Incorrect Return

A tax return can be incorrect or incomplete for many different reasons – from simple things like forgetting to sign a form to big issues like misreporting income or incorrectly calculating a credit. It can also happen because of various errors when filing electronically.

Depending on when you realize the error, and the nature of that error, you have different ways to fix an incorrect or incomplete return.

If you’re e-filing your return and the system rejects it

If you’re using IRS’s fillable forms, and the E-file system rejects your return, it’ll provide an error code, telling you where the problem is. Some rejected returns are caused by incorrectly entering a Social Security number or other taxpayer identification number. Usually you can correct the error and try to file again. has a tool to walk you through common rejections. If you make the correction and the system still rejects the return, you can send it by mail. (For more information about e-Filing, see Free File.)

If you made a mistake and realize after the due date for filing, but before the IRS discovers the mistake

In this case, you can generally file an amended return, but you must mail it to the IRS.

If there is a mistake and the IRS sent you a notice or returned the form

If information is missing, the IRS will either return the form or send a notice asking you for specific information it needs to finish processing your return. Simply send the information to the address on the notice or call the number on the notice if you have questions.

If the IRS changed an amount on the return 

The IRS sometimes makes changes because of a miscalculation. The IRS might also believe, based on other information on the return, that you’re eligible for a credit you didn’t claim. 

No matter the reason for the change, if you disagree at all, reply immediately.

  • Gather any documentation to support your position and be ready to fax it.

  • Contact the IRS by mail or by calling the number on the notice you receive.

  • Follow the IRS’s instructions to submit any supporting documentation and always keep copies.

The IRS is considering changing an amount on the return, due to an examination after the return has been processed.

This is called an audit. If it audits your return, the IRS will notify you by mail, and the notice will tell you if the audit will be handled by mail or in person. For more information, see Audits by Mail or Audits in Person.

If you receive a different refund amount than you expected or none at all 

Changes to returns during processing and other situations can affect the size of your refund. 

Where is My Refund has information on locating and claiming a refund. 

If the IRS has contacted you about an error, it’s important that you respond quickly. Failure to respond promptly and correct errors or provide information can lead to:

  • Additional tax
  • Possible penalties and interest
  • A different refund amount than expected
  • No refund at all

If a refund is lost or stolen, it may take additional time to resolve. If you believe your refund was lost or stolen, the IRS needs time to verify what happened to it before issuing a replacement. It’s extremely important to contact the IRS right away. 

If you receive a refund you’re not entitled to, or an amount that is more than you expected, do not cash the check until you receive a notice explaining the difference, then follow the instructions on the notice. If you cash the check and are ultimately not due that amount, you’ll have to repay it with interest.

Do you suspect you are the victim of identity theft? Visit the Identity Theft page. 

Have a different tax issue?  Browse common issues and situations at Get Help.

Is your tax problem more complex?  If your issue is causing you financial hardship, you have tried repeatedly and are not receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights are being violated, consider contacting Taxpayer Advocate Service TAS.

Do you feel that you need help from a tax professional but can’t afford one? You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), or enrolled agent associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

Last modified July 12, 2016