What You Need to Know About Personal Back Taxes & Tax Debt

The Ultimate Dos and Don’ts Guide to Tax Amendment

reviewed by Robin T Young
July 26, 2018

Wondering how to file a tax amendment? You’re not alone.

Each year, the IRS anticipates getting millions of amended returns. Lots of people have to amend their taxes – but not everyone does it right.

Doing a correct amended tax return can save you a lot of hassle. In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know. Keep reading to learn how to amend your taxes the right way!

Tax Amendment FAQs

First, let’s get into some of the frequently asked questions people tend to have about filing amended returns.

Do I Need to File an Amended Tax Return?

You’ll need to file an amended tax return if you forgot about a major business deduction, found a missing Form 1099, or have anything else come up that changes your tax return significantly.

The reason for filing the amended return might not be your fault. Your employer might have to send you a corrected form, for example. An amended tax return lets you correct the amounts according to the new information.

It’s always a good idea to amend your return unless the change is very minor. Sometimes, you should change your return even if the tax amount you owe won’t be affected. You might have submitted the wrong Social Security number, for example. Changing your return helps ensure you won’t have future problems.

Am I in Trouble?

No, you’re not in trouble. As mentioned above, the IRS plans to get millions of amendments every year. Needing to make changes on your taxes is perfectly normal.

Even if you made a major mistake, it’s nothing that hasn’t happened before. Amendments aren’t the same as tax evasion or fraud. They’re accidents that you’re working to correct. As long as the IRS gets the money that you owed them in the end, everything is fine.

Evaluate your tax situation

By evaluating your tax situation, you can identify areas where you may be able to reduce your tax burden and make informed decisions about your financial future.


When Should I File an Amendment?

When it comes to changing your tax return, the sooner you can do it, the better.

If a mistake caused you to owe more than you originally paid, filing the amendment sooner means you’ll have to pay less of a penalty. In fact, you may not have to pay a penalty at all.

As long as you amend your return before taxes are due, you won’t owe any interest or penalties at all. And if this is your first time messing up on your taxes, the IRS will probably be willing to work with you. You can attach a statement to the amended return requesting an abatement of the penalty.

Either way, the sooner you file your amendment, the better. Get it over with so you won’t have to stress about it anymore.

How Can I Prevent Future Amendments?

We all want doing our taxes to be as simple as possible.

One of the best ways to prevent needing amendments in the future is to get all your information organized before you do your taxes. Start your return early – don’t wait until the last minute. You can also use tax software to keep things organized and do the math for you.

Make sure to read through your return before filing, too. Check it against your return from last year to make sure there aren’t any deductions or other things you’ve forgotten about.

That said, don’t get caught up in trying to make your return perfect. It’s better to go ahead and file it than to stress over it for too long. You don’t want to end up paying a penalty for filing late.

How to File an Amended Tax Return

Now that you know that you need about tax amendments, how do you go about actually filing one? We’ll simplify things with this step-by-step process that anyone can follow.

1. Check That Your Return’s Complete

When you submit your taxes using an e-file program, that’s the same as dropping a physical copy in the mail. You can’t change anything without an amendment, but you shouldn’t start your amendment until the first return has been completed.

Make sure to wait until you’ve received your refund, or the tax payment has left your bank, before filing your amendment.

2. Fill Out Form 1040X

Visit the IRS site to find the 1040X tax form and instructions for filling it out.

This form is just two pages long and it’s easy to fill out. On this form, you’ll indicate what’s changing from the original form you filled out. You’ll also need to look at a copy of your initial tax return to properly fill out this form.

You might also be required to include copies of other forms, such as Schedule A or Schedule C. But most of the time, just the 1040X form will do.

Since this form is simple, you can easily fill it out yourself, even if you paid a tax preparer initially. If there’s a mistake, the IRS will contact you and let you know.

3. Make the Payment

If your amended tax return shows you owing money, you have the option of paying by mail, by phone, or online. Or, you can include a check with your 1040X form and send it through the mail.

If you’re owed money by the IRS, you’ll get a check in the mail instead. Remember that the IRS charges interest on taxes that aren’t paid on time, and might add other penalties too.

Make sure you make the payment you owe within three weeks of filing your tax amendment.

4. Mail Your Form

You can’t submit the 1040X form online, so no matter how you pay, you’ll have to send it by mail.

After you’ve completed these steps, don’t forget to amend your state taxes, too. In some states, you can do this online.

Amending a Tax Return is Easy

Filing a tax amendment doesn’t have to be scary. Mistakes happen, and the IRS doesn’t care as long as you fix them using their quick, easy 1040X form.

Want to learn more about filing your taxes correctly? Check out our guide to avoiding a tax audit here.

Clinton F Wassor

Clinton F. Wasser, holding a Master of Science in Legal Studies of Taxation, brings a wealth of expertise in tax planning and compliance to his writing. With a career rooted in the workings of the tax landscape, Clinton navigates difficulties with finesse. Beyond his professional accomplishments, he generously volunteers his time to educate high school students about the nuances of taxes. As an author, Clinton marries his real-world experience with a passion for simplifying tax concepts. He has found that his technique empowers readers to better understand the world of taxation.
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