Often we discover long after filing that we’ve made errors on our tax returns. And too often the idea of resolving the problem seems too daunting to undertake, so we ignore it, deciding to just let things go. This can cause problems if it turns out that the error results in additional tax owed – so it is usually in your best interests to fix the error and go on with your life. On the other hand, if the error resulted in paying too much tax, you should get what you rightfully deserve (in terms of the overpaid tax.)
Recently the IRS published their Summertime Tax Tip 2012-05 which details tips on how to resolve these errors on your tax return. The actual text of the tip follows:
IRS Offers Tips on How to Fix Errors Made on Your Tax Return
If you discover an error after you file your tax return, you can correct it by amending your return. Here are 10 tips from the Internal Revenue Service about amending your federal tax return:
1. When to amend a return. Generally, you shoudl file an amended return if your filing status, number of dependents, total income, tax deductions or tax credits were reported incorrectly or omitted. Additional reasons for amending a return are listed in the instructions.
2. When NOT to amend a return. In some cases, you do not need to amend your tax return. The IRS usually corrects math errors or requests missing forms – such as Forms W-2 or schedules – when processing an original return. In these instances, do not amend your return.
3. Form to use. Use Form 1040X, Amended US Individual Income Tax Return, to amend a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Make sure you check the box for the year of the return you are amending on the Form 1040X. An amended tax return cannot be filed electronically.
4. Multiple amended returns. If you are amending more than one year’s tax return, prepare a separate 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing center (see “Where to File” in the instructions for Form 1040X). Note from jb: often when you need to file an amendment for a return prior to the most recent year, the amendment may have an impact on the subsequent returns, requiring additional amendments to be filed.
5. For 1040X. The Form 1040X has three columns. Column A shows original figures from the original return. Column B shows the changes your are making. Column C shows the corrected figures. There is an area on the back of the form to explain the specific changes and the reasons for the changes.
6. Other forms or schedules. If the changes involve other schedules or forms, attach the corrected form(s) or schedule(s) to the Form 1040X. Failure to do so will cause a delay in processing.
7. Additional refund. If you are amending your return to get an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X. You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund.
8. Additional tax. If you owe additional tax, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges.
9. When to file. Generally, to claim a refund, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
10. Processing time. Normal processing time for amended returns is 8 to 12 weeks.