Everything You Need to Know
About Filing an Amended Tax Return

Amended Tax Returns

The U.S tax code is complicated, even to experts who make a career of understanding and informing others on it. It is not uncommon to make a mistake when filing a tax return. Sometimes there is new information to provide, a recently discovered eligibility for a tax deduction or credit, and more. When this occurs, one must file an amended tax return to account for the correction. The amendment process is rather easy to follow and requires the filing of Form 1040X, an Amended Tax Return, and the corrected or additional documents not originally included.

When filing an Amended Tax Return, there are some essential pieces of information to know for that process. In most cases, there is a three-year window from the original return filing deadline to submit a 1040X Amended Tax Return.

Before taking the time to file IRS 1040X amended tax return, first decide if the amendment is even necessary. For more common mistakes, like math errors, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a system to catch and correct these on their own. Math errors sometimes do not need action from the filer to correct them. If unsure if the error is enough to warrant an amendment, reach out to the IRS directly before sending in documentation and the 1040X.

If certain documents are missing – like a W-2 or schedule – the IRS will certainly reach out to obtain those documents. The written request eliminates the need for an amended tax return on the filer’s part. If this is the case, wait to be contacted via mail and then follow IRS instructions. Please note the IRS does not contact via phone or email – so be aware of potential scams or ploys to obtain personal information.

When is Filing an Amended Tax Return is Necessary?

The above section outlines when an Amended Tax Return would not be necessary. If it still seems like an amendment is the route to take, the situation might fall into one of the categories or scenarios listed below. Please note this list is not exhaustive in terms of supplying examples of when it is required to file an amendment to a return.
The cases where a 1040X Amended Tax Return Form is necessary includes, but is not limited to:
  • Changing from filing as “single” to “married, filing jointly” or vice versa
  • Adding or removing claims for dependents
  • Change in income
  • W-2 that was unavailable in original filing of the return
  • Additional income not previously reported
  • Claiming student loan interest deduction, educator expenses, moving expenses, etc.
  • Discovering eligibility for deductions, credits, or exemptions
  • Documentation of additional income, such as income from a personal business, Uber driving, etc.
  • Common mistake discovered when filers learn personally owned items or assets are taxed
  • Discovery of new deductions, credits, exemptions, etc.
Understanding where the mistake occurred or where the change needs to be made is useful when navigating the amendment process. While it is straightforward, knowing why the return is needed will help when focusing the 1040X Form to successfully amend. If an Amended Tax Return is still necessary, follow these steps to successful amend a tax return. Before starting this process, keep the following reminders in mind throughout the process.
Please note the following before proceeding:
  • Consider using certified mail to ensure it arrives in a timely fashion and receiving of the amendment is verified with a signature upon arrival.
  • While waiting for additional refund monies, you are allowed to spend the original refund amount.
  • This varies by state, so check rules and policies for individual locations.
  • For example: Health care lines would be blank in tax returns from 2013 or prior. For 2014, it would be 1040 Line 61, 1040A Line 38, or 1040EZ line 11. In 2018 or 2019, this may be different.

Before jumping into the 1040X form, pull all the pieces together. This includes the original return and any new documentation that needs to be sent in. These pieces are valuable reference material when filing an Amended Tax Return. The original return is the place to pinpoint where the mistakes occurred or where changes need to happen.

If claiming a new deduction or credit, have that documentation on hand. Certain refundable credits are determined based on tax schedules or forms. The 1040X forms indicates what these forms are and it is important to have those as well. If providing a new W-2 not previously available, have this on hand as well.

If a missing W-2 is the case, look into filing Form 4852 and have a W-2 replacement issued from the IRS. The employer will have to verify the information and a replacement W-2 can be provided.

There are a few different ways to go about filling out an Amended Tax Return. If physical copies of previous tax year information are not available, utilize the IRS database. Previous tax forms are stored here. Additionally, TurboTax or a paid preparer can help file an amendment – but at the end they must be printed and mailed.

While it is safe to have all forms and documentation on hand, it is not necessary to submit all new forms for the entire tax return. The amendment process just focuses on the affected areas.

