How to Amend a Tax Return in 2021 [With Step-by-Step Instructions]

Fact-checked

Mistakes happen—even on tax returns. If you’ve made a mistake on your return, there’s no reason to panic. You can rectify your miscalculation by filing an amended tax return. If you find yourself in this situation and you need to fix an error, you should first learn what an amended return is and how to amend a tax return

What Is an Amended Tax Return?

An amended tax return is necessary when you’ve made a mistake on your original return. For example, if you need to change the amount of income you initially reported, the number of dependents, or change your tax filing status, you should amend your return. Additionally, you can also file an amendment if you forgot to claim a certain tax deduction or tax credit. If you file for an amended return, you can maximize your tax returns

Not all mistakes, however, require you to amend your return. For example, if there is a small mistake in your return—such as a typo in your Social Security number or address—the IRS will reject the tax return, and you’ll only need to refile taxes with the correct information.  

Amended returns are usually filed when the filer needs to receive an overlooked tax refund. But a simple mathematical error on the original tax return is not a reason for filing for an amendment. If there are such errors, the IRS will automatically correct them, and you won’t need to do any corrections yourself. But if there is a more significant error in your calculations, or you’re missing a specific form, you’ll be notified by letter.

If you discover a mistake on a tax return already filed directly after you’ve filed the return, you don’t have to file an amended return (if the filing deadline hasn’t passed). You can simply file a superseding return, where the second return you filed supersedes the first one—it’s treated as an original return. These returns are filed on Form 1040. You’ll need to refile 1040 and then worry about how to amend your taxes. The 1040 has to be filed via regular mail because electronic filing is not allowed. It’s also advisable to write ‘Superseding Return’ on the top of the form, to note it as the valid one

Auditing is sometimes a big concern if you’re filing an amended return. Still, the amending tax return audit risk is equal to the risk you’re undertaking when you file the initial return. 

How to File an Amended Tax Return?

To file an amended return, you must submit a copy of your original tax return and any additional information related to the changes you made to the existing return. It’s important to fix all errors on your tax return, even if it means that you’ll end up owing money to the IRS. 

Here are situations for filing an amended return:

Incorrect Personal Information

Social Security numbers or the previous tax return sometimes call for an amendment.  

Wrong Tax Filing Status

You may have filed as head of the household but don’t qualify as such. 

Wrong Number of Dependents

One of the reasons to amend tax return is a wrongfully listed number of dependents, especially if it affects the number of tax breaks, such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC),  Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC). 

Forgotten or Wrongly Reported Income

Additional income (besides salaries) also has to be reported. In case you’ve forgotten, for example, dividend income, you need to refile federal tax to avoid fines and penalties. You should also know that cryptocurrencies are taxable property and must be reported. If you have cryptocurrencies, it might be advantageous to use great crypto tax software to help you report them on your return. 

Incorrect Tax Form

Individuals sometimes file their taxes on the wrong form—this needs to be rectified by filing the correct form.

Forgotten Deductions or Credits

If you’re entitled to a particular tax deduction or tax credit, but you forgot to input it on your return, file for an amendment to receive, for example, your itemized deductions or other benefits. 

 How Long Do You Have to Amend a Tax Return?

There is a limited amount of time during which taxpayers can file for an amended return and have it accepted by the IRS. So, if you want to receive a tax refund, the amended tax return deadline is:

  • No later than three years from the due date for the original tax return.
  • Three years from the date on which you filed the return in question.
  • Within two years after you’ve paid your taxes for the year in question.

What Happens if You File Your Taxes Twice?

If you file your taxes twice for the same tax year by mistake, your return will be rejected and sent back to you with an error code and explanation, but you won’t be fined for filing twice. Instead, one of the returns will be left, but the other will be accepted and processed. Filing your taxes can be incredibly complicated, and there are a number of reasons why they are

How Much Does It Cost to Amend a Tax Return?

There are no charges or fees for filing Form 1040X for amended returns—the only expense is the postage fee when mailing the documents. So part of knowing how to amend taxes includes you printing out the form, signing it, and sending it via post. But if it turns out (according to your new return) that you owe money to the IRS, you’ll need to pay interest and late fees on the money you owe. 

NOTE: If you receive an advanced premium tax credit through the marketplace, you must file Form 8962. If you don’t know how to do this, you can use high-quality business tax software to guide you through the process. 

Key Takeaways

Amended tax returns are filed to rectify mistakes on previously filed returns.
Amended returns are filed by submitting the IRS Form 1040X.
Many situations call for an amendment: wrong personal information, incorrectly reported income, forgotten deductions, wrong filing status, etc. 
Filing an amended tax return after 3 years of the date on the initial tax return is the most you can wait to amend your taxes.

