Amended Tax Return: How, When and Why to File One & How to Track the Status

Get your hands on IRS Form 1040X and follow these steps to amend your tax return and track the status of it.

Tina OremJuly 6, 2020
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An amended tax return corrects mistakes on a federal tax return. Taxpayers use IRS Form 1040X to file an amended return. And if you're wondering, "Where's my amended return?" good news: you can track the progress on the IRS website or by calling the IRS.

Here's how to file an amended to return with the IRS, when to amend a tax return and rules you need to know.

1. File IRS Form 1040X to create an amended tax return

  • IRS Form 1040X is the form you fill out to amend or correct a tax return. On that form, you show the IRS your changes to your tax return and the correct tax amount.

  • If you're filing Form 1040X to get money back, you generally need to do so within three years of filing your original return or within two years of paying the tax, whichever is later.

  • You might catch an error before the IRS does, or you might receive new tax documents after you’ve already filed — if your employer sends you a revised W-2, for example. In those cases, don’t fire off a letter to the IRS saying, “Forgot to include some income. Here’s 10 bucks" or "You owe me $50." Fill out Form 1040X.

2. Don’t freak out about a mistake on your tax return

Nobody will bang on your door and yell at you for forgetting to carry the 1. If the IRS catches a math error on your return, it might just fix the problem and move on. Or it might send a letter explaining what it flagged and request more information. Be sure to respond.

3. You can file an amended tax return on your own

  • People with simple tax situations and small changes might be able file an amended tax return on their own.

  • Many major tax software packages already include modules that will file an amended tax return, too. Many tax preparers are happy to file amended returns as well.

  • And note: amending your federal tax return could mean having to amend your state tax return too.

4. Ask if your preparer charges for an amended tax return

  • If you used a human tax preparer, don’t assume he or she will amend your tax return for free or pay the extra taxes, interest or penalties from a mistake. If you forgot to give the preparer information or gave incorrect information, for example, you’ll likely have to pay for the extra work.

  • If the error is the preparer’s fault, who pays for an amended tax return may depend on the wording in your client agreement.

5. Keep an eye on the calendar

  • Generally, the IRS audits only returns from the previous three tax years — though there are major exceptions. So although it might be tempting to wait and see if the IRS will catch you in an error, it might be cheaper to fess up sooner rather than later.

  • The IRS charges interest and penalties on outstanding tax liabilities going all the way back to the original due date of the tax payment. So the longer you wait to fix a mistake, the more expensive that mistake can get.

6. File IRS Form 1040X on paper or online

  • Later in 2020, you'll be able to file Form 1040X electronically (until then, the only option is to mail it). Only tax year 2019 forms 1040 and 1040-SR returns can be amended electronically.

  • If you’re fixing more than one year of returns, you’ll need to fill out a separate Form 1040X for each and mail them in separate envelopes.

  • You’ll also need to include forms or schedules affected by the changes.

7. Where's my amended return?

  • Track the progress of your amended tax return using the IRS's online tracking tool.

  • You can also the progress of your amended tax return by calling the IRS at 866-464-2050.

  • It can take three weeks for an amended return to show up in the IRS’s system and up to 16 weeks to process.

  • If nothing has happened after 16 weeks, call the IRS again or ask someone at a local IRS office to research your return.

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