How to File an Amended Tax Return

by | Mar 1, 2019 | Toby Talks Tax | 0 comments

Naturally I’m a perfect canine.  In my entire life, I’ve never required a thorough scolding.  So this blog comes to you courtesy of my mischievous twin, Fauby Lee, who is always having to hang his head in apology for faux pas after faux pas:

Fauby’s Lesson

What happens when you think there might be an error on a previous year’s tax return?  Did your littlest pup eat last year’s tax receipts, and you failed to claim the right deductions?  Did you err in counting the number of dependents in your doghouse?  Did you convince yourself that it would be okay to bury a little portion of your income because you didn’t figure anybody was ever going to dig around for it anyway? Are you starting to have second and third thoughts about the extra large donation you claimed a couple of years ago for hauling 30 half-empty bags of kibble to the local animal shelter?

If you’re worried that a past tax return is not accurate and that you’re due for a shaming from Uncle Sam, I suggest pulling out the return and checking the following items:

  • Is your filing status correct?  You can file single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow or widower with dependent child.  There are multiple factors controlling which status applies.  Check with your tax professional if you’re unsure which status you should report.
  • Is the number of your dependents correct?  If there are litters and litters of puppies dashing about your house on a regular basis, but most belong to the sire down the street, be sure you haven’t accidentally counted some of them among your dependents.  Your dependents generally will be your minor children and your spouse. However, in certain circumstances, other dependents can be claimed. Again, check with your tax professional if you’re unsure how many dependents you should declare.
  • Does your reported income match the figures on your IRS W-2 and 1099 forms?
  • Did you account for all allowable tax credits and deductions?
  • Is your return free of math errors?  Uncle Sam will often correct calculations, but do you want to risk drawing his attention to those errors?
  • Are all required schedules attached to the tax return?  Schedules are the forms on which you report itemized deductions, income, profit and losses, and so forth.  Generally Uncle Sam will contact you for any missing schedules, but again, is waiting for his contact worth the risk?

If you’re shaking your head no to any of these questions, filing an amended return can help avoid a potential dogshaming by Uncle Sam down the road.  Here’s what you need to know about amended returns:

  • For a refund, generally, you have 3 years from the date you file a return within which to file an amended return, or you have 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
  • Use IRS Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to amend Form 1040.
  • You can’t amend a tax return electronically.
  • Be certain to report the correct year of the tax return you are amending.
  • Form 1040X contains 3 columns, one each for the original figures from your original tax return, the changes you are making, and the corrected figures.
  • The back of Form 1040X contains an area to explain the changes and your reasons for making them.
  • To avoid a delay in processing, be sure to attach the appropriate schedules.
  • If you are expecting a larger refund than anticipated based on your original tax return, wait until after you receive the initial refund before filing your amended return.
  • If you amend more than a single return, mail each amended return in a separate envelope to the appropriate IRS processing center.  (The instructions for Form 1040X contain the address.)
  • If you owe additional taxes with your amended return, pay the assessment as soon as possible to limit your penalties and interest.
  • Expect it to take 8 – 12 weeks for Uncle Sam to process your amended return.

Once you’ve made amends to Uncle Sam for your bad behavior, feel free to sit tall, wag your tail happily, offer your paw to strangers with the relative satisfaction of knowing you’ve done your best canine duty.