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The 1040X – 15 Facts About Amending Your Tax Return

can a giant eraser remove the past by woodleywonderworksFor a multitude of reasons, many times it’s necessary to file an amended tax return.  It could be that you received additional information contrary to what you originally used for your return… or maybe the IRS sent you a notice about something that needs clarification.  Or, possibly you are taking advantage of a credit that can be used retroactively, like the first-time homebuyer’s credit.

Whatever the reason, you need to file an amendment.  This isn’t usually a big deal, especially with software-driven return preparation – but there are a few things you should know about your amended return.

Ten Facts About Amended Returns

The IRS has published, in their Tax Tip 2010-72, their top ten list of facts that they’d like you to know about amending your federal tax return:

1. If you need to amend your return, use Form 1040X, Amended US Individual Income Tax Return.
2. Use Form 1040X to correct previously filed Forms 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ.  The 1040X can also be used to correct a return filed electronically; however, you can only paper-file an amended return.
3. You should file an amended return if you discover any of the following items were reported incorrectly:  filing status, dependents, total income, deductions, or credits.
4. Generally, you do not need to file an amended return for math errors.  The IRS will automatically make the correction.
5. You usually do not need to file an amended return because you forgot to include tax forms such as W2s or schedules.  The IRS normally will send a request asking for these documents.
6. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X.  Generally you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
7. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the IRS center for the area in which you live.  The 1040X instructions list the addresses for the centers.
8. If the changes involve another schedule or form, you must attach the changed form to the 1040X.
9. If you are filing to claim 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.
10. If you owe additional tax for 2009, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges.  Interest is charged on any tax not paid by the due date of the original return, without regard to extensions.

In Addition…

In addition to the top ten from the IRS, you should also keep these things in mind:

11. Consider if the change impacts your state return; file an amended return with your state using the instructions from your state.
12. If you’re filing for a retroactive credit (like the First-Time Homebuyer’s credit) consider how the credit could be impacted by changes in your filing status, income, etc., if you filed it for the current year instead of retroactively.  It could be in your favor to claim the credit currently, albeit much later, rather than retroactively.
13. Although the “rule of thumb” time limitation for filing amended returns is the later of 3 years after the filing date of the original return including extensions or 2 years after the tax is paid, for certain items, the time limitation is extended.  For example, for disability where the taxpayer is unable to manage financial affairs, the period of limitation for filing a claim for refund is suspended until the disability is no longer an issue.  Another example is worthless debts or securities:  the limitation is 7 years after the due date of the return for the year that the debt or security became worthless.
14. It is not allowable to change your filing status from Married Filing Jointly to Married Filing Separately after the due date of the return, including extensions.
15. If you file Form 1040X on or before due date of the original return, the 1040X will be treated as the original return.

As always, contact your tax professional to help you with your amended return if you have questions or concerns.  See the National Association of Enrolled Agents’ website for a list of tax professionals in your area (or call me if you like).

Photo by woodleywonderworks


  1. […] You should then file your amended return (see the article at this link for more information about filing an amended tax return) as soon as possible. Delays in filing your amended tax return can result in penalties and interest […]

  2. […] You should then file your amended return (see the article at this link for more information about filing an amended tax return) as soon as possible. Delays in filing your amended tax return can result in penalties and interest […]

  3. douglas wehmeier says:

    i just found out my bookeeper since 1996 has not sepeated p&% on our returns. i always gave him total collected. we are sending in corrected forms for 2006-09. irs is looking at those years fo now. i am gutwrenched. what else should i do. how far back can this go? i have a new bookeeper handling and advising us now.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Sorry to hear about your problem, Douglas. Unfortunately it looks like you have a typo in your message, I don’t understand what you’re saying the bookkeeper has done (or not done) since 1996.

      Technically, if underreporting has occurred, this can go back as far as necessary – until the IRS is satisfied that they’ve found everything. If you’re relatively certain that the problems could go back much farther you might save yourself some grief and start getting your records together. And cooperating with the IRS official will help – it may not lessen the taxes and penalties, but in the long run things will go much more smoothly for you if you own up to the situation. Plus, if it turns out that there is evidence of fraud, you don’t want anyone to get the perception that you are withholding any information or actively perpetrating the fraudulent information.

      Hope things start looking up for you – let me know if I can help.


  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Blankenship. Jim Blankenship said: Got some changes you need to make to your tax return? All about the 1040X – […]

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