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Should I Amend My Tax Return for a Small Amount?

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Feb. 16 2022, Published 11:36 a.m. ET

You got a jump on things this year and filed your 2021 taxes well before the April due date. Then you realize you made a mistake and wonder, “should I amend my tax return for a small amount?”

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Whether you should amend your tax return for a small amount depends on the nature of the mistake. Did you make a mathematical error that shows you’re getting slightly more on your refund than you should? If that’s the case, there’s no need to worry about filing an amended return. The IRS usually corrects any mathematical errors it finds while processing your tax return.

You also don’t need to go through the trouble of filing an amended tax return if you forgot to include the necessary forms and schedules. If your return is missing a document, the IRS will contact you and request it.

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When should I file an amended return?

Did you make an error in reporting your income or deductions? That’s an entirely different story. The IRS requires amended returns to be filed if there are any changes in your filing status, income, deductions, credits, or tax liability, no matter how small those changes may be.

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Before you rush to amend your return, though, you should first ensure the IRS has accepted it. You won’t be able to file an amended return until the IRS accepts your original tax return. Also, you don’t have to file an amended tax return if the IRS rejects your first tax return. If that happens, you can make the necessary changes and resubmit it.

Can I e-file an amended tax return?

In the past, amended returns had to be filled out by hand and posted to the IRS for processing. Taxpayers who like to do everything electronically will be happy to know that the IRS changed the rules on e-filing amended returns in 2021. Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, can now be filed electronically using available tax software products. Keep in mind that not all tax preparation software participates in e-filing for amended returns, though.

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There are a few exceptions where old-fashioned paper filing is still required. According to the IRS, amended returns must be filed in paper format for the following reasons:

  1. The amended return is for a tax year before 2019. Only 1040 and 1040-SR returns can be amended electronically for tax years 2019, 2020, and 2021.

  2. If you filed your original return on paper, you would also have to file the amended tax return on paper.

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How long will it take for the IRS to process my amended return?

Filing your amended tax return won’t necessarily speed up the process. The IRS says the standard processing time for amended returns can take up to 16 weeks, regardless of whether you file electronically or on paper.

The IRS's Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) tax tool can help you determine if you should file an amended return. The ITA tax tool can be found on the IRS website, IRS.gov.

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