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Mistakes happen — even on tax returns. That's why the IRS allows taxpayers to correct their tax returns if they discover an error on a return that's already been filed. Here's what you need to know about filing an amended tax return.
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When to file an amended tax return
There are times when you should amend your return and times when you shouldn't. Here are some common situations that call for an amendment:
- You realized you missed out on claiming a tax deduction or credit.
- You accidentally claimed the wrong tax filing status.
- You need to add or remove a dependent.
- You forgot to claim taxable income on your tax return.
- You realize you claimed an expense, deduction, or credit that you weren't eligible to claim.
You usually don't need to file an amended return if you discover math or clerical errors on a recently filed tax return. The IRS will often correct those types of mistakes on its own and, if necessary, send you a bill for the additional tax due or a refund if the error was in your favor.
Before filing an amended return, make sure the IRS has already processed the tax return you need to amend. That way, you can ensure the IRS won't get your original return and amended return mixed up. If you've already received your tax refund, then you know the IRS has already processed your return.
Just keep in mind that the IRS limits the amount of time you have to file an amended return to claim a refund to:
- Within three years from the original filing deadline, or
- Within two years of paying the tax due for that year, if that date is later.
If you're outside of that window, you can't claim a refund by amending your return.
How to file an amended tax return
The process for filing an amended return is fairly straightforward. Here's a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Collect your documents
Gather your original tax return and any new documents needed to prepare your amended return.
If you need to correct the income you reported on your return, you may have a new or amended W-2 or 1099 form. If you missed claiming a tax deduction or credit, you’ll need documentation to support the new deduction you're claiming, such as a receipt for a charitable donation, new or amended Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement, or Form 1098-T to claim an education credit.
If you initially filed your tax return using TurboTax, you can access your tax return online or print a copy of that return by logging in to your account at TurboTax online or print a PDF of your return from the copy saved on your computer.
If you didn’t file using TurboTax and can’t locate a copy of your return, you can order a copy of your tax transcript using the Get Transcript tool on IRS.gov. Your transcript shows most of the lines from your tax return, including income, deductions, credits, and tax payments.
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Step 2: Get the right forms
The IRS form for amending a return is Form 1040-X. You'll also need any forms that will be impacted by your change. For example, if you’re changing your itemized deductions, you’ll also need a copy of Schedule A for that tax year. To amend your tax return to add additional interest or dividend income, you'll need a copy of Schedule B. Changes to revenues or expenses from a trade or business will require Schedule C and Schedule SE. Updating your capital gains and losses will require Form 8949 and Schedule D, and so on.
You can also prepare your amended return in TurboTax. To do this, you need to use the version of TurboTax that applies to the tax year you need to amend. For example, if you need to amend your 2019 tax return, you need to use the 2019 version of TurboTax.
If you prepared your original tax return using TurboTax, log in to your account, open the tax return you already filed, and click on the link to amend your return. From there, the software will walk you through the process of filing the amendment.
If you didn't use TurboTax to file your tax return, you can use TurboTax to prepare the amendment. However, you'll first have to enter your information into TurboTax to match what you filed the first time, then start the process of amending it.
Step 3: Fill out Form 1040-X
Form 1040-X contains three columns:
- Column A. This column shows the numbers previously reported on your tax return. Use the copy of your tax return you gathered in Step 1 to complete this column.
- Column B. This column shows how the amounts from your original return need to increase or decrease. For example, if you're amending your gross income to include $50 of interest income missing from your previously filed tax return, you would enter $50 on line 1, column B.
- Column C. This column shows the correct amount. Just add the amounts from column A and column B and enter the result here.
In Part III of Form 1040-X, you'll need to provide a clear explanation for your reasons for filing an amended return.
When you use TurboTax to prepare your amended return, you don’t need to know all the details. Once you indicate that you’re preparing an amended return, the software will help you fill out Form 1040-X and any supporting forms as you make changes to your income and deductions.
Step 4: Submit your amended forms
Beginning with the 2019 tax year, you can e-file amended tax returns. If you used TurboTax to prepare Form 1040-X, follow the software's instructions to e-file the amendment.
To amend a return for 2018 or earlier, you'll need to print Form 1040-X and any other forms you're amending. Attach any necessary supporting documentation, such as:
- Any new or amended W-2s or 1099 forms
- Other forms or schedules that changed, such as Schedule A if you updated your itemized deductions
- Your CP2000 notice if you’re amending your tax return because of a notice you received from the IRS
Mail all the forms and documents to the address provided in the instructions.
If amending your tax return results in a higher tax bill, you will need to make an additional tax payment. For an e-filed amended return, you can make a payment electronically through TurboTax. Otherwise, you can mail a check with the amendment. By making a payment now instead of waiting for the IRS to send an invoice, you can minimize the interest and penalties you'll owe.
Keep in mind that if you file an amended tax return on paper rather than e-filing, it can take the IRS eight to 12 weeks to process the amendment. You can check the status of your amended return using the IRS' Where's My Amended Return? Wait about three weeks from the date you mailed your return for the information to show up in the IRS system.
If you amend your federal income tax return, you'll likely also need to file an amended tax return with your state. Each state has its own form to amend a tax return. TurboTax will select the right form for you when you prepare your federal amended return and supply instructions for mailing the correct forms to your state’s department of revenue.
Remember, if you owed a lot in taxes or received a large refund, you may want to update your withholding. You can use the free Withholding Calculator from TurboTax to estimate your paycheck withholding, then complete a new Form W-4 and give it to your employer’s HR or payroll department.