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.

694 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.

  16. I had the same issue as Barbara, except the IRS is saying there was $1300 not claimed(3 small W-2s) but they say we owe them 2k.
    When we used to have our taxes done by a CPA, she told us that income under $600 did not need to be claimed, so when doing my taxes for the first time I didnt claim them. Now I am getting a letter saying that I needed to claim them and owe way more than was not claimed. We are no where near the next tax bracket so I dont think that is why it is more…..
    I want to try to amend my return but I do not have the W-2s from those 3 small payments. Any Idea how I can amend without them?

  17. Hi Heather,
    Where’s that old CPA of yours? I’d like to go whack him upside the head. Actually, I’m pretty sure he said something a little different, but I still want to whack him upside the head because it was still bad advice. (That means even when I give him the benefit of the doubt he’s still in trouble in my book!)

    Arrrghhh. Okay, first–to get the missing W2 information, you call the IRS at 1 800 829-1040 and you are going to ask for a “Wage and Income Transcript.”

    That’s going to show you how much you were paid, and how much was withheld from those jobs. Actually, the IRS should have sent you a notice that had that information on it, but I always like the Wage and Income transcript anyway.

    The bad part is, it won’t have your state withholding on it. You’ll really want those W2s so that you an claim the state withholding. So try to get the W2s from your former employers if possible.

    If you didn’t report $1300 and your tax debt is now $2000, I’m guessing that there is EIC involved. Your income went up and reduced what you qualified for. Maybe?

    I’m thinking you need someone to do your taxes for you. This is funky. And I wouldn’t go back to that old CPA either. Bottom line, if your income goes up by $1300 and your tax goes up by $2000 and you don’t know why–then you want someone else talking a look at it.

  18. Hello, I think last year that my mother and I claimed the same one of my children by mistake. Neither of our returns were rejected and we e-filed. I filed about a month before her. I am wondering if that is the case, what will happen next? We have not been contacted by the IRS, as of yet, however if that’s the case I’d like to get it fixed ASAP. She was supposed to carry my son but mistakenly gave my daughter’s information. I found out by viewing her records from last year. I do not have my own records from 2014 to verify but I’ve carried this child since 2012, I have all my other records. I’d like to know is there a way for me to verify her being carried by us both, and what is it that could happen going forward. This was a mistake and I don’t want any issues for my Mother, I’m thinking of allowing her to claim the child and submitting proof of her being able to carry her , in the event we did both carry her, if it has happened I’d rather take the penalty and jail time myself because there is no way I can let my mother suffer in any way. Are the consequences of this jail time, a fine, not being able to file again? I read on the web that we won’t be able to claim another dependent for 2 years for making a mistake, is this true ? Is there a way to amend either return with the correct child on it? I’m beyond stressed about this because reading on the Internet has me very confused on what to do next, can you offer me some insight please?

  19. Hi Maegon,
    First, you are not going to jail. There’s a big difference between criminal intent and making a mistake. You’re not there.

    Okay, so how do you fix this? Well, the first thing is, you could not have both efiled with the same child on your return. One of your returns would have been rejected.

    You know what’s on your mother’s return, she has hers right? So you call the IRS and you get a transcript of your 2014 return. It will show if you claimed a child and which one. You can even order it on-line: https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-Transcript It will take 5 to 10 days to actually get it in the mail, but at least it will answer your question.

    The more important issue for you is: should you be allowing your mom to claim your child? Does your mom live with you? If not, then she shouldn’t claim your child. Do you make more money than your mother? If yes, then she shouldn’t be allowed to claim your child.

    Here’s the IRS assistant to help you determine if your mom can claim your child or not. https://www.irs.gov/uac/Who-Can-I-Claim-as-a-Dependent%3F

    Answer all of the questions truthfully, and you’ll know who you can or can’t claim. It’s a pretty good tool.

  20. Hi! I filed my taxed electoniclly myself. The software I used allowed for filing as of the 15th and will automatically submit once irs starts accepting returns on the 19th. I was reviewing my return statement last night and noticed I imputed my Social Security wages incorrectly. The number was off by approximately $300 more than what it should be. Will this be a major problem with my return? I am having trouble figuring out how to correct it since technically it has already been submitted. Will I need to amend my return??

  21. I just did my taxes and put my old town name instead of new one the address,zip and state are correct zip just wrong town do I have to do a amended form?

