We all make mistakes.
Unfortunately, screwing up your taxes can be expensive. You can’t get that mistaken tax return back, but you can file an amended return to fix it.
What is an amended tax return?
An amended tax return is one that has been updated to fix mistakes in your original return. Your amended tax return provides the IRS with updated information and an explanation of what you did wrong.
If your mistake was a simple math error, there’s no need to file an amended return. Instead, the IRS will correct it and let you know if you owe more (or less).
It’s a similar scenario if you forgot to attach a form such as your W-2. You don’t need to file an amended return; the IRS will send you a request for the missing documentation.
Instead, an amended return should be filed if your mistake will significantly alter your taxes. Maybe you didn’t report some income or you forgot to claim a deduction or credit. Perhaps you claimed the wrong number of exemptions or messed up on your filing status.
In many cases, filing an amended return is in your best interest. After all, you might get a bigger refund. However, if your error caused you to underpay your taxes, you may face penalty fees for late payment — even if it was an honest mistake.
How to file an amended tax return
1. Gather documentation
Your first step is to find a copy of your original tax return. Make a list of the mistakes that need to be corrected and mark them on your return for easy reference.
No matter the error, you’ll need to reference it on your amended return and provide documentation for the update. If you’re claiming a new deduction, you have to provide the receipt.
Here’s the good news: You only need to refile the forms related to your mistake. If you missed a deduction, for example, file only your corrected Schedule A with your amended return — you don’t need to resubmit every tax form.
2. Use form 1040X
When filing an amended return, use the 1040X form. Fill it out or have a tax preparer help you.
Enter your updated information on the form. There will be a space at the end of the form to explain your changes. Afterward, you can attach any supporting documentation.
Make sure you keep a copy of your 1040X for your own records. It’s always a good idea to keep a copy of all documents and tax forms you submit so you can reference them in the future.
3. Submit your amended return via snail mail
You can file your regular tax return online, but it’s a different story with an amended return. You can only file your 1040X by mail. There are specific addresses for your 1040X, depending on where you live and your situation. Make sure you double-check the address before sending in your form.
If you have to amend returns from multiple years, keep them all separate. File a 1040X for each return and mail them all separately. Don’t put them all in one envelope.
How long do you have to file an amended return?
Once you realize your mistake, file your 1040X as quickly as possible. If you’re claiming a refund, you must file the amended return within three years after the date of your original tax return or two years after you paid the tax, whichever is later.
Do you owe money to the IRS? File your 1040X quickly to avoid penalties and interest. If you amend your return and pay the extra tax by the due date for that year, you won’t be charged penalties.
Either way act quickly. The longer you wait to file an amended return, the greater the chance that you will owe interest and other penalties on top of your tax.
Where’s my amended return?
You can check the status of your amended return on the IRS website. To use the IRS tracking tool, you need your Social Security number, date of birth, and ZIP code. You can also call 866-464-2050 to get information about your amended tax return.
Be prepared to practice patience. The IRS warns that it can take up to three weeks after you mail your 1040X for it to show up in the system, and as many as 16 weeks for the IRS to process your amended return.
Avoid filing an amended return
Before you file your original return, check it for mistakes. Even if you have someone else prepare your taxes, look over your forms to see if anything jumps out at you.
Mistakes happen, but errors on your taxes are a pain to fix. Filing an amended return isn’t the end of the world, but save yourself the trouble and triple-check your original tax return before you submit it.