Oops! There’s a Mistake in My Taxes, How Do I Fix It? Amended Returns

When you have a tax "oops" you fix it by filing an Amended Tax Return, form 1040X.

When you have a tax “oops” you fix it by filing an Amended Tax Return, form 1040X.

Mistakes happen.  You file your return and later get a W2 in the mail for a job you had forgotten about.  Maybe your investment firm sent you an amended 1099 because your interest income they reported was wrong.  Or maybe you were talking to a friend and learned about a deduction that you should have been claiming for the past three years and you’d like a refund.  What do you do?

It’s easy, you need to file an amended return, the form is called a 1040X and you can find it on the IRS website:  http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040x.pdf.

An amended return can’t be filed electronically like a regular return.  You must mail it in and it’s going to take about 12 weeks to process.   That’s a bummer if you’re expecting a refund, but that’s the way it works.   If your regular return had a refund, make sure you wait until you’ve received the first refund before you file the amended return.  (If they start processing the amended return before your original refund gets paid, it can mess up you getting the original refund.  You don’t want that to happen now do you?)

If you have more than one tax return that needs to be amended, you must file separate returns for each year and mail them in separate envelopes.  For example, say you found out that you had missed a $1000 deduction on your Schedule A every year and you’re in the 25% tax bracket.  You can’t just put $3000 on this year’s return for a $750 refund.  You’ll have to amend 2010, 2009, and 2008 separately and you’ll receive three checks for $250 each.  It’s too late now to claim a refund that should have gone on 2007.

When you amend your tax return, you’ll have to send in the schedules of anything that changed.  In the example above, the thing that changed was on the schedule A, so that form would also have to be attached.  Don’t attach any forms that didn’t change.  Warning:  for many folks, a change in one part of your tax return can cause a change somewhere else-most notably on your schedule A.  Before you actually mail anything in, go over it carefully to see if you have any unexpected changes.

When you file a 1040X, make sure you check the box for the tax year that you’re amending.   That’s a pretty common mistake.  The IRS can’t process the return if they don’t know what year it’s for.

When not to file an amended return:  You don’t need to file an amended return for a basic math mistake.  The IRS will automatically fix that for you.  You also don’t need to file an amended return if your original was missing a schedule.  That’s where you get a letter from the IRS saying that you claimed something on your return but that you’re missing the supporting documents.  A common example of that would be a capital gain of $2000 on your return, but there’s no schedule D to back it up.  You don’t need to amend the return, just mail them the schedule D.   The IRS will ask you for whatever schedule they’re looking for, you won’t have to guess at what’s missing.

I’ve talked a lot about filing an amended return because of a refund.  Sometimes when you file an amended return you’re going to owe.  If you have a balance due, mail the payment check with your 1040X.  The IRS will probably send you a bill for interest and maybe even penalties depending upon how much you owed.  Be prepared for that.

Often times, people are thinking about filing amended returns because they received an IRS letter.  Sometimes, you don’t need to amend, just pay the tax.  Sometimes, you really need to amend because you shouldn’t have to pay the tax but you need to submit more information.  Sometimes, you don’t need to amend and you don’t need to pay the tax—the IRS made a mistake and they just need to have it pointed out to them.  Before you start writing that check, get a professional opinion–you want to pay your fair share, not more than you owe.

666 thoughts on “Oops! There’s a Mistake in My Taxes, How Do I Fix It? Amended Returns

  1. I have a question about what to do if you amend your taxes and your refund was already intercepted by Child Support but you amended in time way before the due date and now your being asked to pay the offset. Instead of the agency that took the money before they were supposed to. I have dates and proof that we amended March 30th and they paid our return to my husbands x wife April 15th. Our taxes were amended completely before then.I had to take off two of my kids that were supposed to be claimed by their father. My x husband. And now his x wife got paid for them being on our first taxes. It’s bad enough she gets money for my children. Now we have to pay it back when we did everything correctly. And she gets to keep it. We pay every month back child support so we are in no way trying to get out of it. But I’m an injured spouse who couldn’t qualify for my part because I was too sick to work last year. We were told to do this by an injured spouse employee from the IRS too. He told us the agency would have to pay it back because it was a superseding return. He gave us the paragraph numbers and pages from the IRS manual to prove it. Along with his I’d # in case of anythianything. Now we owe twice and can’t pay. I’ve written two letters with supporting documents to the IRS and they just keep sending a Bill.

  2. Hi Monta,
    You’ve got an interesting situation. But I think you’ve done everything right. You’ve made the corrections and you’ve talked with the IRS. And, you also took down a name, an ID number, and you got the IRS regs to back you up. (Want a job?)
    Anyway, those notices are sent out on a computer schedule and there most likely was just a notice sent to go out that wasn’t intercepted.
    That said, I’d call the IRS again, just to follow up and make sure that your account is being handled. I’m guessing that it is, but more for your own peace of mind. Plus, if there is anything wrong–you’re ahead of the game. But I’m guessing that the IRS notice was just already in the pipeline to be sent.

  3. Hi Matt,
    You’ve probably already been contacted by the IRS about them not being able to get the money from your account. So you can just pay them online. But I would make sure they couldn’t get the money before paying again–just to be on the safe side.
    You won’t be able to fix this over the phone, but you could at least find out the status of the payment.

