Should you file a Form 1040X amended return, or just wait and hope?

Thankfully, potential tax issues cannot haunt you forever. The statute of limitations provides you three years to claim a refund, and also gives the IRS three years to audit you and assess additional taxes. So in general, the IRS will not audit returns which are more than three years old, and the agency claims that it tries to perform most audits within two years of a filing. But it's important to note that this 3-year limit is not a bulletproof legal protection. If a "substantial error" (e.g. fraudulent return, or a finding that more than 25% of your actual income was omitted from a return) is identified, the IRS can audit returns up to 6 years old. Finally, the IRS has up to 10 years to collect any tax liabilities owed by you.

Reasons to file an amended tax return

Amended returns are used to correct any information that will alter how your taxes are calculated. However, the IRS says you don't need to file an amended return if you simply made mathematical errors or forgot to include required schedules or attachments. The agency will correct your math errors for you, and they will also send you a request for any missing paperwork.

Common reasons (things that might alter your calculations) for amending a return include:

  • Changing the number of dependents you claim
  • Changing your filing status (married, single, joint etc.)
  • Reporting income that was not included on your original return
  • Changing the exemptions or credits you claim (both types and amounts)
  • Correcting withholding figures for income you have reported
  • Changing the deductions you take

Tips for filing your Form 1040X properly

As stated above, a Form 1040X is essentially a replacement Form 1040. The 1040X contains your corrections for the same pieces of information you submitted with your original 1040. Keep the following in mind to ensure your Form 1040X is completed correctly to avoid trouble:

  • Choose the right year at the top of the form (the year of the return you are amending)
  • If the information prompting your amendment affects the tax calculations for more than one year, you need to file a separate Form 1040X for each year affected
  • When you complete and attach forms and schedules for your amended return, use the documents for the year you are amending, which may be different from the most current versions available
  • Be clear and concise when completing Part III, "Explanation of Changes" on your Form 1040X. This is where you give a description of the reasons you are amending your return, and which items you are changing. If you prefer, you can attach a separate statement explaining your changes instead of using the box in Form 1040X.


When would I need to use IRS Form 1040X when filing my tax return?

Where to file 1040x

Where to file 1040x

Taxpayers use Form 1040X only when making a correction to a previous tax return. The taxpayer may have made an error or omitted information when he or she originally filed the return. The Form is not used to update personal information, such as a postal address or phone number.

Filing a 1040X does not mean that a taxpayer is in trouble. The form may be used to claim deductions or credits that were not claimed when a return was originally filed, and could result in less taxes being owed for the year.

When filing the 1040X, the IRS requires that you provide an explanation as to why the original filing is being adjusted. For example, the taxpayer may have received an additional W-2, or may need to change a filing status from single to married.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows taxpayers to file a Form 1040X if the taxpayer has already filed a Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040EZ-T, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. If corrections are being made to multiple tax forms filed over multiple years, a separate Form 1040X must be filed for each applicable year. The IRS estimates that the average taxpayer spends 9 hours filing a Form 1040X tax return.


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Tax Tip: File Form 1040X to Amend a Tax Return

Where to file 1040xMistakes happen and tax returns are no exception. Filing an amended tax return corrects information that changes tax calculations. This includes making changes to filing status and dependents, or correcting income credits or deductions. Don’t file an amended return to fix math errors because the IRS will correct those.

The I.R.S. offers tips on how to amend a tax return:

Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct errors to

an original tax return the taxpayer has already filed. Taxpayers can’t file amended returns electronically. Mail

the Form 1040X to the address listed in the form’s instructions.

  • Preparing Form 1040X.

    Many taxpayers find the easiest way to figure the entries for Form 1040X is to

    make the changes in the margin of the original tax return and then transfer the numbers to their Form

    1040X. Taxpayers should be sure to check a box at the top to show the year they are amending. Form

    1040X will be the taxpayer’s new tax return, changing the original entries to include new information.

    Taxpayers should explain what they are changing and why on the second page of Form 1040X in Part III.

  • Know when to amend.

    Taxpayers should amend a tax return to correct their filing status, the number of

    dependents or total income. They should also amend to claim deductions or credits not claimed or to

    remove deductions and credits they are not entitled to on the original return. The instructions for Form

    1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, list more reasons to amend a return.

  • Know when NOT to amend.

    In some cases, it is not necessary to amend a tax return. Taxpayers should

    not worry about math errors because the IRS will make the correction. Taxpayers do not need to amend

    their return if they forgot to include a required form or schedule. The IRS will mail a request to the taxpayer,

    if needed.

  • Use separate forms for each tax year.

    Taxpayers amending tax returns for more than one year will need a

    separate 1040X for each tax year. Mail each tax year’s Form 1040X in separate envelopes. See “Where to

    File” in the instructions for Form 1040X for the correct address.

  • Include other forms or schedules.

    If a taxpayer makes changes to any form or schedule, they should

    attach them to the Form 1040X when filing. Not doing so could cause a delay in processing.

  • Wait to file for corrected refund for tax year 2016.

    Taxpayers should wait for the refund from their original

    tax return before filing an amended return. It is okay to cash the refund check from the original return before

    receiving any additional refund. Amended returns can take up to 16 weeks to process.

  • Pay additional tax.

    Taxpayers filing an amended return because they owe more tax should file Form 1040X

    and pay the tax as soon as possible. This will limit interest and penalty charges.

  • File within three-year time limit.

    Generally, to claim a refund, taxpayers must file a Form 1040X within

    three years from the date they timely filed their original tax return or within two years from the date the

    person pays the tax, whichever is later. For taxpayers who filed their original return early (for example,

    March 1 for a calendar year return), their return is considered filed on the due date (generally April 15).

  • Track your amended return.

    Taxpayers can track the status of an amended return three weeks after filing.