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What is an amended tax return?

Despite the best tax filing efforts, mistakes can still happen. If you’ve made an error on a tax return that’s already been submitted, correct it by filing an amended return. Here’s everything you need to know about how to file an amended tax return.

Understanding amended tax returns

An amended return is an official tax form filed with the intention of correcting a previously filed tax return. It can fulfill a few different purposes, from correcting errors to claiming refunds or choosing a different tax status. While the IRS automatically corrects mathematical mistakes, amended returns can change more significant errors like misreported earnings.

How amended returns work

In the United States, all taxpayers must file annual taxes covering earnings from the previous tax year. If you’ve already submitted your tax return and then receive additional information, or discover that you’ve made an error, you can then file a secondary, amended tax return.

The amended return form is on the IRS website, listed as Form 1040X. As we’ve mentioned above, math errors are corrected by the IRS. You’ll be informed of any adjustments made to your figures which could lead to a change in tax liability or refund owed. Similarly, the IRS will let you know if there’s missing information in your original tax return.

When you should file an amended return

There are many circumstances where you might need to file an amended return:

  • Your filing status for the year changed or was entered incorrectly.

  • You’ve entered the incorrect number of dependents.

  • If you realize you claimed tax deductions or credits incorrectly due to a change in expenses, this should be amended. You might also realize that you’re eligible for certain credits after you’ve already filed an original return.

  • Sometimes, 1099 forms arrive after the first day of the new tax year. If your income-related forms arrive late, you may need to make adjustments.

  • You might realize that you owe more taxes than you’ve paid. File an amended return to avoid paying penalties for this additional tax liability.

How to file an amended tax return

The first step to figuring out how to file an amended tax return is to visit the IRS website, where you’ll find Form 1040X.

The form has three columns. Under column A, you can enter the figures that were reported in the original tax return. Column C will show the adjusted figures. The difference between these two figures should be reflected in column B. In some cases, such as changes to your filing status, you might not have any change in your tax refund or balance due.

There’s also a section on the 1040X for you to provide an explanation for the changes that you’re making. It’s helpful to give the IRS detailed information to avoid any confusion and check amended return information carefully. This includes copies of forms or schedules that you have changed or didn’t include with the original return.

Where to send amended tax returns

After you’ve completed the 1040X, check amended return details carefully for accuracy. The next step is to find out where to send amended tax returns. Up until summer 2020, amended returns could only be physically mailed to the IRS Service Center. You can still opt to send it this way. Alternatively, you can submit your return online.

How do you check on your amended tax return?

It can take up to three weeks for your amended return to show up in the system, and up to 16 weeks to process it. There’s no need to check up on its progress before this point. However, if you’re curious or the 16 weeks has passed, you can use the amended return checker on the IRS website. You’ll need to provide:

  • Social security number

  • Date of birth

  • Zip code

Although there’s no limit to submitting amended tax returns, if you want your refund you should do it as quickly as possible. There is a three-year statute of limitations on issuing refund checks, which is something to keep in mind if you’re claiming additional tax credits.

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