What If I Messed Up Filing My Taxes?

If preparing your own income taxes does not provide enough stress, discovering that you have made an error on your return is extremely nerve-racking. Each year, the Internal Revenue Service releases a list of the most common mistakes made by taxpayers, which include math errors, misprinted Social Security numbers and miscalculations of certain tax credits. Generally, the IRS discovers these errors and makes the proper adjustments to your return, but some errors, such as claiming an incorrect filing status or failure to report income, are not modifiable by the IRS. To resolve these more serious mistakes, you must amend your income tax return.

Amending a Return

To file an amended return, the IRS requires that you complete Form 1040X, regardless of the form you initially used to file your return. Form 1040X, or the Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and the form's instructions are available directly on the IRS website. To complete the form, you must use the information from your original tax return and amend the portion that contains the errors. If you are using Form 1040X to claim a refund, the IRS requests that you wait until you receive your original refund before filing Form 1040X. If you owe additional taxes, file the amended return and pay the tax immediately to avoid interest and penalties.

Form 1040X

The top portion of Form 1040X requires you to enter your personal information, select the calendar year for the tax return that you are amending, and choose a filing status. To complete the next section of the form, enter the original figures from your initial tax return in Column A. Enter the net changes in Column B and the amended amount in Column C. Use the remaining sections of the form to explain the reason for filing the amendment. If additional forms or schedules are required to complete the return, such as Schedule EIC to claim the earned income credit or Form 8369 to claim the mortgage interest credit, complete these forms in addition to Form 1040X. You are required to complete only the sections that pertain to your adjustments.

Filing Form 1040X

Arrange the supporting forms according to the "Attachment Sequence Number" and attach the forms behind Form 1040X. Attach any wage statement forms, such as Form W-2 and 1099-R, to the front of Form 1040X. If you owe any tax, enclose a money order or check in the envelope. Refer to the Form 1040X instructions to determine the appropriate mailing address to file the amended return. The IRS does not allow taxpayers to file amended returns electronically.

Additional Information

To amend multiple returns, the IRS requires that you file a separate form for each tax year, and mail each amended return in a separate envelope. To claim an additional refund, you must file an amended return within three years of the original tax due date or within two years of the date you paid the income tax, whichever date is later. According to the IRS, the processing of amended returns generally takes eight to 12 weeks from the date the IRS receives your return.

About the Author

Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.