Help! I made a mistake on my taxes

Jeanine Skowronski


Jeanine Skowronski

Jeanine Skowronski

Former Head of Content at Policygenius

Jeanine Skowronski is the former head of content at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, American Banker Magazine, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, CNBC and more.

Published April 19, 2018|1 min read

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Tax day 2018 has come and gone. You've filed your paperwork, paid Uncle Sam or are waiting for him to pay you when — whoops! You notice a mistake on your tax return. What do you do?

For starters, don't stress: You haven't committed tax evasion or anything. The Internal Revenue Service lets you amend your tax returns. And, even then, there's a chance you might not need to get on it. The IRS usually catches math errors. It also tends to request any missing required forms.

Having said that, corrections to your filing status, number of dependents, income, tax deductions, tax credits or liabilities require fresh paperwork.

What's a Form 1040X?

Fortunately, fresh paperwork doesn't mean you need to fill out your entire tax return again. You might only need a Form 1040X, also known as the Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

The Form 1040X is pretty straightforward. It has three columns: The first is for the numbers from the original return; the second is for the exact increases or decreases you're making; the third is for the corrected numbers. You can explain the reasons for the changes on the back of the form.

How to amend your tax return

  1. Download, print and fill out Form 1040X. Remember to indicate the year of the tax return you're amending up top.

  2. Attach any other forms or schedules affected by the mistake.

  3. If you owe more money, mail your amended return, plus the extra payment, right away to the IRS. (Unfortunately, you can't e-file amended returns.)

  4. If you're getting a bigger refund, mail your amended return after you've received the original payment. The IRS will send the difference.

  5. If you need to amend multiple returns, repeat the process for each. You must fill out and mail the paperwork separately.

  6. Wait eight to 12 weeks for the IRS to process the return(s).

How long do I have to fix my tax return?

So, technically, you have three years from a return's filing deadline to amend it. However, if you owe the IRS more money, you'll want to get square straight away. Otherwise, you'll face interest and late-payment penalities. And if the IRS owes you, there's no reason to delay getting those extra dollars. After all, there are plenty of adult ways to spend your tax refund.

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