Getting your taxed filed can feel like a huge burden has been lifted — but what if after you submit your return, you realize you made an error?
“The first thing to do when you discover a mistake is to take a deep breath and understand that it is quite common to find a mistake after the tax return has been filed,” said Brandon Berquist, CPA, tax specialist at Personal Capital. “You may also find yourself receiving late information or changes to information you have already received after the return has been filed. There are a couple of different ways to fix any discovered errors depending on the type of error discovered.”
What To Do If You Make a Small Clerical Error
“If the error is simply clerical, such as a transposition error or a simple mathematical mistake, the IRS may detect these and correct them for you,” Berquist said. “If the issue is small, you may want to wait until the IRS has fully processed the tax return to determine if the error was fixed on their side. In most cases, they will notify you of the change and you can determine if you agree or disagree with the updates. If there is missing documentation, they may also reach out to you with a request for more information, which you can handle at that time via the IRS notice you received.”
What To Do If You Made a Larger Error
“If the error is more than a simple mathematical mistake, you may want to move forward with either superseding or amending the tax return,” Berquist said.
Certain mistakes do require an additional filing.
“Consider filing an amended return if you need to correct any information you have provided, such as the number of dependents, changes in your filing status, and your total number of tax deductions or credits,” said Leslie Tayne, founder and managing director at Tayne Law Group, a debt solutions law firm.
File a Superseding Return If You’re Filing a Correction Before the April 18 Deadline
“A superseded return allows the taxpayer to effectively replace the first return if the filing deadline (with extensions) has not already passed,” Berquist said. “A superseded return must be filed on a paper Form 1040 and mailed to the IRS, as e-filing is not allowed for these returns. The return itself should look very similar to your originally filed return (all schedules and pages included), however, this time including updates for the discovered mistake. It is also recommended that you write ‘SUPERSEDING RETURN’ at the top of the form to ensure it is clear to the IRS your intention for the return.”
File an Amended Return If You’ve Missed the Filing Deadline
If it’s after the filing deadline, you can file an amended return — but be sure you are still within the statute of limitations.
“If you do discover an error after the filing deadline and find yourself filing an amended return, it is important to note the timeline available to file,” Berquist said. “The statute of limitations for filing amended tax returns is three years after the original return was filed or within two years after the date the tax was paid, whichever of the two (filed or paid) is later. This gives the taxpayer some time to fix their return for any discovered mistakes, which in some cases may be when you are preparing the subsequent year’s tax return.”
Amended tax returns can now be filed online.
“The IRS now allows amended returns (Form 1040-X) to be electronically filed,” said Erin Alderson, EA, client service manager at Buckingham Advisors. “This is a huge improvement over the past when amended returns had to be printed, mailed and processed manually. By electronically filing your tax return, the IRS can process your tax payment or process your refund faster than in the past.”
Filing amended tax returns is common, so if you need to file one, do it. It’s not a “red flag” for the IRS.
“A common misconception is that filing amended tax returns may bring additional IRS scrutiny to your return or tax situation,” Berquist said. “The filing of the amended return itself will not bring any additional scrutiny. It is quite common to file amended tax returns and something that is very much within your rights as a taxpayer.”
Don’t Hesitate To Ask for Help
If you’re unsure how to best address your specific mistake, consider talking to a tax professional.
“If you feel a little overwhelmed by the mistake, we recommend contacting your tax advisor,” Alderson said. “They can help you understand the mistake and guide you through the amending process.”
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