Fixing Your Tax Return If You Messed It Up

By Stacie Kitts, CPA

So you filed your tax return and now you’ve discovered that it’s all wrong or you simply forgot to include something.  Not to fret, there is a way to fix it all up.

Ultimately, the IRS will “fix” it for you if you forget to add a W2 or a Form 1099.  However, if you wait for the IRS to find and correct the error, and you owe additional tax, they are going to charge you interest on the taxes that are due until you pay them.  If you are going to owe a large amount of tax, you should consider filing an amended return and paying what you owe as soon as possible.

The Form you use to amend your return is Form 1040X.  Be sure to read the instructions carefully before you begin to complete this form.

You are required to explain the reason for the amendment and the effect on the tax return – there is a place for this on the form.  Plus, additional attachments will likely be required to be filed with the Form 1040X including updated / corrected Form 1040, the originally filed Form 1040 and associated schedules.

 Here are ten facts from the Internal Revenue Service about amending your federal tax return:

  1. When to amend a return You should file an amended return if your filing status, your dependents, your total income or your deductions or credits were reported incorrectly.
  2. When NOT to amend a return  In some cases, you do not need to amend your tax return.  The IRS usually corrects math errors or requests missing forms – such as W-2s or schedules – when processing an original return.  In these instances, do not amend your return. [ya, I don't completely agree with this - see my comments above]
  3. Form to use Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to amend a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.  Make sure you check the box for the year of the return you are amending on the Form 1040X. Amended tax returns cannot be filed electronically.
  4. Multiple amended returns If you are amending more than one year’s tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing center.
  5. Form 1040X The Form 1040X has three columns. Column A shows original figures from the original return (if however, the return was previously amended or adjusted by IRS, use the adjusted figures). Column C shows the corrected figures. The difference between Column A and C is shown in Column B.  There is an area on the back of the form to explain the specific changes and the reason for the change.
  6. Other forms or schedules If the changes involve other schedules or forms, attach them to the Form 1040X.
  7. Additional refund If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X.  You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund.
  8. Additional tax If you owe additional tax, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges.
  9. When to file Generally, to claim a refund, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
  10. Processing time Normal processing time for amended returns is 8 to 12 weeks.
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