Incorrect Tax 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 what the error is, you have different ways to fix an incorrect or incomplete return.

If you’re electronic filing your return and the IRS rejects it

If you’re using IRS’s fillable forms, and the Electronic Filing (E-file) system rejects your return, it’ll provide an error code telling you the problem. 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 e-file again. IRS.gov has a tool to walk you through common rejections. If you make the correction and the IRS still rejects the return, you can send it to the IRS by mail. (For more information about e-filing, see Free File Options.)

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 tax return, but you must mail it to the IRS.

If there's 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 you a notice asking for specific information it needs to finish processing your tax 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 your tax 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 to the IRS 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 your tax return, due to an examination after it processed your tax return

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

Changes to tax returns during processing and other situations can change the amount of your refund. 

The Where's My Refund? tool can help you find your refund status. 

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

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

If your 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 refund check. 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 or spend the direct deposit refund until you receive a notice explaining the difference, then follow the instructions on the notice. If you cash the check or spend the refund and are ultimately not due that amount, you’ll have to repay it with interest.

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

Browse common tax issues and situations at Get Help.

If your IRS problem is causing you financial hardship, you've tried repeatedly and aren't receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights are not being respected, consider contacting Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), or enrolled agent (EA) associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). LITCs may also provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language.

Last modified March 21, 2018