Mistakes Happen: Amending a Tax Return
Last year, one of our clients – let’s call him Joe – had just gone through a divorce and forgot to claim his daughter as a dependent on his 2016 personal tax return. As a result, Joe overstated his taxable income and didn’t get the refund he expected. In fact, he ended up owing the IRS for the first time in his life.
When preparing his return for this year, one of our experienced preparers noticed Joe had failed to claim his daughter in 2016 and helped him file an amended tax return to correct the error. The process was simple and several months later, he received a refund check from the IRS.
While most taxpayers make every effort to prevent errors on their returns, sometimes mistakes happen. According to IRS spokesperson, Eric Smith, there are nearly 4 million amended returns filed on Form 1040X each year.
These are typically the result of incomplete or inaccurate information – an incorrect W-2 form provided by an employer, failure to report self-employment income or in the case of our friend Joe, claiming someone incorrectly as a dependent.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to know these mistakes are fairly easy to correct and we can help! Here are some important tips you should know about amending your federal tax return:
- When to amend a return. You should file an amended return if you need to correct your filing status, number of dependents, total income, tax deductions or tax credits. The instructions for Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, list additional reasons to amend a return.
- When NOT to amend a return. In some cases, you don’t need to amend your tax return. For example, the IRS usually corrects math errors when processing your original return. If you did not include a required form or schedule, the IRS will send you a request for whatever is missing.
- Form to use. Use Form 1040X to amend a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Make sure you check the box to show the tax year that you are amending on the form. You cannot e-file an amended return. You must file an amended tax return on paper.
- Multiple amended returns. If you’re filing an amended return for more than one year, prepare a separate 1040X for each return. Mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing center.
- Other forms or schedules. If the changes involve other tax schedules or forms, attach them to the Form 1040X. Failure to do this will cause a delay in processing.
- Amending to claim an additional refund. If you’re expecting a refund from your original tax return, don’t file your amended return until after you have received that refund. You may cash the refund check from your original return. The IRS will send you any additional refund you are owed.
- Amending to pay additional tax. If you’re filing an amended tax return because you owe additional tax, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit any interest and penalty charges.
- When to file. To claim a refund, you generally 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.
- Processing time. Normal processing time for amended returns is 8 to 12 weeks.
William D. Truax and his friendly team of EAs and licensed tax preparers have been helping individuals and businesses with their amended tax returns for over 30 years. They understand mistakes can happen and will help walk you through the process of making any necessary corrections in a timely manner.
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