As you were working
on this year's taxes, you ran across an error on an
old return. Rather than ignore it, it's probably to
your advantage to file an amended
The Internal Revenue
Service usually corrects math errors and simply lets
you know of any changes. In these instances, you don't
need to amend your return. However, do file an amended
return if you discover (before the IRS does) that any
of the following were reported incorrectly:
- Your filing status
- Your total income
- Your dependents
- Your deductions or credits
By sending the IRS a corrected tax
return in these cases, you might be able to get more
money back. Or, if the mistake you made wasn't so favorable,
you should own up to that, too. Either way, it's not
a difficult process.
1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return,
to correct a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.
It doesn't matter if you originally filed a paper return
or sent it electronically. However, your amended return
must be done on paper. The IRS e-file system does not
yet accept electronic 1040X forms.
Basically, the 1040X asks for your
corrected data, the reason for the changes and your
originally reported information. If the changes involve
another schedule or form, attach it to the 1040X.
A common reason to file an amended
return is to correct your filing
status. The 1040X gives you the opportunity to make
changes here if you mistakenly chose a filing status
that cheated you out of some tax dollars. For example,
a single parent would get a larger standard
deduction by filing as head of household rather
than as a single filer. That change can be made on the
Couples who filed separately can also change a return to married filing jointly so
they can get some tax breaks not allowed to separate
filers. You can't, however, do the reverse. Changing
from joint to separate filing after a return's deadline
is past is not allowed.
And there's also a section for adding
or subtracting personal exemptions in case there was
some confusion as to whether you properly counted someone
as a dependent.
You can file an amended return within three years of
your original filing date. This includes any filing
To get this three-year grace period,
however, you must have paid all your tax due with the
return in question. If you didn't pay in full then,
you only have two years from the time you finally paid
your tax bill to make corrections.
If you find a mistake that could
get you a bigger refund soon after you've filed, wait
until you receive your original refund before sending
the IRS any more paperwork. You need to let the original
document work its way through the system to avoid any
confusion about your tax account.
You can, however, go ahead and cash
your original refund while you wait for the additional
payment from your amended filing. The IRS will simply
subtract that first refund amount from your amended
total and send you the difference.
the correction, even if it costs you
What about cases where you find a mistake that's going
to cost you some tax money? In the long run, it will
be better if you own up to your oversight first.
It's a good bet the IRS will eventually
discover your error, too, and come looking for its missing
cash. The quicker you correct an underpayment, the sooner
you'll stop any interest that the IRS will charge.
If you are filing more than one
amended return, be sure to mail each in a separate envelope
to the IRS center for the area in which you live. The 1040X
instructions list the addresses for the centers.
And don't forget your state taxes.
Changes you made on an old federal filing might affect
a previously filed state return. Check with your state's
tax department for details on amending tax filings
at that level.
Freelance writer Kay Bell writes Bankrate's
tax stories from her home in Austin,
Texas, and blogs on tax topics at Don't
Mess with Taxes.