No matter how carefully you gather the information for your income tax return, sometimes you find something after you file that should have been included.
Perhaps you remember you spent money on energy saving equipment for which you should have received a credit.
Or, you received a Form 1099-MISC and forgot to enter the income on your return.
These are instances in which you may need to file an amended return.
How to file an amended return
Once you’ve filed your original income tax return, you never start over and file another completed return.
You only file your completed tax return with all the schedules and attachments once. After that, you should use IRS Form 1040X to change only the incorrect information.
For incorrect information entered on forms or schedules, such as Schedule C for a sole proprietorship, you attach the corrected forms or schedules to Form 1040X.
Do not attach copies of any forms or schedules that do not change.
The easiest way to file an amended return via Form 1040X is to use TaxAct. Click Amend Federal Return under the main Filing tab.
Note: The IRS does not allow you to e-file your amended return. You must print and file it by mail.
Your amended return may affect your return for other years
In some cases, changing numbers on one year’s return can change the amount of credit you can receive in another year.
For example, the amount of total residential energy credit you can take is limited, so if you amend a return to take more credit one year, you may need to also amend a later year in which you take the credit.
If you carry credits or deductions forward or back to other years, changing one year may change your credits or deductions for other tax years, as well.
Don’t forget your state return
Don’t forget to amend your state income tax return. If you live in a state with a state income tax, you generally must amend both returns.
When not to file an amended return
In most cases, you don’t need to bother amending your tax return if it doesn’t change the bottom line on your tax return, or if the change is inconsequential. You don’t want to change a return every time you find another $20 receipt.
Do file an amended return for important information, even if it doesn’t change your tax liability, such as incorrect Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse, or your dependents.
If the IRS finds a mistake or changes your return, and the IRS is correct in making the change, you don’t need to file Form 1040X. The IRS has already changed your return for you.
How long do I have to fix my mistakes?
You generally have three years to file Form 1040X from the time you file your return, if you make a mistake or miss something on your return.
If you paid the tax sometime after you filed your return, you have until two years after the date you paid the tax.
If you discover you have been missing a tax break for years; for example, if you discover you qualified for the Earned Income Credit but didn’t take it, you can only amend the returns for the last three years and get a refund.