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How to File an Amended Tax Return

A 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 [3], Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (here are the Form 1040 instructions [4]). 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 [5])