Filing amended tax returns is a process most US taxpayers will go through at some point in their life. We'll break down the steps in the process in this amended tax return quick guide. First, let's start with some key bullets:
- If you filed a return with incorrect or missing incorrect information, then you need to amend your return. In this case, you can use form 1040-X
- You'll need to file an amended return within 3 years of the tax year it corresponds to, or within two years of paying the tax due for that year, whatever date is later.
Amending returns doesn't have to be scary, the IRS understands that oftentimes you can't avoid making mistakes or missing information. That's why they've made the amended tax return filing process as simple as possible
How to know when you need to file an amended return
The following are the various scenarios that may or do warrant filing an amended tax return:
- You need to change a dependents status, either adding or removing them
- You forgot to claim income on a return
- You claimed an expense or deduction that you weren't eligible to claim
- You accidentally filed under the wrong status
- You forgot to claim a credit or deduction that would've lowered your tax bill
It's important to note that clerical errors do not make the list. The IRS will generally fix minor clerical errors on returns, so no need to file an entirely new amended return for that. The other caveat you'll need to keep in mind on amended returns is that you can only file an amended return after the IRS has processed the original return. If your return is still processing, you'll have to wait until processing is complete to file the amended return.
When do you need to file an amended return?
Amended returns must be filed within three years of the original tax deadline or within two years of when you paid the tax due for that year, if you paid after the tax filing deadline.
If you aren't in this window, you cannot file an amended return.
How to file an amended return (Step by Step guide)
1. Collect your documents
You'll have to gather your original tax return and any new documents needed to justify the amended filing. This likely means up to date and/or correct W-2 or 1099 forms, tax credit documentation, or charitable donation documentation. Other forms you may need are 1098-Ts for your mortgage interest.
2. Get all the forms together
Generally, you're going to amend a return using Form 1040-X, which is the IRS's official form for this action. You will also have to include forms that will be updated through the amending process. One common reason people amend returns is changing from the standard deduction to itemized deductions. In this scenario, you're going to need a copy of your Schedule A to amend. You're going to want to check for your specific scenario which form you will need - as you could also need your Schedule B, Schedule C or SE, or even a form 8949.
3. Complete Form 1040-X
You're going to want to fill out the three columns on Form 1040-X as follows:
A: Fill out this column with the numbers from your previously reported tax form.
B: Fill out this column with the amounts from your original return that you need to change. This column is for the change, up or down, to your line items, not the updated totals. That is filled out in Column C.
C: Fill in this column with the updated final total amounts for each respective line. Column C should be equal to Column A added together with Column B.
You'll also need to provide your reasoning for filing an amended return in the third part of Form 1040-X.
4. Submit your return!
The IRS allows taxpayers to e-file their amended returns, which is usually the easiest process for taxpayers needing to amend returns. You can use any number of tax filing systems, like TurboTax. Of course, you can also mail in your amended return to the IRS. In either scenario, you'll need to attach your filled out Form 1040-X along with all other supporting documentation for the return, like the other forms we mentioned before.
After the return is processed, as long as you are within the proper time frame, if you are owed a refund, then the IRS will process the refund with the corresponding bank or address information on file.