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Amended Tax Return (How to Amend Taxes)


Content provided for general information. Talk to your advisor to learn about recent updates or other rules that may apply to your situation.

There are several reasons you may need to amend your tax return.

  • You realized you made an error
  • You got additional tax documents after you filed
  • You want to take additional deductions or credits
  • The IRS notified you of a problem with your original tax return

To file an amended return, you need to file Form 1040X with the IRS. To complete Form 1040X, you’ll need to redo the forms and schedules from your original tax return that are affected by the changes.

Amended Return Explained

An amended return is when you submit a new tax return to replace your original tax return. There is a special amended tax return form to use (Form 1040X). If you submit a new 1040 without the amended return form, the IRS will usually reject it since you already filed.

When to File an Amended Return

You file an amended return if you made an error or need to make changes to a Form 1040, Form 1040-SR, or Form 1040-NR that you already filed. There are several circumstances when you may need to file an amended return.

  • You noticed a mistake right after you filed. You shouldn’t just send a second return, and if you e-filed, the IRS won’t accept a second return.
  • You learned a filed form you received from a third party was incorrect.
  • You forgot to include income or learned that income you didn’t report was taxable.
  • You forgot to include or learned about deductions or tax credits you didn’t take.
  • You received a notice or letter from the IRS informing you have a tax liability, disagree with their calculation of what you owe, but no longer believe your original return is completely accurate.
  • You included income or deductions in the wrong year.
  • You need to add deductions or credits that carry back to prior years or carry forward to future years.
  • The IRS sent you a letter, such as Letter 96C, directly telling you to amend your return.

If you received a certified letter, you may need to take additional steps. Contact a tax professional if you’re not sure what to do.

Deadline to File an Amended Return

The deadline to file an amended return is usually the later of:

  • 3 years from when you filed your tax return
  • 3 years from the original due date of your tax return (if you filed early)
  • 2 years from when you paid the taxes do (if you filed or paid late)

If you’re past this deadline, talk to a tax professional about any special exceptions that may apply to your situation. Two frequent exceptions are:

  • If you need to go back and write off a worthless security or business bad debt, you get up to seven years.
  • If you have a net operating loss or a tax credit from a net operating loss carryback, you can amend affected prior years up to three years after the due date for the year of the loss.

Amended Return vs. IRS Changes

If the IRS makes changes to your tax return, you usually don’t need to file an amended tax return. Your notice will typically tell you not to amend your return unless you need to make other changes.

The IRS will adjust your original tax return and the amount due based on the information you provide.

State Amended Returns

You may need to amend your state tax return after amending your federal return or realizing you need to make a change that only affects your state tax return. Most states follow similar processes to IRS amended returns.

Check your state for the specific forms you need and timelines to follow.

Not Amending Your Tax Return

You have an obligation to file your taxes accurately including making changes after filing if necessary. The IRS automatically checks tax returns and may notice that your tax return is incorrect if you don’t amend it.

What happens if you don’t amend your return depends on what you owe.

  • If the IRS determines you owe additional tax, they will charge you interest and penalties. Amending your return sooner so you pay sooner can reduce your interest and penalties.
  • If you originally overpaid and the amended return would have resulted in a refund, you can lose the right to claim that refund.

Amending for Small Changes

If you believe the IRS owes you money, it’s generally up to you to decide how much you’re willing to let the IRS keep to avoid amending.

If you believe you owe more, keep in mind that the IRS may figure it out eventually. You may owe years worth of interest and penalties when the IRS finally audits your return.

Amended Return Processing

The IRS takes up to 16 weeks to process amended returns.

Amended Return Refunds

If your amended return results in a refund, the IRS will usually send it to you 4-6 weeks after processing your return. The IRS typically sends checks in the mail for amended return refunds.

Amended Return Payments

If you owe money as a result of amending your return, send a payment as soon as possible. Late payment penalties and interest apply from when your tax return was due not from when you amended it.

Once the IRS processes your amended return, they may send you a bill for interest and penalties for the time between when you paid and when your return was due.

If you can’t afford to pay what you owe, you can request a payment plan.

Tracking Your Amended Return

You can use the IRS Where’s My Amended Return online tool to check the status of your amended return. Since this is a mailed form, it takes at least three weeks for it to show up in the tracking system.

