Mistakes happen: you forget about your side-job income, forget to declare a dependent or forget to include important documents in your tax return. Perhaps your filing status changed, or you didn’t claim a key deduction. The quickest way to remedy the issue is to file an amendment, but you shouldn’t do this right away.
If you made a mistake after filing your taxes, you cannot make changes until the IRS accepts or rejects your return. If your return is rejected, the IRS will tell you what information they need in order to fix the mistake. If you filed online, simply upload the necessary documents and make the appropriate changes from there. If you filed your taxes manually, you can mail in the corrected or additional documents, and if you hired a CPA to file your taxes, they can submit the additional information on your behalf.
If you made a mistake, but your tax return was accepted by the IRS:
If your return is accepted and the IRS does not catch the error or make the correction for you, you’ll need to confess to the mistake and amend your tax return. You can only amend an e-filed return accepted by the government or a paper return that has already been mailed. This means you need to wait until your taxes are fully processed, and you’ve received your tax return or paid your tax bill in full.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that there’s no need to panic. Generally, you have up to three years of the original due date of your return to amend your taxes in order to claim a refund. While you shouldn’t put an inaccurate tax return on the back burner, you have a very reasonable amount of time to double check your amended return thoroughly before sending it to the IRS.
If you prepared your own tax return, you’ll need to prepare an amended income tax return. If you hired a CPA, and the filing mistake was your fault, you need to contact your CPA, provide the correct information, and pay your CPA to prepare the amended return. If you are preparing the amended return yourself, make sure to obtain the correct tax forms, as there are specific amendment forms for the different types of returns filed. For example, if you filled out the 1040 form to do your taxes, you’ll need to complete Form 1040X in order to amend. Also, if you live in a state with an income tax, you may need to amend your state income tax return depending on the type of correction that you are making.
You cannot submit an amended tax return online once your tax return is accepted; you must sign a hard copy of the relevant forms and mail them in. After a few weeks, you can check the status of your amended return on the IRS website. In up to three weeks, you’ll see a ‘received’ status noting that the IRS successfully received your amended return, but has not yet processed it. Note that processing can take up to four months to complete.
Will filing an amended tax return trigger an audit?
The primary reason taxpayers should admit their mistakes and file an amendment is to lessen penalties and interest if the IRS discovers that the discrepancy results in additional tax due in the future, either through information matching or an audit. Some taxpayers are concerned that filing an amendment may trigger an audit, so they remain silent and don’t make the proper amendments. In general, the IRS does not open an audit because you filed an amended return. The amended return should be accurately completed with a reasonable explanation for the changes. It would also be a good idea to attach relevant documents to support the change, especially if the change results in an additional refund. However, reporting a substantial difference in your income or deductions without a good explanation may lead to additional IRS questions.
Don’t let the fear of an audit stop you from ensuring your filed tax returns are correct, and from receiving the tax return to which you are entitled. If you would like a professional to help you with amending your return and reduce the likelihood of future IRS inquiries related to the amended return, send us a message or give us a call. Our CPAs are happy to review your situation and determine the best course of action regarding amending your return.