10 things you should know about amending your federal tax return

  • August 23, 2012
  • Steve Wisinski, CPA, MAFF

If you discover an error after you file your tax return, you can correct it by amending your return. Before amending your federal tax return, here are 10 things you should know about amending your federal tax return:

1. When to amend a return – Generally, you should file an amended return if your filing status, number of dependents, total income, tax deductions or tax credits were reported incorrectly or omitted.  Additional reasons for amending a return are listed in the instructions, which you can view here.

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 Forms W-2 or schedules – when processing an original return.  In these instances, do not amend your return, as you will receive a notice from the IRS.  If you receive a notice from the IRS that is incorrect, then you should amend your return.

3. Form to useUse Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to amend a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ.  Make sure you check the box for the year of the return you are amending on the Form 1040X.  An amended tax return cannot be filed electronically.

4. Multiple amended returns – If you are amending more than one year’s tax return, prepare a separate 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing center (see “Where to File” in the instructions for Form 1040X).

5. Form 1040X – The Form 1040X has three columns. Column A shows original figures from the original return. Column B shown the changes you are making.   Column C shows the corrected figures. There is an area on the back of the form to explain the specific changes and the reasons for the changes.

6. Other forms or schedules – If the changes involve other schedules or forms, attach them to the Form 1040X.  Failure to do this will cause a delay in processing.

7. Additional refund – If you are amending your return to get 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 tax 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.

Amending your federal income tax return is sometimes necessary, however, it does not have to be a complicated process.  Please contact one of our dedicated tax professionals if you would like some help.