your tax return — July 25, 2012

Fixing Mistakes on That Tax Return

by Bob Williams

1040X amended return imageFeeling 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 that tax refund.

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 and worry.

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 amend.

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. Since the IRS needs to know the year of the return that’s being changed, be sure to check the box on the Form 1040X for the year of the return that you're amending. Depending on what year you filed, you may have to amend a Form 1040EZ or Form 1040A, even though those forms are no longer in use as of July 2018. Otherwise, you’ll be amending Form 1040. 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 them in 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.

The Game Plan

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 at 800-829-1040.

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 tomlimit 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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