Amended Returns: What you need to know

By Christine Tran, 2020 Get It Back Campaign Intern

An amended return allows you to correct mistakes on a federal tax return after tax filing. You will need to submit Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Learn what else you need to know before getting started.

Do I need to file an amended return?

You should file an amended return if you need to change your:

  • Filing status
  • Income
  • Deductions and/or tax credits
  • Exemptions
  • Dependents

You DO NOT need to amend a return if your tax return:

  • Includes a math error
  • Is missing a form, such as a W-2

The IRS may automatically correct any math errors to process your return. In both cases, the IRS will notify you if more information is needed.

Not sure if you need to file an amended return? Use the IRS Should I file an amended return? tool to help determine if you need to file.

Should I file an amended return to get my stimulus check?

No, filing an amended tax return will not help you receive a stimulus check or a larger payment amount. If the IRS already determined that you are ineligible to get a stimulus check based on your 2018 or 2019 tax return, the IRS will not reevaluate your eligibility. Similarly, if you have already received your stimulus check and it was less than you expected, the IRS will not reevaluate your payment amount.

Note: If you used the IRS Non-filers tool to claim your stimulus check but needed to file a 2019 tax return, you will need to file an Amended EIP return. An Amended EIP Return is different from Form 1040-X. Read more about an Amended EIP Return to find out if you need to file one and how to do it.

If you did not qualify for a stimulus check based on your 2018 or 2019 taxes, or you did not receive the full amount of the stimulus check you believe you are entitled to, you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if you are eligible based on your 2020 tax return.

When can I file an amended return?

You must wait until the IRS has processed your tax return before making corrections. If you are expecting a tax refund, wait until you receive it before filing an amended return.

An amended return can be filed either within 3 years after the date you filed your original return or within 2 years after the date you paid any tax owed, whichever comes later.

How do I file an amended return?

Form 1040-X can be filed by mail or electronically, in certain cases. To prepare your amended return, you will need:

  • A copy of your original tax return that you want to fix
  • W-2s
  • Forms
  • Schedules
  • Explanation for why you are amending your tax return

Make sure that your W-2s, forms, and schedules are for the same tax year as your tax return.

If your amended return indicates that you owe more taxes, you should pay your taxes as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges. You can pay your taxes online directly from your bank account for free using IRS Direct Pay.

Filing by mail:

  1. Follow the instructions and complete Form 1040-X by entering the correct information on the form. In addition, explain why you are filing an amended return.
  2. Sign and mail Form 1040-X to the address listed under “Where to File” in the form’s instructions.

Helpful tips if you are filing by mail:

  • You do not need to submit your original tax return with your amended return. This is for your reference only.
  • If you are amending more than one tax return, you will need to file a separate Form 1040-X for each tax return you are amending. You will need to mail each form in a separate envelope.
  • Unlike filing electronically, you DO NOT need to submit new forms and schedules for your entire tax return. Only submit new forms and schedules that you have made changes to.

Filing electronically:

  1. Contact your tax software company to check if they can process your amended return electronically. (Since this is a new option, not all companies have their systems set up yet.)
  2. Follow the tax software’s instructions to submit your amended return.

Helpful tips if you are filing electronically:

  • You can only electronically amend your 2019 1040 or 1040-SR tax return that you filed electronically. If you mailed your 2019 tax return, the tax return you want to amend is from a year before 2019, or the return you want to amend uses a different tax form, you need to amend your return by mail.
  • Unlike filing by mail, you must submit all forms and schedules that were included in your original 2019 tax return, even if there are no changes to some of those forms and schedules.
  • While filing electronically may allow the IRS to receive Form 1040-X faster, the processing time for mail and electronic amended tax returns are the same (16 weeks) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How long does it take for the IRS to amend my return?

Due to COVID-19, the IRS is taking longer to process mailed documents, such as paper tax returns. The IRS is processing mailed documents in the order that it is received.

Your amended return can take up to:

  • 3 weeks from the date you mailed it to show up in the IRS system.
  • 16 weeks to process.

Amended returns may take longer than 16 weeks to process if the return is incomplete, has errors, is unsigned, is associated with identity theft or fraud, or includes Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. In some cases, the IRS may contact you if more information is needed to process your return.

You can track the status of your amended return starting three weeks after you have filed. Visit “Where’s My Amended Return?” or call 866-464-2050. Both these tools are available in English and Spanish.

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