I filed an incorrect tax return. Should I file an amended return to fix it and how?

How to amend your US tax return - Sprintax

“Don’t worry if you made a mistake on your tax return or forgot to claim a tax credit or deduction. You can fix it by filing an amended return.” – The IRS

Made an error on nonresident alien income tax return? Don’t worry, fixing it is not as difficult as you might think!

US tax can be tricky – especially if you’re a nonresident who is not familiar with the American tax system. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows the tax code is complex, and that people make mistakes.

A tax return can be considered ‘incorrect’ or ‘incomplete’ for a variety of different reasons. Simple things like forgetting to sign a form to big issues like misreporting income or incorrectly calculating a deduction can all affect the validity of a tax return. While making a mistake on your return is not necessarily a big deal, it is important that you rectify the situation by filing an amended tax return, where appropriate.

If you realize that you made an error on a tax return you already filed or you have come across new information (for example you received an additional W-2 or 1042-S), simply file an amended tax return to make a correction.

It’s very important to note that you should not attempt to correct the situation by filing another original Form 1040NR return. That will confuse things further and may cause additional headaches for you. Instead file a Form 1040-X, Amended US Individual Income Tax Return, even if you filed your original return only a few days ago.

In this article we’ll cover:

Here are some key things you need to know in order to correctly amend your tax return:

filing a US tax return

When to Amend a Tax Return That You Filed

When should you file an amended tax return? The first thing you should know is that not all errors require an amended tax return.

You should amend your tax return if you need to:

1. Correct your income and tax figures

If you didn’t include all your payment documents when preparing your return or if you receive additional tax documents for the tax year, you would need to file an amended tax return to report the additional income and tax. For example, a Form W-2 arrives in the mail after the tax deadline, or you forgot to file it.

2. Claim all of the allowable tax deductions or tax credits

You should also amend your return to claim all of the allowable tax deductions or tax credits that you did not claim when you filed your original return. In previous years there were a number of deductions that international students could use to reduce their overall tax liability. However, in November 2017, President Donald Trump introduced a GOP tax reform bill which brought widespread tax-related changes for most taxpayers.

3. Correct your filing status

For example, if you filed as single but actually got married on the last day of the tax year, you will need to amend your return by filing your taxes under the appropriate status – married filing jointly or married filing separately (note: non-residents can file only as married filing separately).

4. Correct the number of dependents you claimed.

An amended return will be needed if a taxpayer wants to claim additional dependents, or has claimed ineligible dependents and needs to adjust the exemptions amount.

The general IRS rule states that a non-resident alien, whether single or married, may claim only one personal exemption, as long as they are not claimed as a dependent on any other US tax return (in which case their personal exemption was already used).

There are some exceptions to the general rule which allow specific groups of taxpayers to claim dependent exemptions for their family members:

  • Residents of Canada or Mexico
  • Residents of the Republic of Korea
  • Residents of India

You can check out if you qualify to claim an additional exemption for your dependent here.

5. If you filed the wrong form for your tax return

What if I accidentally filed form 1040 instead of form 1040NR / 1040NR EZ?

Nonresidents who file their tax returns with form 1040 (which is for U.S. citizens and residents) instead of the return for nonresidents (Form 1040NR) may claim credits or take deductions to which they are not entitled. This means their tax return will be inaccurate and they could get into trouble with the IRS later on. This is another case when you will need to amend your tax return.

6. You received the CARES Act payment and you were not entitled to it

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government has introduced the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act. The CARES Act provides a number of financial supports that can be claimed by US citizens, permanent residents and residents for tax purposes. Nonresident aliens are not eligible to receive this stimulus.

If you believe that you have received this payment in error, it is likely that you should file an amended tax return and also return the payment to the IRS (the payment should be sent separately to your amended return). You should also send a cover note with your amended tax return to outline why you are returning the payment.

Find out more in our guide to navigating the COVID-19 CARES Act Stimulus Payments for nonresidents.

If you realize that you need to make one or more of the corrections listed above use Form 1040X (Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) to amend the federal income tax return that you previously filed.

Need a hand filing your amended tax return? Contact Sprintax today!

When Not to Amend a Tax Return That You Filed

In some cases, you don’t need to amend your tax return.

The IRS usually corrects math errors when processing your original return without the need for you to file further paperwork.

If you didn’t include a required form with your return, the IRS will write to you to request the missing item so that they can finish processing your tax return. When you receive a notice about errors, there will usually be other ways to correct errors besides an amended tax return.

Usually, these misunderstandings can be quickly rectified by providing the correct information to the IRS. The notice that you receive will explain clearly what the issue is and how to respond.

How to amend your tax return in 4 easy steps using Sprintax!

We’ve also prepared a step by step guide to amending your tax return with Sprintax:

Step 1

To begin the process of amending your tax return, all you need to do is login to your Sprintax account (or create one if you haven’t already!).

Step 2

You will be asked to select the tax year that you would like to amend. Be sure to tick the box that says “I want to correct my 2019/2018/2017 tax return I already sent to the IRS.

Step 3

You will then need to complete a questionnaire, where you will be asked for some information including your residency for tax purposes and your income for that specific tax year.

Next, you will be asked if you filed your return to the IRS for this tax year. If the answer is ‘yes’ you will need to outline what tax form you sent.

You will need a copy of your original tax form in order to complete Step 3.

Step 4

Once you complete this step you will arrive at the checkout.

Sprintax will crunch the numbers and prepare your amended tax return which you will then need to print, sign and mail to the IRS.

It really is that easy!

And remember, if you have questions about how to amend your tax return, our Live Chat team are available 24/7 to support you!

Can an amended tax return be filed electronically?

No, you can’t e-file your amended tax return. Amended returns are only filed on paper.

Once you complete the form, you’ll have to mail it to the IRS along with all the required supporting documents.  The normal processing time for form 1040X is between 8 and 12 weeks from the time the IRS receives your tax return.

If you are amending for more than one tax year, you will need to file Form 1040X for each tax year separately.

Many people find the prospect of dealing with the IRS and amending their tax return to be quite daunting.

If that sounds like you, amend your US tax return the easy way with Sprintax!

What Happens After You Amend Your Tax Return

1. If you are claiming an additional tax refund

If you are filing an amended tax return to claim an additional refund, you’ll have to wait until you have received your original tax refund before filing a Form 1040X. Amended returns take up to 12 weeks to process.

You may cash your original refund check while waiting for the additional refund.

Also you generally MUST file the amended return within three years from the date you filed your original return, or within two years after the date you paid the tax (whichever is later) in order to get the extra refund.

2. If you owe additional taxes

If you owe additional taxes, file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to minimize interest and penalties. If your amended return shows you owe more tax than you reported on (and paid with) your original return, you’ll owe additional interest and probably penalties too.

Even though you might be amending a return from one or two years ago, the due date for your original return and for payment has already passed. The IRS may not penalize you for a small mistake, but it sure will collect some interest on the proper amount you didn’t pay on time in the first place. The sooner you correct the error, the less interest you’ll pay.

Don’t hesitate to contact the Sprintax team if you need help with amending your return!

 

(Last updated: 5 May 2020)

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Stacy
Hey I'm Stacy! I'm dealing with US taxes and can't wait to help you prepare your tax return! I've been working with taxes for like forever, so you can totally trust my expertise. Sprintax can make things much easier for you. Check out my blog posts and feel free to ask me any questions.

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