Answers to last-minute tax return questions
Already filed your tax return? Great! A new tax document arrived in the mail the next day? Yikes. Millions of taxpayers wait until April to file their tax return every year, but even those who have already filed aren’t necessarily safe from last-minute tax questions that haunt their sleep. According to Nathan Rigney, lead tax research analyst at The Tax Institute at H&R Block, there’s good news for those who have already filed, even if they face some unexpected questions after filing.
“First of all, your return can be amended until three years from its due date. So, you have time to correct anything you need to and still claim an additional refund,” Rigney said. “If the mistake is something that is going to mean a higher tax bill, you just have to pay by the filing deadline to avoid a late-payment penalty. This is not likely to be significant, especially if the mistake was something like leaving off interest from a small savings account or a small state refund from last year. You probably didn’t forget about big items like your income from the job you held all year.”
What if I filed and then discovered I made a mistake?
Taxpayers can discover mistakes if an unexpected tax document arrives, they realize they qualify for a tax benefit, like an education credit, that they hadn’t claimed, or even when the law changes after they filed. In all these cases and more, taxpayers can fix a mistake on their tax return by filing an amended return. However, taxpayers do not need to file an amendment for every mistake. For example, the IRS can usually fix simple math errors, such as transposing numbers on Form W-2 wages when completing the return. An amended tax return isn’t required if the taxpayer agrees with the IRS’s correction.
If a taxpayer does need to amend a tax return, the taxpayer must paper file Form 1040X and include documents to back up the changes on the amendment. These could include forms, schedules, statements, receipts or worksheets.
Then, the taxpayer must mail the 1040X to the IRS and make an additional payment if required. If the IRS owes the taxpayer a refund, it will send the refund in about eight to 12 weeks.
Taxpayers have until April 15, 2021 to amend their 2017 return to claim an additional refund. If they owe additional money, they need to pay by April 17, 2018 to avoid late-payment penalties.
What if I don’t have the tax documents I need to file?
Rigney advises that not having all the tax documents needed to file is not as catastrophic as it sounds.
“You need the right documents to file a complete and accurate return. If you’re still waiting on some documents and you can’t file by the tax deadline, that’s ok,” Rigney said. “File an extension and pay any estimated income taxes you owe by April 17. You won’t face a failure-to-file penalty as long as you file your return by Oct. 15. Whatever you do, don’t just make up numbers.”
Although taxpayers should have most of their tax documents by now, they may have had an address change that caused some documents to go missing. Other tax documents, like a K-1, may not go to taxpayers until mid-March, giving them a shortened window to complete their returns.
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