IRS Unveils Electronic Filing of Amended Tax Returns

Form 1040-X fixes errors on your original return

Photo of the exterior of the IRS building in Washington. The close-up of the sign shows "Internal Revenue Service Building" and the address.
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Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty Images

 

Thirty-four years after the advent of electronic federal tax returns, the Internal Revenue Service will finally allow e-filing of amended returns.

The Form 1040-X—used by taxpayers who need to replace their original return because of errors or a change in status, income or deductions—can be filed electronically later this summer, the IRS said in a news release on its website May 28. At first, taxpayers will only have the option to amend certain 2019 returns (Form 1040 and 1040-SR) electronically.

Key Takeaways

  • Electronic filing of amended returns will be available later this summer through available tax software products 
  • More than 90% of taxpayers already file their standard tax returns electronically
  • About 3 million taxpayers have been mailing in paper versions of the Form 1040-X each year, and processing can take months
  • Because of closures and staff shortages associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the IRS has strongly urged taxpayers to file returns electronically

Few things are as slow and tedious as filing a paper tax return through snail mail. Taxpayers have historically been instructed to wait at least three weeks after mailing an amended return to even think about checking its status. Then it may take another 16 weeks for the IRS to actually process the form.

"This new process is a major milestone for the IRS, and it follows hard work by people across the agency," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in the release. 

What to Expect

The IRS has said that e-filing of Forms 1040-X should be available through tax software providers, presumably meaning it will be available to qualified taxpayers for free through the Free File Alliance. And you can still mail in a paper Form 1040-X if you prefer.

The standard advice on amended returns applies: Don’t amend your return to fix math errors. The IRS will take care of that for you. And don’t do it to include a form or schedule you forgot to submit. The IRS will request that of you after you’ve filed your original return.

Taxpayers should amend returns to correct issues like claimed dependents, filing status, overlooked income, or overlooked or erroneous deductions and credits.

Taxpayers can continue to use the “Where’s My Amended Return?” tool on the IRS website or call 866-464-2050 to check on the status of their filing.

The History of Electronic Filing

While e-filing standard returns is routine for about 90% of taxpayers now, applying that capability to the amended return required overcoming some “unique challenges,” the IRS said. Once the electronic version is introduced, it should cut down on wait times and minimize errors, the agency said. The Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC) and the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council (IRSAC) have been recommending e-filing of amended returns for years.

E-filing of standard returns was first made possible in 1986, when the internet was still in its infancy. IRS staff had to physically turn on a modem to accept returns, and only about 25,000 returns were e-filed by five tax professionals that first year. 

In the ensuing decades, of course, it has become the norm for most taxpayers, and in 2003, a free electronic filing option was introduced for taxpayers under a certain income. The Free File Alliance, a partnership between the agency and some established and well-known tax software providers, provides free e-filing for taxpayers with a 2019 gross adjusted income of less than $69,000.

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