How to Amend a Tax Return: Step-by-Step Guide

Amended tax returns are filed to rectify mistakes on previously filed taxes. Amending a tax return is not a complicated process, but you need to be careful not to miss anything when filing for an amendment. But if you go through all the required steps the first time you file for an amendment, you’ll have no additional responsibilities regarding the amendment process, and you won’t have to refile tax returns

Step 1: Collect the Documents

The first thing to do when filing an amended return is to collect all the necessary documentation. If you’re wondering how to amend a state tax return, you need to make a physical copy of the original income tax return, as well as all additional forms, schedules, and worksheets you previously submitted. Additionally, you must provide the new documents that are the basis for the amendment. These additional documents could contain proof of a forgotten deduction or missing form, for example, if you forgot to include W-2 in the tax return.

Step 2: Obtain All the Required Forms

Tax returns are amended by filing Form 1040X, which serves to correct, add, or delete information on an already filed 1040 form. Sometimes you might need to obtain accompanying schedules for the 1040 form: Schedule A, Schedule B, Schedule C, and Schedule SE.  

The 1040X form allows you to list your children as dependents, report forgotten income, and make several other changes—everything is clearly marked on the form. The tax return adjustment form can be found online—simply download and print it. If you’re filing to amend more than one tax return from previous years, you’ll need a separate 1040X form for each tax year you’re filing to amend. If the correction you’re filing to amend concerns reported items on a schedule, you must prepare a new schedule and send it with the 1040X. Regardless of the mistake on taxes already filed, Form 1040X doesn’t require you to redo the entire tax return—you need only to include items that have been subjected to changes. 

Step 3: List the Reasons for Filing the Amendment on the Form

  • Additional schedules and forms: In some cases, when filing for an amendment, you must use Form 8949 to report income from sales and exchanges of capital assets that you previously forgot to include on your return. Schedule D often accompanies this form, which is used to report capital gains or losses.
  • Filling out Form 1040X: The form has three columns: column A, column B, and column C. In column A, the number from the original tax return is entered, while the amended number is entered in column C. The difference between the two columns is recorded in column B, resulting in a balance due, tax refund, or no tax change

If you’re unsure as to how to amend taxes already filed, the 1040X form comes with instructions that guide you through the process of filling out the form and exactly where to send it. The taxpayer also needs to list all the changes (and reasons) made to the return. The year for which you are amending the return also needs to be prominently featured on the form. How far back can you amend tax returns? Three years. 

Step 4: Submit the Amended Forms

The amended forms must be submitted via post at an IRS Service Center. Three weeks after you’ve mailed the return, you can begin tracking the amended return. The returns are processed manually, so the entire process can take up to 16 weeks or more, especially if the return is incomplete, has errors, or has been subjected to identity fraud

  • No electronic filing: Amended returns cannot be filed electronically. You can, however, prepare them online and print them out. When asked how to amend the 2020 tax return electronically, the IRS communicated that it would start accepting electronic returns sometime in the future. 

NOTE: Those born before 1955 can file for an amendment with Form 1040-SR. Thankfully, with so many tax forms available, you can quickly learn how to do your own taxes. 

Conclusion

Amending tax returns is not as intimidating as it sounds, but you should refile in the determined time to avoid any repercussions from the IRS. It’s a good idea to learn how to amend taxes since you never know when you might need to file an amended return—better safe than sorry.

FAQ

What if I forgot a W-2 on my taxes?

If you forgot to send your W-2 with tax return, the IRS will correct your tax return for the missing or incorrectly filed W-2 form, so you won’t need to amend your federal tax return.

Can you amend a tax return?

If you want to make changes to your original tax return, you can amend the return by filing the IRS Form 1040X. You don’t need to redo the whole return—simply correct the problem and explain why you’re amending the return.

Can you e-file an amended return?

Amended returns cannot be filed electronically—the 1040X form must be mailed to the IRS for processing. You can, however, track the amended tax return online.

Is there a penalty for filing an amended tax return?

There is no penalty for the tax return amendment. But if you’ve paid less in taxes when you filed the initial return, you could be charged additional interest and late fees for not paying the correct amount on time.

Can I amend my 2020 tax return?

If you want to amend your 2020 return, you can still meet the amend tax returns time limit. But you can only amend the return if you’ve already filed the original return by the deadline.

Can I amend a tax return from 5 years ago?

If you’re wondering how to amend a tax return from five years ago—you cannot. The IRS allows amended returns to be filed three years after the initial return or two years after you’ve paid your taxes for the tax year in question.

ABOUT AUTHOR

I learned a lot about finance after working for a digital marketing company specializing in investing and trading stocks, forex, etc. After that, I got exposed to other verticals such as wealth management and personal finance, which further improved my understanding of the financial world.

Latest from Ace

Travel Trailer Insurance What Is a Point-of-Sale System [Hardware & Software It Uses] Cryptocurrency Airdrops [Definition, Different Types, Pros & Cons] How to Gamble Responsibly [Negative Effects & Signs of Addiction]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *