Amended Returns

April 09, 2012

It took you a very long time to prepare your federal income tax return, but it is finally finished and in the mail. A few days later, as you are filing away all the copies, you notice a serious mistake and wonder what to do to fix it.

The way to handle an error on a tax return really depends upon the type of error. The Internal Revenue Service usually corrects math errors on its own, and it requests any missing forms or schedules that you might have forgotten to include. Therefore, you should not file an amended return to correct these mistakes. On the other hand, if your mistake was an error in reporting your filing status, total income, deductions, or credits, you should filed an amended return.

The amended tax return form is quite different from the original return. It contains three columns: one for the figures from the original return; the last for the figures as they should have been reported; and the middle for the differences between the two. The reasons for the changes should be included on the back of the amended tax return, and any additional forms or schedules should be attached.

In order to claim a refund, you generally are required to file an amended return within the later of three years from the date of the original return or two years from the date of the tax payment. But if you are filing to claim an additional refund, you should wait until you receive the original refund before amending your return. Even though you have applied for an additional refund, you are entitled to cash the first refund check when it arrives.

If your amended return increases your tax liability, you should file it as soon as possible to avoid penalties and interest.

An amended federal income tax return may trigger a mandatory change in your state or local filing.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.