  22. What do I do if h&rlblook misspelled my sister name but it is only off by one letter its her first name and the first letter

  23. what happens if you file your taxes with turbo tax and the tax form pops up from last year and asked if you are still keeping the same w2 on there fro. a company you worked at year b4 last and u delete the other 2 and forgot to delete one.? and then you efile anyways. oops….now what?

  24. I just e filed my boyfriends taxes for him and realized a typo in his last name. Do I need to amend his taxes?

  25. Hi Regin,
    The Social Security wages don’t actually affect the tax you pay on your 1040 return. Eventually, that information will go to social security and they’ll be using your w2 information anyway. You may get a letter about it, but I kind of doubt it. Since amending the return wouldn’t change your tax, you don’t need to refile. Just make a note in your files that you did it, just in case you do get a letter from SSA or the IRS so that you remember the $300 error. But like I said, I don’t even expect you to get a letter at all, I think this one will just be an automatic fix.

  26. Hi Regina,
    I’d probably just do a change of address form. Especially if you have a refund being mailed to you. Don’t do an amendment as your tax numbers aren’t changing.

  27. Hi Ryan,
    If your sister’s name was spelled wrong, the tax return should have been rejected. Usually a return is rejected when the name doesn’t match the social security number. I’d follow up with Block first. Did the return actually file? If not, they just need to fix and resend. If it did file, that’s kind of strange, but it has happened before. You won’t need to amend.

  28. I filed online & submitted through turbo tax. I realized after I submitted that I mixed up the SS income & SS withholding boxes on my W2. I also filed for my new business. Somehow it included a schedule K by accident. I didn’t put any info on there but My bars on WMR are gone & I think it’s under review. Will the IRS correct the SS error? Should I refile with correct info or wait it out & then amend?

  29. Hi Sarah,
    If you didn’t put numbers into the W2, then it shouldn’t have filed. If you accidentally stuck numbers into a wrong W2, then you’ll need to amend. If you can’t tell, print it out and take it to a professional for a second look. I think H&R Block still does the second look thing. They used to do it for free, but maybe they charge now. Even it they do, it’s probably not too much.

  30. Hi Gray,
    If his name is typed in wrong, it should e-file. If it did efile, then that’s weird, but I wouldn’t do an amendment. Watch and see how long the refund takes. If it’s late, I would guess it’s because of the name issue, but amending it won’t speed up the process.

  31. Hi Casey,
    I think you should see a professional. A schedule K goes with a lot of business returns. And most business returns I don’t trust to Turbo tax. I think you may have a bigger problem than just the social security income and withholding being switched.

  32. Hi
    My boyfriend accidently filed wrong status on taxes, he put single when he always puts head of household ? Does it make a difference on the amount received back? How can we change it if the tax return has already been accepted?

  33. Dear Jan:
    In 2014 we didnot incluid a1099 in our 1040 form, the amount is for 10,000 dollars, what should I do?

  34. Hi Brittney,
    First, I think your boyfriend should use the filing status assistant to make sure he really should claim head of household. Here’s the link: https://www.irs.gov/uac/What-Is-My-Filing-Status%3F.

    A lot of people file HH status when they shouldn’t. For many people, the HH status will give you a better refund, but if his income is really low, it might not make a difference. I’d run the numbers before you make any changes with the IRS. If it does make a difference, and he is qualified to claim HH filing status, then you’d file an amended return: 1040X.

  35. Hi Wilfredo,
    If you didn’t report the income already, then you should amend your return. Claim the income, deduct any expenses that you can legally claim against the income, and pay the tax.

  36. My wife and I made a mistake in Form 1040 line 20a, we got confused and wrote there our social security wages as if they were social security benefits (anyway we left a blank in line 20 b). We don’t have any social security benefits! (nor form SS1099). We received a notice from IRS, they took that into consideration and changed our taxable income and payable amount (a lot!). It is a mistake in filling the form. Do we have to prepare an amendment 1040x or just contact IRS and let them know it is a filling mistake? O something else?
    Thanks in advance!

  37. Hi Gus,
    You might be surprised to find out you’re not the first ones to do that. I’m pretty sure you won’t be the last either! The good news is that you owe a lot less tax than you thought! Congratulations! It sounds to me like the IRS already figured that out for you. My gut reaction is that you probably are all set. BUT–just to be on the safe side, I think it would be a good idea to bring your tax return and a copy of your IRS letter in to some place just for a look see. It used to be that you could go into an H&R Block office and they’d take a look for free. I don’t know if they still do that or not, but if everything is all right, then you’re fine. You could call the phone number on the IRS form and talk to a human (they do have humans who do eventually pick up the phone). They would tell you what to do also.
    But the one thing I’m concerned about is if you missed something else important that the IRS won’t tell you about. That’s the only thing I’m really worried about. It was very nice of them to let you know that you over reported your income. (Seriously, they’re not always nice about stuff like that.) What if there’s something else that you missed that would save you even more money? Maybe there isn’t, but it’s worth having a second set of eyes take a look, even if you pay a fee, I think it would be money well spent.

