TAS Tax Tip: Correcting tax returns, if you made a mistake or forgot to file

April 9, 2019

If you make a mistake on your taxes, do you know what to do and how to correct the mistake? There are many options on how to fix a mistake on your tax return, depending on whether you received a notice and the kind of mistake you made. If you simply forgot to file, and have a filing requirement, you should file right away as there are consequences.

No IRS Notice Received Yet

If you need to make a correction on a current or prior year tax return, and you have not received a notice from the IRS about it yet,

  • if it is before the current year filing date: you can file another original tax return with your correct information. However, the IRS may find those errors and send you a notice. See the “Received a Notice” below, if you do receive a notice before filing a corrected return.

  • if it is after the current year filing date: you will need to file a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Unfortunately, you cannot file this form electronically and must mail it to the IRS. 

Filing a 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

If you do have to file an amended return, know that it can take up to three weeks to show up in IRS systems and may take up to 16 weeks to be processed.
Prior to filing your amended return, you may want to get a transcript showing the activity on your account for the tax year you want to amend. For more information on when to file, what to do and how to file an amended return, see Amending a Tax Return.
To find out the status of an amended return, visit Where's My Amended Return? or Form 1040X Frequently Asked Questions.

Received an IRS Notice for Incorrect Information Reported

This often happens before the tax return is fully processed – the IRS is giving you a chance to make a correction. The notice should explain the issue and how to respond to the IRS. See Incorrect Returns for more information.

Received a Notice That Your Return is Being Examined

If you received a notice or letter that your federal tax return is being audited or examined, you can visit our Get Help page and look under the categories for Issues and Errors and Interacting with the IRS.

Received a Notice You Don’t Understand

If you got a notice and you aren’t sure what it means, see I got a notice from the IRS or visit Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter.

Fixing Prior Year Tax Returns

If you file an amended tax return for a prior tax year, you would still use a Form 1040X.
However, if you did not file a tax return at all for that year, you will need to use the correct year Form 1040, U. S. Individual Tax Return. Go to Prior Year Forms and Instructions to get what you need. See also, Filing Past Due Tax Returns.

Claiming a Refund for a Prior Tax Year

In general, you must file a refund claim within three years from the date the original return was filed, or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. But there are numerous exceptions to the general rule. For more information about the deadlines for filing refund claims, see Publication 556, Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund.
If you must amend or file a federal tax return that will be three years old, this April, you should check the rules right away or risk losing that money.

Other Taxpayer Advocate Service Resources: