When Should You File an Amended Return?

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TaxesTax Day is past. You’ve filed your tax return with the IRS. You are either awaiting a refund, or you have dutifully mailed off the check for what you owe in taxes. However, you realize that you are missing something. You forgot to add some paperwork, and you are entitled to a bigger refund, or you don’t owe as much money. Maybe you forgot to report some income, or you made a mistake. Do you have recourse now that your 1040 is already wending its way through the IRS system?

Actually, yes. You can file an amended tax return.

Amended Tax Return: Designed for Changing Your Return

If you want to change something on your tax return, you need to file an amended tax return. This is different from an extension. A filing extension is a request for more time to file your return. You need to file an amended return if you are changing something on your tax return.

When need to change something on your 1040, or on one of the Schedules that go with it, an amended return is required. This can include filing for a tax credit you just realized you were eligible for, as well as if you realize that you made a calculation error, or if you forget to include home business deductions on your Schedule C. Anytime you need to change something on your tax return, you need to file an amended return.

Note that you have three years to file an amended return. One example is if you were eligible to take the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit in 2009, but you didn’t. Even though your taxes for 2009 have already been filed, you can still amend that return, since it falls within the three year time limit. You can fill out your amended return for 2009, and still receive your tax credit.

How to File an Amended Tax Return

The proper form for filing an amended tax return is the 1040X. For best results, you need to wait until the IRS has processed your original return before filing your amended return. That means that you need to wait until your refund has been issued if you think that you need an even bigger refund. It really helps to avoid snarling the process if you wait. If you filed electronically, it should only take a few days for your original to be accepted, so you can file an amended return shortly thereafter.

Starting with tax year 2010, it’s possible to file an amended return electronically. (If you are filing an amended return for a year previous to 2010, or if you are filing one that involves certain types of paperwork, you will need to mail your amended return.) This makes things much easier, and the IRS has fillable forms for the 1040X. If you use an accountant, sometimes it is worth it to have him or her help you file the proper amended return. Make sure you are thorough, and refer to your original return, since you will be asked for the information that appeared originally, in addition to the information you want to change.

(Photo: Tax Credits)

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