Feeling pretty good about now,
are we? You got your federal tax extension, and worked hard to get
that 1040 return in to the IRS. Now all you have to do is wait for
Then you get the bad news: Something is wrong with your return.
Either you didn't include something (like another W-2 or a 1099) or
one of the forms you used had incorrect information. In the blink
of an eye, you've been catapulted back to Square One.
Time to panic? Not really. And we're here to help.
If you discover an error after you've filed your tax return, you
can correct it by amending your return. Knowing a few ground
rules before you start to fix your problem can save you extra time
The first question is, do you need to amend your return?
Generally speaking, you should file an amended return if your
filing status, number of dependents, total income, tax deductions
or tax credits were either reported incorrectly or omitted
altogether. Check the 1040 instructions for more reasons to
In some cases, you don't need to amend your return. For example,
the IRS usually corrects math errors on W-2s and schedules and such
when they process an original return. If they need a form that you
should have included, but didn't, they'll request it. In those
cases, don't amend your return.
If you should amend your return as filed, you'll need Form
1040X, the Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. This will
amend a previously filed 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR, or 1040NR-EZ.
Since the IRS needs to know the year return is
being changed, be sure to check the box on the Form 1040X for the
year of the return that you're amending. Oh, and remember: You'll
have to mail your 1040X by Postal Service. The IRS does not accept
amended returns electronically.
What if you have to fix more than one year's return? In that
case, you'll fill out a separate 1040X for each return and mail
separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing center. The
address for the center in your region can be found in the "Where to
File" section of the 1040X instructions.
Amending your individual return with a Form 1040X is basically a
three-step process. Column A is for the original figures from your
original return. Column B shows the changes you're making. And
Column C is for the corrected figures. The form also has room on
the back to explain your change and the reasons you have to make
it. Always read the directions for the
1040X if you're not sure what goes where, or call the IRS directly
If your changes involve other forms or schedules, you'll want to
make sure you send everything with Form 1040X. If you don't, it's
likely your amended return will be held up in processing. Normal
processing time for a 1040X can run eight to 12 weeks.
When amending a return in order to get an additional refund,
patience pays off. Wait until you get your original refund before
you file Form 1040X. You can, however, cash your initial refund
check while you wait for the refund from the amended return. If the
amended return means you owe additional tax, then it's best to file
the 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to
limit interest and penalty charges.
To claim a refund, there is a time limit. Generally, to claim a
refund, you must file the Form 1040X within three years of the date
you filed your original tax return - or within two years from the
date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
So, if you need to change what you've already filed, make sure
you have all your supporting documents ready, ensure that your
figures are correct, fill out your paperwork very carefully. And
don't rush once you've started the process. Time well-spent now can
save a lot of time waiting on your refund.
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