  38. Hey i just paid irs 2800 this year from 1099 from unemployment forms I hadn’t filed in the last 3 years….Now I just received another letter saying I owe them for not filing my w2 from a job back in 2014 and a 1099 from unemployment from back in 2014…i thought they give you at least 3 years to file before they add any penalties

  39. Hi Monica,
    I’m sorry but the IRS gives you three years to file if you want a refund! If you don’t file a tax return and you happen to owe them money, the penalties kick in the day after tax day – that is April 15th most of the time. And they keep growing!
    So, let’s say you didn’t file your 2015 taxes this year, and you didn’t file for an extension, and you would have had a balance due of $1000 – just for arguments sake okay? Taxes weren’t due until April 18th this year, so on April 19th your taxes would be late. The IRS will then hit you with a late filing penalty of 5% of what you owe per month – so that’s $50 on April 19th. PLUS – they will hit you with a late payment penalty of 1/2 of 1% per month – so that’s another $5. PLUS – they hit you with interest which is compounded daily.
    Note that those penalties are added up every month – so come mid-May – you’ve got a 10% late filing penalty, June it’s 15%, etc. The penalties stop at 25%, put the interest goes on forever!
    See where this is going? If you don’t file and pay that return, two years later you’ll have a balance due of $1500 plus interest. AND it’s actually worse than that. Because – if you file your return, you show you owe $1000, but if the IRS is filing it for you, 9 times out of 10 they’re going to come up with a higher balance due because they give you NO DEDUCTIONS!
    So this is my advice. First, contact the IRS and get from them a “Wage and Income Transcript” for all the years that you haven’t filed yet. You want to know what they show as income for you. Then file those returns (or amend what you’ve already filed) making sure that you’ve claimed every deduction you’re entitled to (if any.) And pay the tax – or set up a payment agreement.
    And for the oldest tax return that you owe on – request a “penalty abatement”. They’ll only do a one time abatement and they’ll only do it if you haven’t had tax issues from before, but you may be able to get them to erase those penalties for the first year that you fell behind in your taxes. You’ll have to pay the other penalties.

  40. Hey Jan,

    When I filed my 1040, I forgot to check 6a and b and therefor I left box 6d empty. However on box 42 I used 8000$ for me and my wife.

    The Irs adjusted my taxes stating “we changed the amount of taxable income on line 43 because the examption amount on line 42 was substracted incorrectly from line 41”. The weird part is, instead of my 8000$ they used 4000$ as my exception.

    Here are my questions.
    When i file the f1040x, should I use the adjusted exemptions, 1 and raise it to 2?

    Do i need to attach a corrected 1040 in which i check box 6a and b?

    Do I need to include a copy of my W2?

    Thanks for your help!


  41. Hi Tim,
    So you make a little oopsies and when the IRS corrected it, they made another oopsies. So what do you call a double oopsies? Oospies doopsies? Sorry, I’m just channeling an old friend who would have said that. (Funny how the silliest things remind you of people.)

    Anyway – Yes, when you file your 1040X – (if you do, see my note later) claim 2 exemptions. Do attache a correct 1040 to the X (behind it) that’s smart and they’ll be able to see how your return should look. They should already have your W2 so that won’t be necessary.

    But before you send anything, let me ask you this – did you use the filing status of married filing jointly? Did you use the tax rate for married filing jointly? I only ask because it seems a little weird that the IRS came back with one exemption. I mean if you filed MFJ then it should be obvious that there should be two exemptions. But, it’s not fair for me to expect the IRS to know what you were thinking so I’ll cut them a little slack.

    Now – if everything on your original return was correct – except checking those little boxes – it might be worth just sending the letter back saying that you disagree with their assessment, state that there really were two exemptions and that you just forgot to check the box. Do that as a letter since you’re not really changing the tax return. I mean, if everything on your return was correct – except for checking the little boxes, then really a letter should be all you need.

    But if you notice that your filing status was wrong or there’s another change to make, then of course do the amended return. Good luck.

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