Amending your income tax return

What if you've sent in your income tax return for a previous year and then discover you made a mistake? You can make things right by filing an amended tax return. And, don't think an amended return will automatically cost you money; it's perfectly okay to change a return to capture a tax break you missed the first time around.

CAN I CHANGE MY FEDERAL INCOME TAX RETURN?

Once you have dropped your original income tax return in the mailbox or sent it off electronically, you can no longer change that return. (One exception: If your e-filed tax return is rejected, you can make changes before sending it in again.)

If you want to make changes after the original tax return has been filed, you must file an amended tax return using a special Form called the 1040X, entering the corrected information and explaining why you are changing what was reported on your original return. You don't have to redo your entire return, either. Just show the necessary changes and adjust your tax liability accordingly.

You generally must file an amended return within three years of the date you filed the original return or within two years after the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

CAN I USE TAX PREPARATION SOFTWARE TO AMEND MY RETURN?

Yes. TurboTax walks you step-by-step through amending your federal income tax return. (Form 1040X was revised in 2010, so it's important to use the updated version.)

CAN I E-FILE A FORM 1040X?

No. The IRS isn't set up to accept an amended return electronically. You must print it out and send it in by mail.

HOW DO I AMEND MY STATE TAX RETURN?

First, fill out an amended federal income tax return, Form 1040X. Then, get the proper form from your state and use the information from Form 1040X to help you fill it out.

Like the IRS, your state uses a special form for an amended return. Many states also use the X suffix for the form number. For example, California uses Form 540X. Other states do not. The Hawaii form, for example, is Schedule AMD.

Don't forget to attach a copy of your amended federal return (Form 1040X) to your amended state return, if the state requires it, as is usually the case.

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Tax season is here! Check out the Tax Center on AOL Finance for all the tips and tools you need to maximize your return.

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