Nobody's perfect, and the Internal Revenue Service understands that applies even when it comes to filing your taxes. Even after you have filed your return, the tax code allows you to amend your return for the current tax year as well as the three prior tax years, whether you missed a deduction or credit or if you realized that you owe more than you paid and need to make it up.
To amend your return, you must use a separate Form 1040X for each tax year you're amending. For example, if you realized for the last two years you should have been deducting your student loan interest, you would need to file two separate Form 1040Xs. Form 1040X has three columns. Column A shows the amount from your original return, column B shows the change to the original and Column C shows the new amounts. For example, if the student loan interest deduction you forgot to take would reduce your adjusted gross income from $67,000 to $66,000, you would write $67,000 in column A, $1,000 in column B and $66,000 in column C.
When you put together your amended return, include copies of any tax schedules that are changing or any documents supporting the changes. For example, say you're claiming a mortgage interest deduction that you forgot to report. Since it is an itemized deduction, you need to include a new Schedule A with your amended return and send a copy of your Form 1098, which documents your mortgage interest paid, along with your tax return.
Amended Return Filing
You must mail a paper copy of your amended return rather than submitting it electronically. Where you mail it usually depends on where you're living when you amend the return. However, there are special addresses if you're filing an amended return in response to an IRS notice, after receiving reimbursement for a hurricane-related loss, or if you're filing it with a Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ. You can find the specific address for you in the Form 1040X Instructions.
Processing Amended Returns
According to the IRS, "normal" processing time is typically between eight and 12 weeks after the IRS receives your amended return. After three weeks, you can check the status of your amended return either online or by phone. The IRS has a website called "Where's My Amended Return?" or you can call 866-464-2050 to check over the phone. Either way, you must provide your Social Security number, birth date and ZIP code to check the status.
Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."