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Amended tax returns: know the basics

It's been slightly more than one month since the federal income tax filing deadline of April 15. For taxpayers who did file but have discovered they made a mistake, or had a change in filing status, an amended return can often be a good step to take.

Taxpayers in California and across the country can benefit, then, from knowing about the process the IRS recommends for filing an amended return.

First of all, it's important to know the right form to use. After all, that's how the IRS typically interacts with the public about anything related to taxes: through its forms.

For filing an amended return, the form to use is Form 1040X. Straightforwardly enough, it is called Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Unlike regular filing, however, you won't be able to e-file an amended tax return. The IRS requires the form to be filed on paper, not electronically.

Of course, the situations that prompt the need for an amended return vary considerably from taxpayer to taxpayer. These situations may or may not concern a tax controversy. Changes in filing status may be involved in some cases. In others, tax deductions or tax credits may be incorrectly stated in the original return.

For example, parents who are unmarried or divorced sometimes both claim a child as a dependent. If one parent improperly claimed a child on his or her original return, an amended return would be in order after recognizing the mistake.

Keep in mind, however, that an amended return is not needed merely to correct math calculation errors. The IRS considers itself empowered to make those changes on behalf of taxpayers.

Source: "Ten Facts on Filing an Amended Return," IRS.gov, 4-19-13

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