The system may show several status messages:

  • Currently not available means that the IRS hasn’t received your amended return or input it into their system. This can take up to 3 weeks. Call them if it has been longer.
  • Received means the IRS has your electronically filed or mailed return in its possession. They haven’t processed it yet. Processing can take up to 16 weeks.
  • Adjusted means that the IRS has made an adjustment to your account. This could mean you’ll get a refund, have a balance due, or have no change in your tax liability.
  • Completed means the IRS has finished all aspects of processing your amended return. They won’t make any further changes to it or your account balance. There is still the usual risk that you could get audited later.
  • Take action messages tell you to contact the IRS and that you should have received a notice. Call the IRS if you didn’t receive a notice.

IRS status messages update overnight, so you can check once per day to see the latest information.

Amended Return Processing Delays

COVID-19 may delay updates and processing of your amended return. The IRS has been months behind on mailed returns due to related delays. If your amended return isn’t showing up in the tracking tool, it may be sitting in a truck or warehouse waiting for IRS employees to catch up on their backlog. Use certified or priority mail if you want to know whether your amended return was delivered.

Call the IRS if it has been more than 16 weeeks since you submitted your amended return or you have not received your refund within 6 weeks of your amended return being marked completed.

Amended Return Resources

How to File an Amended Return

In order to file an amended return, you need to file Form 1040-X Amended US Individual Tax Return. Form 1040-X is similar to Forms 1040 and 1040-SR. The difference is that Form 1040-X has spaces to show your original numbers and your new numbers.

The amended return form is similar to the original return form but has three columns: the original amount, the new amount, and the difference. You calculate the new amounts by redoing any forms and schedules that you need to change. Include these with your amended return.

You can electronically file an amended tax return for a 2019, 2020, or 2021 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. All other amended returns must be filed by mail and cannot be electronically filed. Pay any amount you owe online or by mailing a check to the address in the form’s instructions.

Form 8879

Form 8879 is the form that says you’re electronically filing your tax return under penalties of perjury. Any time you electronically file an original or amended return, you must submit this form. The changes are also under penalties of perjury, so you need to submit this form each time you file an amendment.

Amended Return Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly can you file an amended return?

If you make a mistake on your taxes and notice right after you file, you generally need to wait until the IRS accepts your tax return. While your amended return will usually get to them slower than your original return, it may cause problems if they try to process it before your original return.

You should not try to file a new tax return. If you file electronically, the IRS computer will automatically reject it. If you file by mail, the IRS will still generally reject a second tax return. It is not possible to cancel a tax return once you filed.

How many times can you file an amended return?

In theory, you can amend your return as many times as you need to. Practically, the IRS might start asking more questions if you amend multiple times. If you file electronically, the system will reject your return after the third time. If you really need to amend your return for a fourth time, you will need to mail it in.

Does an amended return increase your chances of an audit?

Some tax experts believe amending increases your chances of an audit, but there’s no clear data to support this. The IRS only says that filing an amended return by itself does not trigger an audit.

IRS employees manually review all amended returns rather than computers. However, this is primarily for reasonableness and accuracy. This is not as thorough as an audit, and the people doing the review are not auditors.

The bottom line: If you’ve done your best to complete your original tax return accurately and have the supporting documents you need, don’t leave money on the table by not amending it because you’re afraid of an audit. If the IRS does ask for additional information, you can just explain why you’re right.

If you’re claiming an additional refund, can you receive a direct deposit?

You can’t receive a direct deposit when you amend your tax return. The IRS will mail you a check.

Can tax preparation software help you file an amended tax return?

TaxAct is one of the few online tax solutions that allows you to create an amended return. You can generate a Form 1040-X by editing your original return and then selecting the amended return option at the end. If you used other tax software, you can enter your original return then enter the changes to create a 1040-X.

Most other tax software either doesn’t handle amended returns or charges a much higher fee than originally filing your return. If you still have access to your original software, another option is to redo your tax return using that software. You can’t file what the tax software gives you since it’s a Form 1040, but you can compare the new 1040 to your original tax return and use it to fill out Form 1040X by hand.

How does amending your tax return work during mortgage applications?

  • If you were aggressive with your deductions, you may want to amend your tax return to show more income to qualify for a mortgage.
  • You should not amend your tax return during underwriting.
  • Mortgage lenders will typically need to see a fully processed amended return (can take 16 weeks).

How do amended returns work with FAFSA?

When you complete your FAFSA online, the system can only see your original tax return. If your amended tax return would affect your financial aid, you must contact your college’s financial aid office.