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Amending Your Tax Return: When Should You Do It?


Posted in on February 28, 2018

Filing taxes can be complicated, but you're still expected to provide correct information to the IRS despite the fact that doing so is often a challenge. If you discover a mistake in your tax return from this year, or from prior years, you may need to submit an amended return to correct the errors on the forms you submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.

A Virginia tax lawyer can help you to determine if you need to submit an amended return and can assist you with the process of adjusting the information you provided to the IRS. If the IRS sends you notice of errors they discovered, an attorney can also help you to respond – which could be especially important if the IRS claims they have discovered an error that necessitates you pay back taxes. 

You should contact an experienced attorney for help as soon as you discover a problem with past tax returns so you can follow the proper process to correct the error and limit possible consequences you could face.

When Do You Need to File an Amended Tax Return?

Typically, when you make minor mistakes such as basic math errors that don't affect what you owe or forget to submit a form, there is no reason for you to submit an amended return. If the error is a minor one, you won't need to correct the issue because the IRS should notice the problem and fix it for you.

For more significant errors, though, you should submit an amended return as soon as you discover a problem. This could include situations where you determine that you didn't report your income correctly; you claimed too many or too few dependents; you filed with the wrong filing status such as filing single instead of head of household; or you forgot to claim any tax deductions or tax credits that you should have claimed to reduce your tax liability.  If you've submitted your return already and receive new information, you may also need to submit an amended tax return.

The form you are most likely to use to submit an amended tax return is Form 1040X. This is the form you'll need to utilize to fix problems with your 1040 or 1040NR, as well as the form you'd need to use to correct problems with your 1040EX or 1040EX NR.  When you complete the form, you must provide the information from your original return along with details about what you need to correct. There is space on the form to provide an explanation for any errors. The form has to be mailed in, even if you initially filed electronically, because the IRS doesn't accept electronic filing of amended returns.

If you're submitting an amended return to get a bigger refund, the IRS suggests waiting to submit it until you've already gotten your initial refund to avoid long delays. When you're owed a refund, you can still claim it for past years by submitting an amended return but you need to act within the IRS deadline or you'll lose the chance to claim your back refund. You have until the later of three years from the date you originally filed your tax return or two years from the time you paid your taxes that you're owed a refund on to submit an amended return to claim the refund money the IRS owes you.

If you're submitting an amended return you'll owe taxes on, you also have three years in which to submit it before the statute of limitations expires and you'd no longer need to worry about the IRS trying to collect back taxes. But, you should submit as soon as possible so you can try to limit penalties and interest you'll owe. Virginia tax lawyer Kevin Thorn can help you with the process of submitting an amended return, so contact an attorney for advice.

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