How to File an Amended Tax Return

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1040A few years ago I was preparing my taxes with TurboTax when I reached a piece of information I didn’t have (nowadays you can flag it as a place to return to before finalizing your return). Rather than leaving it blank, I put in a placeholder value… and promptly forgot about it. I filed my return, printed out a copy (this was before I decided going all electronic was a better option), and went about on my business. A week or so afterwards, as I was reviewing my return before filing away, I noticed I had put in a placeholder value.

It was for self-employment income and I had put in a nice round $10,000. My actual earnings were slightly higher and all of it was reported on a Form 1099-MISC, so the IRS knew that I made more than $10,000. Plus, $10,000 on the nose is awfully suspicious, especially since I was being 1099’d from about a dozen different places. So I knew I had to file an amended return and I found it to be, relatively, easy. Unfortunately, it’s paper only.


Filing an amended tax return simply means you’re filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (here are the Form 1040 instructions). It’s a mere two pages and it gives you the opportunity to change almost anything you want on the tax return.

Filing Deadlines

There really isn’t a “deadline” when it comes to a 1040X. Generally you want to file an amended return within three years of your original filing date in order to take advantage of the grace period. If you owed tax and was on a payment plan, you have until two years after the last payment.

Bigger Refunds

If you make a change that gives you a bigger tax refund, it’s better to wait until the first return is processed before filing the change. When you receive your refund check, you can cash it and send off the amendment. The IRS will then send you another refund check for the difference.

Finally, remember to amend your state income tax return too.

(Photo: evaekeblad)

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “How to File an Amended Tax Return”

  1. Strebkr says:

    Good think you caught your mistake before the IRS did. While it doesn’t sound like you understated your income by a ton, they still would have found it and then you would have been on the hook for the difference, a penalty, and interest dating back to when it should have been paid.

  2. HedgeHoncho says:

    Wow, had no idea about this. Would be nice to see an article about back taxes had you gotten caught.

    i heard those can get rather large.

  3. skylog says:

    i have actually filed two of these and had zero issues. the process was easy and quick, although i found the “explanation” part a little monotonous. it is good to know that this is available, when a small mistake is made.

  4. zapeta says:

    Never had to file an amended return, but it’s good to know that its not a drawn out process.

  5. elloo says:

    How long can you go back to file an amended return if you don’t owe any taxes?

  6. fairy dust says:

    I filed an amended return once. I didn’t have to do it. I had underreported my regular (non-Roth) IRA contributions – totally forgetting that I had $x/mo automatically taken from my bank acct and put into my Vanguard IRA. I filed and then remembered that IRA, looked up the amount, calculated the results – I stood to get a couple hundred dollars more in my tax refund. I almost didn’t bother, because I was afraid of calling attention to my return and getting smacked for it somehow, like with an audit. But the thought of losing money that was rightfully mine egged me to go ahead and file the amended return anyway. Not hard to do, no problem with getting flagged by the IRS for a further look-see into my finances, and I received my extra refund money promptly.

    Still makes me nervous, though 🙂 So I now quadruple check everything before I e-file.

  7. Tom says:

    I filed my 1040 electronically last week. This weekend I realized I had done a similar thing. My original return worked out to a refund. The 1040x works out that I have to pay $500. Should I wait until I get the refund in a week or two before I send the 1040X with the payment, or, should I just do it now?

    • Strebkr says:

      Ouch, thats unfortunate. It sounds like a pain to pay the $500, but in the end its the right thing to do. If they caught you on their own, you would end up paying way more then $500.

  8. jbrown says:

    Well thank you all for your information. However, I have an issue. My tax was completed but I forgot my daugther YMCA payment for the year. I paid over 3600.00. I owe and paid the amount in full but Im very concern do I still have the right to add this on to my 2011 taxes? Searching for answer ASAP

  9. FB says:

    Someone helped me file head of the household, and that person filed self employment for two years and i have not work at all, and dont have my own business. i been getting disability most of my life, i thought this person was helping me and messed up my income, so right now iam really trying to get this mess cleared up and get my income back cause i have no way of living with no income, and have kids to take care. no will help me fill out the 1040x amended from, i dont understand it, cant get no help from the irs. at this point iam truly messed up!!!!!

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