How to file an amended tax return to correct your income, credits, or deductions

  • An amended return is needed if your filing status, income, or qualification for deductions or credits was reported incorrectly.
  • There are specific deadlines for filing an amended return if you want to claim a refund.
  • You can file an amended return electronically via online tax software providers for the 2019 tax year.
  • This article was reviewed for accuracy and clarity by Lisa Niser, an expert on Personal Finance Insider’s tax review board.
  • See Personal Finance Insider’s picks for the best tax software »

The IRS isn’t going to punish you for making a simple clerical error on your tax return.

In fact, if the IRS finds minor mistakes on your tax return, they’ll often correct them for you. And if they need more information or additional documents, they’ll reach out to you via US mail.

For errors beyond basic arithmetic — such as changes to your tax filing status, income, or qualifications for certain deductions — you may need to file an amended federal tax return, or Form 1040X. The amended tax return deadline if you’re claiming a refund due to the changes is the later of three years from your original filing date or two years from the date you paid the tax due. This includes any elected extensions. 

Other common reasons for filing an amended return include claiming a deduction or credit that you overlooked initially or receiving an adjusted W-2 or 1099 from your employer that changes your tax liability. This doesn’t often happen at large companies, but may be more common with smaller employers with in-house bookkeeping.

The IRS reports that, nationally, the average taxpayer filing an amended return spends nine hours preparing and mailing their forms, though the time burden varies depending on the type of taxpayer and whether they seek professional help.

How do I file an amended tax return?

In August 2020, the IRS announced that taxpayers could finally file amended returns electronically.

At this time, you can only e-file an amended return for the 2019 tax year if the original return was filed electronically. If you used TurboTax or H&R Block, you can access the instructions for filing an amended return in your account.

If you’re amending a return for a year prior to 2019, changing the Social Security number reported, or changing the filing status reported, you still need to print, fill out, and mail the form to the IRS. You can find the latest instructions here.

How to file an amended return

To complete Form 1040X, gather the following:

 

  • A copy of the return (Form 1040, 1040-NR, or 1040-NR EZ; or 1040A or 1040EZ for previous years) you are amending, plus any relevant forms, schedules, or worksheets you previously filled out
  • Any notices you received from the IRS with adjustments to that return
  • Instructions for the return you are amending that correspond to the year in which the original return was filed —  you can find these on the IRS website

Depending on the changes made to the federal return, an amended state return may also be needed.  

How do I mail an amended tax return?

To mail your amended tax return, check page 18 of the 1040X instructions guide. The address corresponds to the forms you’re amending and the state you live in.

Is there a penalty for filing an amended tax return?

While interest and penalties for late payment of taxes may be charged, there aren’t any fees or penalties associated with the filing of an amended tax return. You can check out the IRS instructions for more details.

What’s the amended tax return refund timeline? 

The IRS says it usually processes amended tax returns within eight to 12 weeks of the mailing date, though it could take up to 16 weeks or longer, particularly in cases of identity fraud.

Beginning about three weeks from the date your return was postmarked, you can use the this tool on the IRS website to track its status. To do so, you’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Your taxpayer identification number or Social Security number
  • Your date of birth
  • Your ZIP code or postal code

The status of your amended return will move from received to adjusted to completed. If your return is adjusted, there will usually be a new refund issued or a tax balance due.

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