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Frozen out, but defrosting taxes

When tax Groundhog Day - amending an earlier 1040 - is a smart move

Reviewed and updated Friday, Feb. 2, 2024

Forms 1040 and 1040X

The Internal Revenue Service has its own Groundhog Day, but it's not limited to just one specific 24-hour period.

Most often, this re-do of a tax return is when you find you made a mistake on your original Form 1040. The do-over is accomplished by filing Form 1040-X, an excerpt of which is shown below.

Form 1040-X rev February 2024 excerpt
See more tax forms and more about them at Tax Forms 2024.

Fix errors: Nobody's perfect, and the annual filing season underscores that for many of us. When we do make a mistake on our taxes, filing an amended return takes care of the error.

That's obviously the smart move when the changed result gets you more money. But it's also better to file a Form 1040-X when your error costs you a bit more.

When you find the mistake before the IRS does, you'll put an end to penalty and interest charges that technically started adding up when you filed your incorrect return. If you wait for the tax agency to find the error, which it usually does, and alert you, the longer time before discovery means more added charges have accrued.

Now I'm not saying that the IRS' slower discovery is intentional. The IRS has a lot on its plate and, while it is hiring more staff, it is still understaffed.

So if you messed up your 1040, fix it as soon as possible by filing an amended return. Regardless of whether your revisions will mean you'll get money back from Uncle Sam, or will owe more. 

Claim overlooked breaks, disaster losses: You also should file an amended return if you overlooked a tax break for which you were eligible.

A 1040-X filing also could be useful if you were in a major disaster area, and redoing the prior year's return to claim catastrophic losses is the best financial and tax move.

Basically, says the IRS, you should file an amended return if there's a change in your filing status, income, deductions, credits, or tax liability.

Of course, since we are talking taxes and the IRS, there are some rules that apply when you're trying to correct your taxes. Here are eight 1040-x tips that could help if you find yourself playing the tax version of Bill Murray on Feb. 2.


1. Start with the IRS' Interactive Tax Assistant.
 You can use Should I file an amended return? at to help determine if you should file an amended tax return. As mentioned, you generally don't need to amend a filing for math errors. However, do file an amended return if there's a change in your filing status, income, deductions, credits or tax liability. The IRS amended return online tool can help you determine if you need to re-do your return.

2. Know the forms you can correct. You can use a 1040-X to correct a previously filed Form 1040 Form 1040-SR, Form 1040-A, Form 1040-EZ, Form 1040-NR, or Form 1040-NR-EZ. You also can file an amended return to change amounts previously adjusted by the IRS.

3. Don't miss the filing window. Generally, to claim a refund, you must file Form 1040-X within three years after the date you filed your original return or within two years after the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. Returns filed before the due date (without regard to extensions) are considered filed on the due date, and withholding is deemed to be tax paid on the due date.

If you find your mistake quickly and it means you get more of a refund, the IRS says chill. You should wait for the IRS to process the original refund producing return and you get your tax cash before you file a 1040-X to claim an additional refund.

4. File your X form electronically. Yes, it's now possible to e-file Form 1040-X, but only in more recent situations. You can submit an amended return using tax software products for tax years beginning with 2019 and after. And those relatively recent Forms 1040 and 1040-SR that you want to correct must have been filed electronically.

But the IRS is making electronic progress on its X files. You now can e-file amended returns to correct 2021 tax year filings of Form 1040-NR and Form 1040-SS/PR.

Where e-filing isn't possible, you still can submit a paper version of Form 1040-X. Be sure to check the address to use for snail mailing an amended return in the "Where To File" section of the 1040-X instructions. If you're filing Form 1040-X in response to an IRS letter about your return, mail it to the address shown on the letter.

Note, though, that while e-filing speeds things up when it comes to original returns, the IRS says its current processing time is more than 20 weeks for both paper and electronically filed amended returns.

5. Use separate 1040-X forms when amending multiple tax years. If you find one year's mistake led to others, you might need to amend multiple tax returns. In this case, the IRS asks that you file and submit a separate Form 1040-X for each tax year. This will help avoid confusion (as much as possible!) for both you and the tax agency. Check the box for the calendar year or enter the other calendar year or fiscal year that you are amending on each 1040-X.

6. Pay additional tax. Remember when I said you should amend a return even if it costs you? In these cases, when you file your Form 1040-X, pay as much of the tax as soon as possible. This will stop or reduce penalties and interest. You have a variety of options to e-pay your taxes.

7. Check your state filings. Changes to your federal tax return likely mean changes to your state taxes, too. Check with your state's tax department for details and the steps you need to take to correct earlier filing errors at that tax level.

8. Track your amended return status online. You can check the status of an amended tax return by using the online IRS tool Where's My Amended Return? It's available in in English and Spanish.

But don't check too soon. Again, as noted in tip #4, amended return processing can take weeks after the IRS receives it. Once your 1040-X is accepted by the IRS, you can check the online tracking tool daily. That's how often it updates, usually at night.

Note, too, that if you're getting a refund (or a larger one) based on your amended return, you're going to have to wait for your mail carrier to deliver it. Right now, the IRS isn't set up in most cases to directly deposit refunds from a 1040-X, even an e-filed one.

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