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Two Ways to Fix Tax Return Mistakes Before the IRS Discovers Them

In our South Loop Chicago tax preparation office, and in our Homewood, Il tax preparation office, we often receive calls from people that have made an error (or errors) on their tax return. The tax law is complicated and constantly changing, so it’s easy to make a small, or large error that causes you to:

1.) underpay your tax, leaving you open to IRS penalties, or
2.) overpay your tax, meaning you gave a gift to the government.

However, if you made an error on your tax return, don’t worry; there’s good news: you can undo your mistake! Here’s even better news: there are two special ways to fix your incorrect tax return that will save you from paying more to the IRS than you would otherwise. We’ll tell you all about them in this article. —there are two easy ways to fix it:

  1. A superseding return
  2. A qualified amended return

A superseding return is an amended or corrected return filed on or before the original or extended due date. The IRS considers the changes on a superseding return to be part of your original return.

A qualified amended return is an amended return that you file after the due date of the return (including extensions) and before the earliest of several events, but most likely when the IRS contacts you with respect to an examination of the return. If you file a qualified amended return, you avoid the 20 percent accuracy-related penalty on that mistake.

Superseding Return Example

You file a joint Form 1040 tax return electronically on February 21, 2022, for tax year 2021, but you later decide you want to file a separate return. Since the joint-filing election is irrevocable, on or before April 15, 2022 (which is the unextended due date for your 2021 Form 1040), you must file a superseding return to undo the joint election.

IRS electronic filing rules for amended returns do not permit you to file this superseding return electronically, because you are changing your filing status (from married, filing jointly, to married, filing separately). That being said, your only other option is to use “snail mail.” Using a paper return via snail mail, you’ll submit either:

1.) A second original Form 1040 return using the married-filing-separately filing status, or
2.) An amended Form 1040X showing the change from joint to separate filing status.
Be sure to write “SUPERSEDING RETURN – IRM” in red at the top of page 1 of either Form 1040 or Form 1040X.

Qualified Amended Return Example

You realize your return preparer left a $30,000 IRA distribution off your 2019 tax return. Ouch!
Let’s assume you are in the 32 percent tax bracket and had no federal income tax withholding on the distribution: you owe an additional $9,600 in federal income tax on your 2019 tax return due to this distribution.

If you file an amended return before the IRS contacts you about the missing income, then it’s a qualified amended return, and you avoid $1,920 (20percent of $9,600) in audit penalties.

If you don’t file the amended return, and if the IRS contacts you about the missing income, the IRS will propose the $1,920 penalty. You may be able to request penalty relief, but you’ll have to make your case, and the facts may or may not be on your side.

In both circumstances, you’ll also pay interest on the $9,600 back to July 15, 2020 (the COVID-19-postponed 2019 Form 1040 due date). Of course, the earlier you pay the tax, the less interest you’ll accrue. You’ll pay less interest with a qualified amended return because you’re paying the tax sooner.

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, need help with tax debtbusiness tax preparationbusiness entity creationbusiness insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth. Never miss another tip again! Join our newsletter, to receive tax reduction/wealth building tips delivered right to your inbox!

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