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Romney will file an amended 2011 tax return on Nov. 7 ... if he loses

The tax world consensus is that if Mitt Romney doesn't win the White House, he'll amend his 2011 return to recoup the tax savings he surrendered in order to make his effective tax rate reach 14.1 percent.

Some calculators say that the Republican presidential candidate's tax rate would have been closer to 9 percent if he'd taken all the deductions for which he qualified.

When asked if Romney might file an amended return and claim the $1.77 million in charitable donations that he and the missus didn't include on their Schedule A, thereby getting a nice refund check of around $265,616, the official campaign response was, "He will not do that."

Yeah. Right.

Win, no; lose, for sure: OK, if he does become Commander in Chief, he might just suck up more than a quarter of a million. It would be, after all, a small price for him to pay to reach the ultimate elective office.

And if he follows tax tradition as president and releases his returns while in office, we'd all see the amended filing. That might cost him re-election votes if it proved appeared he was just playing us this year by forgoing some tax savings.

But if Romney loses, I'll bet my house (which is worth more than the 10 grand Mitt wanted to bet Rick Perry in the GOP primaries) that he'll file a Form 1040X and fast.

Let's get real. Rich people don't get and stay that way by wasting money.

And we'd never know. Romney wouldn't have any reason as a private citizen to reveal his taxes to the rest of us.

3 years to amend a tax return 1040XAmended return rules: Since the filing would be to get a refund, Romney has three years to get his corrected return to the Internal Revenue Service.

And that time frame also is this week's By the Numbers figure.

If you find that you, too, need to make changes to an original tax filing for whatever reason, here's the official word from the IRS:

You must file your Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax.

For most folks, the three years is the deadline that applies.

Let's look at a few more specifics for such filings.

Starting the countdown clock: If you file your original return on or before the official filing deadline, which is usually April 15 (or later if that date falls on a weekend or federal holiday), then April 15 is the operative date for starting your amended return countdown.

For example, you filed your tax return and paid any tax due on March 1. Then you discover that you could have claimed the child care tax credit. In the IRS eyes, your return is considered filed on April 15 (or whatever the actual due date is) even though you actually sent it in early.

So for amended return purposes, if you don't get a filing extension, you have three years starting on April 15 of the original tax filing year to submit a Form 1040X.

Form 1040X Amended Individual Tax Return excerpt

What if you, like Romney and around 10 million others, got an extension until Oct. 15 (or later, depending on federal holidays and weekends) to file? Then your actual filing date is when the three-year time frame begins.

In Romney's case, he has until Sept. 21, 2014, to file Form 1040X and get his refund for overpaying his 2011 taxes.

Some other amended return reminders:

  • Use 1040X to correct a previously filed 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. 
  • Attach copies of any forms or schedules that are being changed via the amended return. This includes any W-2s you got after you originally filed your taxes.
  • If, however, you simply forgot to attach a W-2 or a schedule, don't file an amended return. In processing your original return, the IRS normally will send you a request for the missing documentation.
  • Also do not file a 1040X just to correct math mistakes. The IRS will automatically fix arithmetic errors.
  • You cannot file a 1040X electronically. Yet. The IRS is working on that option. But for now, you must mail your 1040X to the IRS. Check the form's instruction booklet for the correct delivery address.
  • If you amend more than one tax return, complete a separate 1040X for each return and mail each in a separate envelope. And be sure to put the year of the return you are amending at the top of the Form 1040X.

Now about the money: If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X.

But you can go ahead and cash that first check while waiting for any additional tax cash.

And if you owe Uncle Sam because of a mistake on your original return, file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as you discover it. That way you'll stop the accruing interest and penalty charges that apply to your unpaid taxes.

What about your state taxes? Finally, if you file state income taxes, they likely are tied at least in part to your federal filing.

So if you make a change on an IRS form, it could affect your original state tax return. Be sure to review those filings to see if you need to make changes there, too.

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