Having a Homer Simpson “Doh!” like moment when it comes to filing your tax return is not the most comforting feeling. But mistakes do happen, even to the best of us. Realizing that a mistake was made on a tax return can cause one to get nervous about audits or delayed refunds – sweaty palms, anyone? However, it happens all the time, and the IRS even has a specific form just for filing amendments. When one files an amended tax return it voids the previously filed return and becomes the new tax return.
Reasons for Filing an Amendment
The reasons for filing a tax amendment can vary. Typically, the filing status was chosen incorrectly (for example, single instead of head of household), income amounts were reported wrong (perhaps a forgotten W-2 arrived in the mail after the return was filed), or deductions and credits were miscalculated. In some cases, the number of dependents is claimed incorrectly. This can often happen in the case of divorce, where both parents attempt to claim the children as dependents, or neither claims the children (assuming the other had).
The IRS says that common calculations errors that can be caught by the IRS computer system are not a reason to have to file an amended return.
Where to Begin the Amendment Process
Your first stop is to visit www.irs.gov or the local library for a copy of form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The form will need to be completed carefully and accurately. The only information that needs to be entered is the corrected information. It is helpful to have the original tax return on hand to view and to take note of the items needing to be corrected.
When Should an Amendment be Filed?
If an additional refund is owed, taxpayers must wait until the original refund is issued and may cash that refund check before filing an amended return. If additional tax is due, the tax must be paid by April 15th of the year that the amendment is filed. One should NOT file another original return with changes made after the first return is submitted, even if the original return looks to have not been received or processed by the IRS yet. This can cause confusion and a delay in any refunds.
Is There a Time Limit?
Typically amendments must be filed within 36 months of the date that the tax return needing corrections was filed. There are some exceptions to this rule, details of which can be found at the IRS website: www.irs.gov.
How to File
Each amended return must be filed by mail in a separate envelope with the year of the return written on the form. There is also an area on form 1040X to explain the reasons for the amendment which must be filled out. Additionally:
- Any additional schedules, W2’s, 1099’s, or other forms affecting the amendment must be included.
- Amended returns can not be filed electronically and must be sent by regular postal mail.
- It can take 8-12 weeks for the IRS to process an amended return.
If a taxpayer is amending a return in response to a letter from the IRS, the address of where to mail the amended return will be included. To find out where to mail an amended return in other situations, refer to the instruction booklet or the IRS website for the address for each state. As always, if you’re not comfortable doing it on your own, consult a tax professional to assist you.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice.