How to File an Amended Tax Return

It’s best to get your tax return right the first time, but mistakes happen. When they do, it may be necessary to file an amended return.

An amended return is a taxpayer’s opportunity to receive any unclaimed refund or correct an instance of underpayment after the return has already been filed and the due date to file has passed.

Why File an Amended Return

If you find a mistake in your tax return, you can submit an amended return.

Some tax professionals note an increase in the number of extended returns and amended returns in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic and continued Internal Revenue Service delays.

Returns can be amended for a variety of reasons, but according to John P. Schultz, a CPA at Genske Mulder & Company in California, “The biggest issues in the last couple of years have been the advanced refunds issued by the government and reconciliation of those payments received by the taxpayers versus what the government is reporting as having been paid.”

[Read: What Happens if You Don’t Pay Your Taxes?]

Experts also point to reissued or amended forms, like 1099s, W-2s, or K-1s, that may come later in the filing season or after Tax Day, job changes resulting in multiple documents, health issues or other atypical life events that lead to tax consequences taxpayers may overlook all leading to amended returns.

You may also be owed a larger refund due to a missed deduction and amend your return to receive those funds.

“If correcting the mistake will generate a small refund, the taxpayer may not want to spend the amount a preparer would charge to fix the error,” Trish Evenstad, an enrolled agent at Evenstad Tax & Financial Services in Wisconsin, wrote in an email. “If the mistake will generate a balance due for the taxpayer it is best to file the amended return.”

[READ: Legal Secrets to Reducing Your Taxes]

How to File an Amended Return

To amend a tax return, gather relevant documents and use form 1040-X.

Documents used to amend a tax return should help explain why this return is being amended. For example, if you failed to report a portion of your income last year, you might include the omitted W-2.

Your amended return can be submitted electronically or by mail, but experts suggest electronic submission whenever possible.

“The IRS is becoming more electronically driven and has the ability to track and monitor changes to returns and mismatch of information faster than ever,” Schultz says. “If you receive new information that does not match your original filing and it creates an additional liability, the IRS will come knocking on your door, with penalties and interest requests in hand, so it is always better to stay ahead of their actions and have them in your good graces.”

Tax professionals can help taxpayers respond to correspondence from the IRS regarding any errors in previous returns, determine the tax liability implications of a newly discovered mistake and execute the appropriate amending or superseding process.

[See: Red Flags That Could Trigger a Tax Audit.]

What to Expect When You Amend a Return

You can file an amended return within three years of the date you filed your original return or within two years after the date you paid any tax due — but the sooner, the better.

“As soon as they discover the mistake they should take action to correct it,” Evenstad says. “Penalties and interest are accumulating every day so the sooner the better to fix a mistake.”

The IRS says it takes about four months to process amended returns, but processing could take much longer.

“If everything is OK, they should process those electronically filed amended returns within a 16-week period. That’s the goal they set for themselves; however, they also say if there are more errors or special circumstances, it could take longer,” says Larry Harris, director of tax services at Parsec Financial in North Carolina. “Then I think it goes into a pile, the IRS has to correspond with the taxpayer, and that could go on for years.”

More from U.S. News

How to Avoid IRS Tax Delays in 2022

Do You Owe the IRS? How to Find Out

How to File a Tax Extension

How to File an Amended Tax Return originally appeared on

Update 07/26/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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