Today is tax day, and millions of people are scrambling, trying to get their paperwork in order so that they can get their tax returns completed, filed and sent off before the deadline expires. It's a mad dash to the finish line. Unfortunately that means that a lot of people are going to be making mistakes as they hurry to try and finish their tax returns before the post office closes.
While it would probably be a better idea to just complete your taxes a few weeks before the deadline, even if you do file at the last minute and make a mistake, all is not lost. There are ways that you can amend your tax return and fix the mistakes that you've made.
8 Tips Amending Your Tax Return
Sometimes people discover after they've already filed that they didn't claim a deduction or credit that they were eligible for, or their filing status was inadvertently incorrect. Not amending could mean losing out on a big refund, or at least cutting a tax bill significantly. If you discover the mistake in time, you can correct the return and file an amendment. Just know that there is a limitation of three years to make corrections that result in additional tax refunds.
Some common mistakes that people make on their tax returns:
- Wrong filing status
- Total income is off
- Not claiming dependents
- Not claiming deductions or credits
Here are 8 facts that the IRS gives about amended returns that can help you decide whether you need to file an amended return or not.
- Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to file an amended income tax return.
- Use Form 1040X to correct previously filed Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. An amended return cannot be e-filed; you must file it by paper.
- Generally, you do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors. The IRS will automatically make that correction. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will send a request asking for those.
- Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. Generally, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
- If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS campus. The 1040X instructions list the addresses for the campuses.
- If the changes involve another schedule or form, you must attach that schedule or form to the amended return.
- If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X. You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund.
- If you owe additional 2011 tax, file Form 1040X and pay the tax before the due date to limit interest and penalty charges that could accrue on your account. Interest is charged on any tax not paid by the due date of the original return, without regard to extensions.
What Tax Forms Do I Use To Amend?
To amend your tax return you would use form 1040X. Here's where you can get it at the IRS, along with the instruction booklet, and FAQ sheet:
- Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (PDF 110K)
- Form 1040X Instructions (PDF 45K)
- Tax Topic 308 — Amended Returns
If you e-filed your taxes using a service like TurboTax or other online software, usually amending your return is as easy as going back to the website, and looking for the option to “amend my return”. I checked on my copy of TurboTax and right when I logged in there was an option on the home screen to amend my return. Just click on the link and follow the instructions to amend.
When you're completed with the process of amending your return on the website it will allow you to print out your amended 1040X forms to mail in to the IRS (since they don't accept amended returns electronically). Expect the IRS to take 8-12 weeks to process an amended return.
Don't forget that any changes you make to your federal return may affect your state income tax returns as well. So make sure to look into amending your state return as well. Forms to use will vary state by state, so check with your state's department of revenue for details.
Have you ever had to amend a tax return? Why did you amend, and what was the result – did you get a bigger refund, or did you end up oweing more or less?