  4. Hi Late Day,
    The problem with the IRS is that they don’t know what is your first name and what is your last name. Even if your name is really normal–you have to assume that the person at the IRS who opens your tax return is the village idiot.
    Seriously, I have a client whose name has been wrong on his tax return for 15 years because the IRS got his name backwards. It took 15 years to fix the problem. 15 YEARS!
    Most likely, your return was rejected. I would call and follow up. It’s been long enough, if they didn’t reject it, they’d be processing it by now. I’m guessing that you’re going to need to resubmit them.

  5. Hi Manik R,
    I’ve dealt with this before. If you file a 1040 NR, you’re going to need what the IRS calls a “wet” signature. That means you have to mail the return to her in your home country, have her sign it, and mail it back.
    If you file as a US resident, you can have her sign a form 8879 via email and you can efile your tax return. (Much faster if that’s an option for you.)

  6. hello, i had talked to irs today my boyfriend was suppose to get a tax check back for$1,662.00 well they took it and said cus he worked in 2011 well he didnt so how do i get the papers to send to irs so he can have his refund and which papers do we need

  7. Hi Angel,
    First I would contact the IRS for something called a “wage and income transcript”. That will show the income that your boyfriend supposedly received. Once you know that, then you’ll start there. If he never filed a tax return, you’ll want to do that – although for 2011 it’s too late to get a refund for anything.
    If he really didn’t have any income, then someone used his information. Maybe you’ve got an identity theft case, or maybe your boyfriend forgot about a job he did. My best guess – an remember, I have no idea, I’m just going by experience here – is that your boyfriend did some work under the table and his employer had to file a 1099 because he got caught for something. I see that a lot.
    If that happens to be the case, and your boyfriend didn’t file a return back in 2011 showing no income, he’s stuck. What he can do is prepare a return showing his expenses (if my guess is right) if he had any expenses. It will at least reduce some of the tax the IRS says he owes. But for not filing, he’s not only subject to the tax they think he owes, but also the late filing fee (25%) and up to 25% for the late payment fees. Anything you can do to reduce that tax bill will also reduce those penalties. So you really want to work on reducing the tax bill.

  8. Hello,
    I submitted my tax return May 2015. It was processed without my eic form and saying that I owed an amount of $241.00 for a penalty. I received a letter in the mail saying that I could still submit the form if everything was still the same and possible get my refund. It has been a little over 6 weeks now since I faxed the EIC form and I haven’t heard anything from the IRS. How long do I have to wait just for faxing 1 piece of paper in?? Will I still get my refund??

  9. Hi Tiara,
    The IRS is so far behind, it’s not unusual for people to wait a good 12 weeks before they hear anything. I’d wait another 2 weeks and call them, just to check in. But don’t be surprised if they keep you waiting for 12 or even 16 weeks. (Hey, it’s better than paying $241, right?)

  10. I have a question.
    Last year I did not file my taxes. Since I’m a college student the irs allowed me to skip out on getting my tax refund and let me add that pre-existing refund on top of my refund the following year. I could not file my tax electronically but instead I mailed my return in. I received my return and filed as a dependent from my mother. She received her refund a couple months after me but the big problem was that her refund check was under my name. The check also had my account information on there. Plus, the check removed the same amount I received from my mother’s check. She brought the check to the IRS and they said they will fix the problem. Four months letter she received a letter stating that my return was given to her as if it’s her return. How would I go about getting her tax money?

  11. Hi Laison,
    There’s so much wrong with your story that I don’t know where to begin. First, the IRS doesn’t allow you to “skip your tax refund” and add it to next year. Not even if you’re a college student. Now you might be able to apply your refund to the next year’s taxes, but that’s a different animal.
    And why was your mother’s refund check in your name? And account number? It sounds to me like you filed for her. And why do you want your mother’s tax money? Do you mean you’re trying to help her with her tax issue? Or are you after her refund?
    There are too many red flags to your story. I think your mother may be a victim of identity theft and she needs to see a professional to help her fix the problem.

  12. Hi,

    My husband and I just received a letter from the IRS stating there was a difference of $1342 in our reported taxable income on our 2013 tax return. My question is, why are we told we need to pay the IRS back that $1342 of unreported taxable income rather than just a tax percentage of that?

  13. Hi Barbara,
    I can’t see the letter. If the income is $1342 different, then you’d think that the tax would be smaller. I’m guessing, and only guessing, that maybe there’s a difference in the tax withholding or a tax credit–that would be a dollar for dollar tax figure.
    I think the best way to get a real answer is to either call the IRS and talk to them, or take your letter to a professional to look at in person. Sorry.

  14. Hi, I helped my grandfather do his taxes this year. We filed an extension in April and payed what we estimated he’d owe based on last year’s taxes. However, when we finally filed, I didn’t know to put down what we had already paid ($2500). His taxes showed that he only owed $970 but I didn’t send in a check with it since I assumed it would be taken out of the $2500 and he’d get a refund of the remaining $1530. Do I need to file an amended return showing the taxes paid back in April or will the IRS do that automatically? And will he be hit with a penalty for not paying the $970, even though we overpaid in April? Thanks!

  15. Hi Lindsay,
    Usually, in a situation like yours, the IRS will figure that out and send your grandfather a check. Since he already paid that tax back in April, there will be no penalty for the $970 because it was already paid. It might take a little longer to process, but he will get his money back. You just need to wait. You will probably get a letter telling you you’ll get a check before the check is actually sent.

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