What Is the Time Limit on Amending a Tax Return?

by Jeffrey Joyner

    If you find you made a mistake on your tax return, you can submit a Form 1040X to correct it. You should not file an amended return for a simple math mistake, because the Internal Revenue Service verifies all calculations; your error will be corrected and your return will be processed with the correction. Nor should you amend a return if you forgot to include a schedule or form; the IRS will notify you of the form needed to complete your return. However, your time to submit an amended return is limited, and the exact limit is based on the reason for the amendment.

    The time limits for filing amended returns are based on the date you paid any taxes due on the return or the date you filed the original return, whichever comes last. The original filing date is the actual date you filed unless you filed early or received an extension. If you filed early, the date is considered to be the due date of the return, normally April 15. Therefore, if your return was due on April 15 and you filed on February 15, the IRS considers your original filing date to be April 15. However, if you had an extension of time to file, the original filing date is the date you filed the return. This means that if you received an extension that gave you until October 15 to file, but actually submitted your return on August 1, the IRS considers your original filing date to be August 1.

    Typically, the IRS will not issue a refund or credit, unless the amended return is filed within three years of the original filing or within two years of the tax payment. Most returns fall in this category. If you forgot to take the unearned income credit, for example, or learned you could claim your grandmother as a dependent, you would need to follow this schedule to amend your return.

    If you need to amend your return to claim credit for a worthless security or bad debt, you have to file a Form 1040X within seven years. If you need to correct an entry for foreign taxes, you have 10 years from the original return’s due date, irrespective of extensions, for the year in which you paid or accrued the foreign tax. However, if you need to amend your return to claim a loss or carryback due to foreign business income, the time limit is 10 years from the due date, including any extensions, of the tax year in which the loss occurred. Alternatively, you can file a Form 1045 to claim a loss, but you must file that form within one year of the tax return covering the year in which the loss occurred.

    If your changes affect entries on a supporting form or schedule, such as Schedule A for itemized deductions, include a corrected schedule with your Form 1040X. You cannot file an amended return electronically. Typically, the IRS needs two to three months to process an amended return. You should also keep in mind that amending your federal return could result in changes to your state return, so you might want to check with your state’s tax commission for the time limits for amending your state return.

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    About the Author

    Jeffrey Joyner has had numerous articles published on the Internet covering a wide range of topics. He studied electrical engineering after a tour of duty in the military, then became a freelance computer programmer for several years before settling on a career as a writer.

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