From the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants - Presented by Dean Knepper, CPA, CFP®


(March 23, 2005) — It can happen to the best of us. You just filed your tax return and realize that you made a mistake. Don’t panic. According to the Virginia Society of CPAs, you can file an amended return to correct your error. :

What are some of the reasons I might need to amend my return?

You should file an amended return to correct data or add missing information concerning your income, deductions, credits or dependents. An amended return can also be used to change your filing status. If you are married and filing separately, you can amend your return to file jointly. However, you cannot switch from filing jointly to filing separately once the time for filing the return for either spouse has expired.

What if I discover I made a math error?

If you make a simple addition or subtraction mistake, there’s no need to amend your return. The IRS says its computers will detect the error, adjust your return automatically and notify you.

What if the mistake is not in my favor?

There is a good chance that the IRS will eventually discover your error and bill you for additional tax due. The faster you correct an underpayment, the less interest you pay.

What form do I file to amend my return?

Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return, to correct a previously filed Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. Also use this form to amend individual income tax returns submitted through TeleFile or e-file. You cannot e-file an amended return. You can find Form 1040X and instructions for completing it on the IRS Web site ( or by calling (800) 829-3676.

Form 1040X asks for the information you originally reported, your corrected information, and the reason for the changes. There is also a section for adding or subtracting personal exemptions. Be prepared to submit any other affected tax forms, such as Schedule A, if you’re adjusting any of your itemized deductions.

At the top of Form 1040X, be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending. If you are amending more than one tax return, use a separate 1040X for each and mail in separate envelopes to your assigned IRS processing center. The 1040X instructions list the addresses for the centers.

How long do I have to file an amended return?

Generally, Form 1040X must be filed within three years after the date you filed your original return or within two years after you paid the tax, whichever is later. If the original return was filed early, it is considered to be filed on the due date. So if you filed your 2003 tax return on February 1, 2005, you have until April 15, 2008 to amend it.

Taxpayers who are filing an amended return to claim a bad debt or worthless securities have seven years after the due date of the return for the year in which the debt or securities became worthless.

If your amended return results in an additional refund, the IRS requests that you wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X. You may cash the original check while waiting for any additional refund.

What about my state return?

If any changes affect your adjusted gross income, you’ll want to amend your state return as well. Contact your state tax department for forms and directions.

Does amending my return increase my chance of being audited?

The fact that you file an amended return does not, in and of itself, increase the likelihood that your return will be audited. But it does mean that the IRS will be taking a second look at your return. To help ensure that your amended return is in order, you may want to consult with a CPA.


The Virginia Society of CPAs is the leading professional association dedicated to enhancing the success of all CPAs and their profession by communicating information and vision, promoting professionalism, and advocating members’ interests. Founded in 1909, the Society has nearly 8,000 members who work in public accounting, industry, government and education. This Money Management column and other financial news articles can be found in the Press Room on the VSCPA Web site at


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