I don’t think filing taxes, let alone an amended return, is on anyone’s list of favorite things to do. Many people may not even know how to file that amended tax return.
The process can be extremely complicated and frustrating. I should know — as a former accountant, I used to help people prepare their tax returns. I understand how difficult it can be to manage your taxes without professional help.
On occasion, a client would forget to provide an important piece of information. Even worse, sometimes a client didn’t find the information until after their original return was filed.
So what should you do if you forget to include an important item in your return? Consult with a tax professional to determine whether you need to file an amended tax return.
Why File an Amended Tax Return?
Some of the common reasons individuals amend their returns include claiming an additional tax refund after the filing deadline has passed, acknowledging additional income that would result in owing more income tax, or correcting mistaken deductions or credits.
You should file an amended income tax return if your income, deductions, credits, filing status, or dependents were reported incorrectly on your original tax return, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
For instance, if you realize you forgot to add your student loan interest deduction when you originally filed your tax return, you will likely want to file an amended return.
When to File It
If you owe additional tax, make sure to file as soon as possible in order to avoid any penalties or accrued interest. Those seeking an additional refund for their amended taxes must file a Form 1040-X in order to qualify.
You have to file within one of two time periods (whichever is longer).
One time frame is within two years after you paid the original, incorrect tax amount, according to the IRS. The other is within three years from the date that you originally filed your tax return.
If you filed an extension for your tax return that year, the extended time you used until you filed counts as well. However, according to the IRS, if you filed before your extended due date, you can use only the date on which you actually filed.
See the form instructions if you are uncertain about any special rules that may apply in your state.
How to File an Amended Tax Return
Filing an amended return usually isn’t too difficult. Most people do so using the same tax preparation method that they originally used. If you used a CPA, it would make sense to go back to the same CPA to file the amended return. Many preparation methods can result in additional fees from your tax professional or software.
Steps to Take
If you braved the filing process on your own, here’s how to file an amended tax return, as per the IRS:
- You must complete Form 1040-X1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, on paper if the taxes were filed prior to the 2019 tax year. Any amendments after that time can be done electronically or on paper, according to the IRS.
- Only submit a 1040-X to correct errors. Common mistakes like miscalculations will be taken care of automatically by the IRS. You should amend to change things such as your filing status or to correct your income, deductions, or credits.
- Don’t amend for missing forms. If you forgot to attach tax forms, such as a W-2 or a Schedule C, the IRS will usually mail you a request for them.
- Some taxpayers may receive a second Form 1095-A because the information on their original form was incorrect or incomplete. Comparing the 1095-A forms can help you determine if you should file a 1040-X.
- If you’re amending your taxes for more than one year, you’ll need to prepare a 1040-X for each of those years and mail the forms separately, as per the IRS.
- If you’re using other IRS forms or schedules to submit changes, make sure to attach them to the 1040-X.
- Waiting for a refund on the original return submitted? Hold off until you receive it before submitting your 1040-X. An amended return generally takes 8 to 12 weeks to process, but can take up to 16 weeks.
- If you owe more money, file your 1040-X ASAP to avoid possible penalties and interest from being tacked on! Even if you seek a filing extension, the IRS will charge interest on taxes that aren’t paid by their due date. You can use IRS Direct Pay to submit the payment directly from your bank account.
- You can track your return within about three weeks of submission using “Where’s My Amended Return?”
Form 1040 vs. Form 1040-X
The form has many of the same items found on Form 1040, but instead of one column of numbers, Form 1040-X has three. The IRS requests you input the original tax return numbers and the new numbers you wish to file, as well as the change between the original return and the new numbers. Form 1040-X will also ask for the reason you made changes to your tax return.
The Bottom Line
Filing taxes is a stressful endeavor, and discovering you’ve made an error only exacerbates it. Remember we all make mistakes, and that the important thing is that we fix them. As such, if you’ve discovered an error on your return, take the necessary steps, consult key professionals, and fill out the correct forms. You and the IRS will be square in no time at all.
Additional reporting by Jazmin Rosa. Additional background information provided by Chayim Kessler of Miami Beach CPA.