This article refers to an earlier version of Form 1040X. Some instructions may be slightly different depending on the form revision the IRS now has available.
If you have filed your taxes for the most recent year but would like to take advantage of a new credit, such as the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit, without waiting for next year, you will need to file an amended income tax return.
You cannot file an amended tax return electronically. This article will explain the process and all it will cost you is a postage stamp.
Note: Some online tax preparation applications like TurboTax and H&R Block allow you to complete this form online, but you are still required to print and send the forms and supporting documentation through the mail.
1. Have your completed tax return ready. Start with the income tax form you submitted earlier this year, either your 1040, 1040EZ, or 1040A. You will need to include some of this information on the new form. Do not attempt to rely on your memory.
2. Download the blank amendment form. You need Adobe Reader to download and print Form 1040X. It is available on the IRS website or directly from Consumerism Commentary through this link [pdf]. This will always link to the most recent 1040X.
3. Enter your current personal information in the top section. If you have a current version of Adobe Reader, you should be able to click on any blank line of the form to type directly into the document. Ensure you include the proper tax year at the top of the form; if you are completing this form in July 2009 to amend the tax form you filed in April 2009 for the 2008 tax year, make sure you enter the year 2008 in this field. Double-check your Social Security Number.
4. Identify what has changed. The second section of this page of form 1040X has three columns. The first column should contain the amounts you presented on your original 1040. The third column should contain the adjusted value. The second should contain the difference between your first column (original amount) and third column (new amount). For example, if you are adjusting your form to change the amount of your Earned Income Credit (EIC) from $0 to $300, line 13 would read would read in order $0, $300, and $300. If you are changing the EIC from $300 to $0, the line would read $300, -$300, $0.
5. Download the appropriate credit form. If you are filing the amendment because you now qualify for the first-time home buyers tax credit, download form 5405 [pdf] and use this form in the same manner to calculate your rebate. Enter the result from line 6 of form 5405 on line 15 of form 1040X.
6. Finish the calculations on 1040X. Continue until the first page of the form is complete and be sure to make note of any additional forms you need to provide based on the adjustment you are making.
7. Complete the second page of 1040X. You can skip Part I of the second page if you are not changing your number of exemptions and are not changing your exemption for families displaced by Katrina or mid-western storms. Part II is required. Explain why you are amending your return. Here is an example:
I am filing this amendment to claim the new first-time home buyer tax credit for the house purchased on July 1, 2009. Please see the enclosed documentation to support my ownership.
8. Print and sign the tax forms. Ensure you are printing all forms relevant to the amended tax return including any forms related to credits you are claiming. Don’t forget to add your signature where required.
9. Mail the forms and supporting documentation. In addition to the forms, include any evidence pertaining to the credit you are claiming to ensure the IRS will process your request quickly without questioning the validity of your claim. For example, you might want to include a copy of your bill of sale, your title, or your mortgage documentation.
Send your complete package to the address corresponding to your state.
I might include “(1040X)” at the end of the first line of the address to help route the form to the correct department faster.
It is unlikely the IRS will directly deposit any additional refund owed to you due to your amended return even if your initial refund was directly deposited, so you can expect to receive a check. Many people are reporting the IRS is very slow in providing these checks so ensure all of your documentation is in order and be prepared to wait four months or more.
Always remember that I am not a tax professional. Even if I were, this should not be considered tax advice. Ask your tax accountant if you have doubts whether to file an amended return.
Updated April 13, 2011 and originally published July 15, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @flexo on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.