Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to fix an error on your individual income tax return

Does this sound familiar?
  • You filed the return.
  • You cashed the refund check, or you wrote out the check for the taxes you owed.
  • When you were filing all of your tax paperwork you discovered you left something off of your return, or you received a notice from the IRS.
  • You panicked.
Good news. There is no need to panic. File an amended return. If your CPA completed your return, call your CPA and ask him or her to amend the return. If your return is simple, you can probably do it yourself.

What you will need
Whether you prepare the amended return yourself or send it to your CPA, you will need a few things before you can get started.
  • A copy of your return and instructions for the forms. (If you need prior year forms and instructions, you can call 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). You can also download them from
  • Form 1040X and instructions (Do not simply re-file a new 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ!)
  • Any additional supporting documents
  • Any letters or notices you received from the IRS
How to get started
The first step is to organize your documents. It is a good idea to group your documents into categories such as income, deductions, or credits. You’ll want to separate out documents that go with specific schedules. Once you have done that review the original instructions for the forms you filed. This should help you be certain that you understand the changes that you want to make.

The 1040X is a multi-purpose form. Taxpayers have many reasons for amending returns. This means that you may not need to complete all of the lines on the form. Be sure to check the instructions.

The simplest way to make your changes is to make notes in the margins of your original return. Once you have made all of your changes and reviewed them, you can enter the changes onto the Form 1040X. If you use tax software, be careful to follow the directions provided by the software company. Typically you will make a copy of the original file and modify the copy instead of working on the original. The software will also have an option to prepare an amended return.

Once you file the amended return, file it and all of your supporting documents with your other important papers. If you have a CPA, you may also want to send a copy of the amended return to him or her to keep in your files.

File Form 1040X only after you have filed your original return. It is important to realize that the interest and penalty clock rarely stops ticking. If your changes result in a higher tax liability, then you should file an amended return and pay the tax as soon as you possibly can so that you can avoid additional penalties.

If your changes result in a lower tax liability, then you may be due a refund. Generally, for a credit or refund, you must file Form 1040X within 3 years (including extensions) after the date you filed your original return or within 2 years after you paid the tax, whichever is later. There are some exceptions to this time limit for people who are unable to manage their own affairs. Check with your CPA or review Publication 556 Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund

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