If you discover an error after filing your return, you may need to amend your return. The IRS may correct mathematical or clerical errors on a return and may accept returns without certain required forms or schedules. In these instances, there’s no need to amend your return. However, do file an amended return if there’s a change in your filing status, income, deductions, or credits. Use Form 1040X (PDF), Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct a previously filed Form 1040 (PDF), Form 1040A (PDF), Form 1040EZ (PDF), Form 1040NR (PDF), Form 1040NR-EZ (PDF), or to change amounts previously adjusted by the IRS. You can also use Form 1040X to make a claim for a carryback due to a loss or unused credit; however, you may also be able to use Form 1045 (PDF), Application for Tentative Refund, instead of Form 1040X. Also, if Form 8938 (PDF), Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, applies to you, file it with an annual return or an amended return. See the Form 8938 Instructions for more information.
If you owe additional tax for a tax year for which the due date for filing hasn’t passed, you can avoid penalties and interest if you file Form 1040X and pay the tax by the due date for that year (without regard to any extension of time to file). If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, filing the form and paying the tax is timely if filed or paid the next business day. If you file after the unextended due date, don’t include any interest or penalties on Form 1040X; they will be adjusted accordingly.
Generally, to claim a refund, you must file Form 1040X within 3 years after the date you filed your original return or within 2 years after the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. Returns filed before the due date (without regard to extensions) are considered filed on the due date. Special rules apply for refund claims relating to net operating losses, foreign tax credits, bad debts, and other issues. For more information about amending a return, refer to the Form 1040X Instructions and What If I Made a Mistake? in Chapter 1 of Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals.
File a separate Form 1040X for each tax year you’re amending. Mail each form in a separate envelope. Be sure to enter the year of the return you’re amending at the top of Form 1040X. The form has three columns:
- Column A shows original figures (the original return) or adjusted figures (prior amendments or exam changes).
- Column C shows the corrected figures (what they should be).
- Column B is the difference between Columns A and C. There’s an area on the back of the form to explain the specific changes you’re making and the reason for each change.
Attach copies of any forms or schedules affected by the change, including any Form(s) W-2 received after the original filing. You should also attach Form(s) W-2G and 1099 that support changes made on the return if there was income tax withheld.
You can check the status of your Form 1040X (PDF) using the Where’s My Amended Return? (WMAR) online tool or the toll-free telephone number three weeks after you file your amended return. Both tools are available in English and Spanish and track the status of amended returns for the current year and up to three prior years.
You must enter your taxpayer identification number (usually your social security number), date of birth, and ZIP code in either tool to prove your identity. Once you authenticate, the web tool shows an illustrated graphic to visually communicate the status of your amended return within the processing stages: Received, Adjusted, or Completed. As a reminder, amended returns take up to 16 weeks to process and up to three weeks from the date of mailing to show up in our system. Before that time, there’s no need to call the IRS unless the tool specifically tells you to do so.
Please note: A change made on your federal return may affect your state tax liability. For information on how to correct your state tax return, contact your state tax agency.
Ten IRS Rules For Amending Your Tax Return
- Amended returns are NOT mandatory. This may surprise you, but you are not under an affirmative obligation to file an amended tax return. You must file a tax return each year with the IRS if your income is over the requisite level. In fact, you can be prosecuted for failure to file (a misdemeanor) or for filing falsely (a felony). As Wesley Snipes’s misdemeanor convictions show, failing to file carries smaller penalties than filing fraudulently. But once you’ve filed your return, you can’t be prosecuted for failing to file an amended return, even though something may happen after you file that makes it clear your original return contains mistakes. So first ask yourself whether the return you filed was accurate to your best knowledge when you filed it. If it was, you are probably safe in not filing an amendment.
- You can’t cherry-pick what you correct. You don’t have to file an amended return, but if you do, you must correct everything. You can’t cherry-pick and make only those corrections that get you money back, but not those that increase your tax liability.
- Some errors don’t merit an amended return. Math errors are not a reason to file an amended return since the IRS will correct math errors on your return. Likewise, you usually shouldn’t file an amended return if you discover you omitted a Form W-2, forgot to attach schedules or other glitches of that sort. The IRS may process your return without them or will request them if needed.
- Timing counts. Most people suggest you must amend within three years of your original return filing. Actually, you must file a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, 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.
- Only paper will do. Amended returns are prepared on Form 1040X. You must use this form whether you previously filed Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. Amended returns are only filed on paper, so even if you filed your original return electronically, you’ll have to amend on paper.
- You must amend each year separately. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a separate 1040X for each return.
- Amended returns are more likely to be audited. In general, amended returns are more likely to be examined than original returns.
- Refunds can be applied to estimated taxes. If you file an amended return asking for considerable money back, the IRS may review the situation even more carefully. As an alternative, you can apply all or part of your refund to your current year’s tax.
- The statute of limitations is kind to amended returns. Normally the IRS has three years to audit a tax return. You might assume that filing an amended tax return would restart that three-year statute of limitations. Surprisingly, it doesn’t. In fact, if your amended return shows an increase in tax, and you submit the amended return within 60 days before the three-year statute runs, the IRS has only 60 days after it receives the amended return to make an assessment. This narrow window can present planning opportunities. Some people amend a return right before the statute expires. Plus, note that an amended return that does not report a net increase in tax does not trigger any extension of the statute of limitations.
- Don’t forget interest and penalties. If your amended return shows you owe more tax than you reported on (and paid with) your original return, you’ll owe additional interest and probably penalties too. Even though you might be amending a return from two years ago, the due date for your original return and for payment has long passed. Interest is charged on any tax not paid by the due date of the original return, without regard to extensions. The IRS will compute the interest and send you a bill if you don’t include it. If the IRS thinks you owe penalties it will send you a notice, which you can either pay or contest.