Although electronic filing has drastically cut down the number of errors when filing tax returns, mistakes can still happen. Whether you e-file or mail your taxes in, it's not hard to imagine that you might botch your tax return -- and not realize it until after you file.
Knowing the common mistakes and the necessary tax forms that are needed when amending a tax return are critical in making the process of correcting a mistake on a return as painless as possible. Understand the steps you need to take to efficiently correct your tax mistakes so you can prevent your refund delivery from being delayed.
How to Amend a Tax Return
If you catch a mistake after you have already filed your taxes -- which might happen if you receive a return or bill from the IRS that wasn't what you were expecting -- you should take action immediately. When you realize that you've made a mistake, you can make a tax amendment.
To amend your tax return -- that is, to make a correction to it -- you will need to complete Form 1040X, the Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Even if you filed your taxes online, the amended tax return form cannot be filed electronically; you must file a paper form and mail it to the IRS. You can use Form 1040X to correct previously filed Forms 1040EZ, 1040A or 1040.
File an Amendment Before the Tax Deadline If You Owe Additional Taxes
Finding an error on your own and filing an amended Form 1040X does not extend your tax deadline or forgive additional interest or penalties for extra tax that is due. If you discover that you owe additional tax, you must file the amended tax return form before the tax deadline.
File Up to 3 Years Later If You Are Owed a Larger Refund
If you are owed a larger refund, wait until you receive your original refund before you file the amended Form 1040X. You are allowed to cash the original refund check while waiting for any additional refund.
You have up to three years to file Form 1040X. "Any filer looking to claim a refund from a prior tax year must do so within three years from the date they filed their original return or within two years from the date they paid the tax," said Andrew Oswalt, a certified public accountant and tax analyst for tax preparation software company TaxAct.
When not to submit an amended tax return form
Not all errors or mistakes will require an amended return. Common mathematical mistakes are generally caught and corrected by the IRS. Missing schedules or attachments also do not require an amendment, as the IRS will normally just send you a request for the supporting documents.
In general, filing electronically and double-checking your work will ensure that your refund arrives in your bank account as quickly as possible. However, should a mistake occur, working within the framework of the IRS guidelines can help you navigate the process of submitting an amended tax return form -- and shepherd your tax refund to you quickly and painlessly.