Tax guide

Correcting a Rejected Return

Your return was rejected. Sounds so … intimidating, doesn't it? Like you tried to get something past the IRS, and you were just plain shut down? Try not to think of it this way. We prefer to look at rejected returns as just another chapter in the sometimes good, sometimes wonky relationship between humans and computers.

Because that's what's going on, really. The IRS computers look at your return, and something just doesn't add up. Maybe you made a typo in a Social Security Number or an address. (Or maybe you didn't do anything wrong at all – it was the IRS's fault. More about that later.)

The Tax Return Correction Process

When your return is rejected, you'll get a message telling you what the problem was, and how to fix it. In most cases, it's no big deal. You can just correct the problem and refile your return.

Here are a few of the most common errors:

  • A name doesn’t match Social Security records.
  • An address was entered incorrectly.
  • An Employer Identification Number (EIN) was entered incorrectly.
  • A date of birth was entered incorrectly.
  • A child was already claimed on someone else's return (an ex-spouse, usually).
  • Using the "married filing separately" status in a “community property” state – AZ, CA, ID, LA, NM, NV, TX, WA, or WI – which is not allowed.
  • An incorrect number was used to identify yourself to the IRS, such as an incorrect prior-year AGI or Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Less Common Tax Return Errors

Sometimes, correcting an error on a rejected return is not so easy. You may go 'round and 'round, trying to get your AGI right, for example. You say it's one number, the IRS says, "Sorry, nope, it's not."

So what do you do when you just can't get your return accepted?

First, be absolutely sure of your numbers. Don't just enter from memory, look at the actual document. For example, when signing your return with your AGI from last year's return, actually look it up on your return – be sure of the number.

But what if you are sure of your data, but the IRS still says it's wrong? This sometimes happens with names, Social Security Numbers and birth dates. You could be entering exactly what's on your child's Social Security card, but the IRS says that isn't correct. What's going on? In this case, the IRS is probably just going by incorrect data it got from the Social Security Administration – errors do sometimes creep in.

Our recommendation is to simply mail your return in cases like this. You can try to correct the problem with the SSA and IRS, but it isn't a quick resolution, and you needn't hold your return up while you're waiting.

Don't get us wrong – we're crazy about e-filing. We know it's the quickest, safest way to file your taxes. But for a tiny percentage of returns, it's not perfect. Just like people and computers.

Also see: How to Amend a Return

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