If you spent days poring over your tax return this year and mailed it in by the tax filing deadline, only to discover that you forgot to claim the computer that you bought as a work deduction, don’t fret!
The IRS allows you call a do-over on your taxes, and fix any mistakes after they’re filed by using Form 1040X.
What is the 1040X?
The 1040X is a tax form that lets you amend or change your return, up to 3 years after you filed the original return. You can use 1040X to correct any of the 1040 tax forms. If you made a mistake on another form, such as a Schedule A, you’ll simply redo that form and include a new copy when you file the 1040X. The important thing is to determine how the changes to any other form would affect your 1040, and that’s what you’ll put on the 1040X.
The 1040X is much simpler now than in the past. Previously, you had to go over every line of the 1040 and determine if there were any changes. Now, the IRS has significantly simplified the 1040X by boiling it down to its core components: your total income, how much your tax liability has changed, payments you’ve made, and any refunds you’re now due or payments that you now need to make. There is a lengthier section on exemptions, generally because you need a good reason as to why you couldn’t accurately determine your number of dependents the time you filed, so that part is more in-depth. But otherwise, the form is pretty quick to complete.
The only downside? If you’re owed more money due to your changes, you might not get it as quickly as you hoped. Every 1040X is reviewed by a real live human being, so it can take up to three months to process.
How to Complete Form 1040X
Filling out the 1040X is pretty simple, but getting the numbers to put on that form may not be! I recently completed a 1040X myself due to a form that I received late, and the method I used was to go back into my tax program and add the extra income and Schedule C form. Then I was able to print off copies of the extra forms, and get the correct numbers. Depending on your tax preparation software, you may or may not be able to do this, but it’s worth checking! Keep in mind that if you are amending taxes from 2009 or before, a current-year tax program will not be following that year’s tax laws and there may be small differences. As always, if you’re not sure, it’s best to check with an accountant.
For each line on the form, you’ll have to provide the original value as it appears on your original tax return (or, if you’ve already amended it, from your last 1040X) in Column A, the amount that it’s gone up or down due to your changes in Column B, and then what the correct number is now in Column C. Unless you’re making multiple changes, most of the values in Column A will simply be copied over to Column C, yielding a change of zero.
Let’s look at each section on the 1040X individually:
You can change your filing status by filing an amended return. You cannot change from filing as married filing jointly to married filing separately after you’ve already filed your taxes, but you can change any other status.
Income and Deductions
1. Adjusted gross income: The whole front page of the 1040 is pretty much summed up here. You’ll add in or take out any income or deductions that you need to change, and then you can retrieve your adjusted gross income from Line 37 of the 1040.
2. Itemized deductions or standard deductions: Figure any changes that have occurred (or, if you’ve switched from one method to another) and put in the new number.
3. Subtract your itemized or standard deduction from your adjusted gross income.
4. Exemptions: If you’re changing any exemptions, you’ll need to complete Part 1 of the form, which is on the second page, to explain precisely what’s going on.
5. Subtract your total exemption amount from your adjusted gross income (line 3) and you have your taxable income.
6. Tax and method used to figure tax: For most people I would recommend using the tax tables, but you are welcome to do it by hand if you like.
7. Credits: If you’re adding any tax credits here, this will reduce your tax liability.
8. Subtract your credits from your tax.
9. Other taxes: This refers to self-employment tax, unreported Social Security and Medicare Tax, additional IRA tax, or advance EIC payments.
10. Total tax: This is all the tax you owe, minus your credits.
11. Federal income tax and other taxes already withheld: Includes anything you’ve already had withheld, plus any amounts you might have not included the first time around.
12. Estimated tax payments: Any estimated tax payments you already made for the year you’re revising.
13. Earned income credit: Enter in the amount you took the first time, or an amended amount.
14. Refundable credits: There are a whole host of refundable credits that you can enter in here. If you didn’t complete one of these forms the first time, now you can.
15. Total amount paid with request for extension of time to file, tax paid with original return, and additional tax paid after return was filed. In other words, this amount refers to any taxes you have already paid along with your original filing or prior 1040X.
16. Total payments: All of the above added up. These are the amounts that will offset your tax liability.
Refund or Amount You Owe
17. If you had a refund due to you on the original return, enter that amount here.
18. Then subtract that refund, if any, from your total tax payments (Line 16).
19. If Line 18 is less than Line 10 (in Column C), then you’ll have to pay an additional tax as a result of filing this amended return. If smaller, enter the amount here.
20. But if the amount is bigger, you’ll receive a tax refund. If bigger, enter the amount here.
21. If you are due a refund and want it sent to you, enter the amount here that you want refunded.
22. But if you want to apply this refund to your tax liability as an estimated tax payment, you can do that too (i.e. the IRS will just hold on to it for you, and you can use it as a credit on your next tax return).
1040X Part I: Exemptions
If you’re changing the number of exemptions, you’ll also have to fill out Part I of the 1040X to explain why you are changing it, and then break it down among the types of dependents in the provided chart. You’ll need to list all of your dependents, their social security numbers, relationship to you, and whether they qualify for the child tax credit. If you aren’t making changes to your exemptions, you can completely ignore Part I.
Explanation of Changes
Now here’s the fun part. This is where you get to explain yourself as to why you need to amend the return. Keep it short, simple, and to the point. They are not very concerned with which particular dog ate your homework. If you changed any forms other than your 1040, you’ll need to include copies of the new and improved version, and explain where you made changes and why.
The IRS lets you get a do-over for up to three years after you file – so if you think you missed something, you won’t lose anything by checking! And if you find something, it’s easy to fill out the form and send it in to get what’s owed to you. Better late than never!
Have you ever filed an amended return? Did you get a refund or did you end up owing more money as a result?
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