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Make a mistake on your taxes? Consider filing an amended return.

The Tax Day deadline of April 15 has passed. Some taxpayers got their taxes in order and sent in early while others rushed to make the deadline. Regardless of which group you found yourself in, you may have put that return in the mailbox only to realize you made a mistake.

What are my options if I made a mistake on my tax returns? You could just wait and see if the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) catches the mistake, but unless the mistake was minor that option is ill advised. Depending on the mistake, the agency could press criminal charges. This could lead to hefty fees and potential imprisonment.

In most cases, a more reasonable alternative is to file an amended return.

What do I need to know about filing an amended return? Tax Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, is basically a do-over. Keep in mind, making an adjustment to one portion of your tax returns could impact the entire return. Two of the biggest examples that tend to have a domino effect on one’s returns are changes to the tax filer’s adjusted gross income or filing status.

Changing the numbers is just the first step when amending your returns. The second page of the amended form provides an opportunity for the taxpayer to explain the need for an amended return. Choose your words wisely. For example, a simple “I forgot to report this income because the 1099 form was late” would generally suffice. Also, only attach needed documentation. In this same example, include a copy of the 1099.

It is important to note that filing an amended tax return is not the same as filing an extension. As a result, the normal deadlines apply. This means if the amended return results in a tax bill, you could be on the hook for penalties because the payment was not made by the April 15 deadline.

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