What Are Tax Amendments?

Updated for Tax Year 2020


OVERVIEW

The IRS allows you to correct mistakes on a tax return you've already filed by filing an amended tax return.


The federal tax filing deadline for individuals has been extended to May 17, 2021. Quarterly estimated tax payments are still due on April 15, 2021. For additional questions and the latest information on the tax deadline change, visit our “IRS Announced Federal Tax Filing and Payment Deadline Extension” blog post.

For information on the third coronavirus relief package, please visit our “American Rescue Plan: What Does it Mean for You and a Third Stimulus Check” blog post.


 

If you make a mistake on a tax return you’ve already filed, the IRS allows you to correct those mistakes by filing an amended tax return. If the correction results in an increase in the amount of tax you owe, it’s to your advantage to file the amendment to avoid potential interest and penalties on the underpayment.

When to amend a tax return

The IRS generally allows you to file an amended tax return to correct:

  • your filing status,
  • the number of dependents you claim,
  • your gross income and
  • to increase or decrease the number of deductions and credits you report on your original tax return.

If your original return reports the correct information but includes math errors, there is often no need to file an amendment. The IRS regularly checks returns to ensure mathematical accuracy. In the event it finds a math error, your return is automatically recalculated. The IRS will notify you in writing of any recalculation and its effect on your tax bill or refund. When you file with TurboTax, our calculations are guaranteed to be 100% accurate.

Time limitations to amend

You have a limited amount of time to file an amended tax return; otherwise, the IRS won't accept it for a refund of tax. To receive a tax refund, an amended return must be filed by the later of:

  • three years from the original due date of the return,
  • three years from the date you actually file if after the deadline or
  • within two years of paying tax for that year.

For example, if you file your 2017 tax return on March 15, 2018, then you have until May 17, 2021 to get your amended tax return to the IRS. For a 2019 tax return filed in 2020, the deadline was automatically extended to July 15, 2020 and therefore 2020 amended returns have to be filed prior to July 15, 2023.

As a result, you have no obligation to file an amended tax return after the relevant limitation period even if the correction would increase the amount of tax you owe. However, the IRS will not issue a refund check for an amended return you file after the limitation period.

Preparing your amended tax return

Personal tax returns are amended by filing Form 1040X. If the correction relates to items you report on a schedule, you must prepare a new schedule and submit it with the Form 1040X.

For example, if you file an amended tax return because you omitted charitable deductions on your Schedule A, you must recalculate your itemized deductions and file it with your Form 1040X. Form 1040X does not require you to recalculate the entire tax return; rather, you only include line items that are affected by the change. The form also provides you with space to explain your reasons for filing the amendment.

State income taxes

When you amend your federal tax return, you may need to amend your state income tax return too. Most states calculate taxable income based on information you provide on your federal return. Therefore, changes you make to your federal return are likely to affect your state return.

For example, if you file the amended tax return to increase your refund by adding the charitable contribution deduction you omitted, it may also reduce your state tax if it also allows for charitable deductions.

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