended Return
If you are e-filing, which can only be done for amending Form 1040 or 1040-SR for the 2019 tax year or later, you will need to file using available tax software products.
If you are filing your amended return by mail, where you should send it depends on why you are filing it. If you are filing in response to a notice received by the IRS, that notice will contain the address you should send it to. If you are filing an amendment to Forms 1040-NR or 1040-NR EZ for the 2019 tax year or later, you should send it to:
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215
Otherwise, where you file depends on where you live. See the Form 1040-X instructions for details.
Amended Federal Income Tax Return Deadlines
In general, amended returns must be filed within three years from the date you filed the original return or two years after you paid the tax on that return if that date is after the three-year mark. If you filed a return before the tax due date (usually April 15) for that year’s return, you would have until three years from the tax due date. However, if you filed an extension that year and submitted your return later, the deadline is three years from the date the return was received and not three years from the extension deadline.
Exceptions to this rule occur for different situations, including but not limited to the following:
- Filers affected by a federally declared disaster may have additional time.
- Filers in a combat zone may have additional time.
- If your amendment is based on bad debt or worthless security, you will have seven years.
- When claiming foreign tax credits or tax deductions, you may have up to 10 years.
Additionally, there may be extensions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Paying Tax or Receiving a Refund From a Tax Amendment
If you owe additional taxes as a result of your amended return, this can be paid in a number of ways, including the following:
- Online payment
- By phone
- By cash
- By mail
- IRS Direct Pay
- Debit or credit card through the IRS payment portal
- Electronic funds withdrawal
- Through monthly installments via an online payment agreement
- IRS2Go mobile app
- Debit or credit card using Link2Gov Corporation (888-729-1040), Worldpay US, Inc. (844-729-8298), or Official Payments (888-872-9829)
- Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS — available only if you are already enrolled)
- This can be done through retail partners.
- Send a check or money order made out to the U.S. Treasury.
Refunds are sent separately from any other refunds owed to you. They cannot be sent by direct deposit into your bank account and will be mailed to you in the form of a check unless you opt to have it applied toward future tax burdens.
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