Certain changes might require additional forms to be submitted. The IRS does have an instruction guide (link below) to help in determining if additional forms are necessary. An example of when additional documentation is necessary is if you are amending to claim an Earned Income Credit (EIC) and have a qualifying child. In this instance, Schedule EIC (1040) or Schedule EIC (1040A) would need to be included with the amendment.

To file an amended tax return, you’ll certainly need the IRS form itself, found here. The 1040X Amended Tax Return Form has 3 columns and 3 Parts. The top section of the form is basic personal information and should match the original tax return.

The second part has the three columns. Column A is used to provide the amounts from the original tax return. Column C is to input the correct figures. In Column B, indicate the “net change” between Column A and C.

For example, if the tax return indicated $1000 in income but needs to reflect an additional $2000 in income, it would look like this:

If reflecting a decrease in income or other numbers, the columns would look like this:

These are simple examples meant to provide an indication of what each column might look like.

Part I of the form is used to document and changes in exemptions or claims to new exemptions. This is where to claim new dependents, release claim to dependents, and more. Part II is asking for a donation to the Presidential Campaign Fund.

The second page of the form, or Part III, is used to explain the changes and why you are filing for an amendment. Greater detail in this section allows for a faster amendment processing period, so be sure to provide complete and clear information. This is where to explain the “why” behind the previously provided information. Consider having a friend or family member read over this section to provide feedback on the clarity of the explanation provided here. It can help ensure the IRS receives all the information necessary to process the Amended Tax Return. The IRS has also provided an extensive instruction guide that can assist in filing the 1040X Form.

Depending on the type of change, not all columns may need to be filled out. Lines applicable to different scenarios include:

  • Change in filing status: Lines 1-23 of 1040X
  • Exemptions: Lines 1-30
  • Income or Adjustments to Income: Lines 1-23
  • Itemized or standardized deductions: Lines 1-23
  • Tax before credits: Lines 5-23
  • Nonrefundable credits: Lines 6-23
  • Other taxes: Lines 6-23
  • Payment and refundable credits: Lines 10-23

If unsure on what information is being amended, refer to the original tax return. The line with the mistake should fall into a section with one of the titles listed above.

In the 1040X amendment form, list all dependents claimed on original return as well as any new dependents. If amending to remove dependents from the original tax return, do not list them in the dependent section of the 1040X.

As mentioned before, an amendment has to be physically mailed in. After double checking that all forms and supporting documents are ready to go, send all pertinent information to the IRS. If the amendment results in taxes owed, include the additional tax payment. This minimizes interest and penalties if the payment is technically late. It can take the IRS 8-12 weeks to process an amendment.

At the top of Form 1040X, note the tax year that is being amended. The 1040X Amended Tax Return must be filled out separately for each tax year being amended. If amending multiple years, mail each year in an individual envelope. In this envelope, include the copy of the tax return that is being amended.

It is possible to check the status of Form 1040X for the most recent year and for up to three previous years. It can take up to 3 weeks to populate the amendment information in the IRS system. To check the status, you need your Social Security Number, date of birth, and zip code used when filing. To track the Amended Return, utilize the IRS Where’s My Amended Return tracking feature. The tool is online and also available by phone at 866 – 464 – 2050.

Keep a Record
Once all is said and done, keep records of the amendment with the rest of your tax information and forms. It can be handy to reference in future filing periods to ensure the same mistake isn’t made twice.
It might also be necessary to provide a copy of the completed 1040X Amended Tax Return Form for a variety of reasons. It is always a good practice to keep tax returns, amended returns, W-2s, and all other federal and state tax documents. While the IRS does have a database with federal tax returns, it only retains copies for a certain time frame. In the end, it is your tax information and therefore your responsibility to accurately maintain and record all such documentation for personal records.
For more information on Form 1040X Amended Tax Return, refer to the official IRS website or contact the IRS directly. Policies and laws may change over time and this page will be updated to reflect pertinent changes. For the most up-to-date policies, contact the IRS. The information outlined here is based on the 2018 Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return Form that was last revised in January 2018.