So You Made A Mistake On Your Tax Return: Now What?

Posted on: 13 April 2018


There are many honest reasons a person might file an incorrect tax return, but if you're the one who did it, you probably aren't taking comfort in the fact that your error wasn't intentional. Dealing with the IRS under any circumstances can be frightful, even more so if all your "T's" weren't crossed and an "I" or two not dotted. Here's how to proceed after bungling your tax return.

1. Don't Panic

Unsurprisingly, considering how complicated tax returns can be, mistakes happen a lot. There won't be a SWAT team banging down your door in the middle of the night and because you're an honest taxpayer, you're going to fix this mistake before it goes any further.

2. Amend Your Return, If You Can

Amending a return can be accomplished by filing the appropriate forms and you should do so immediately, if the deadline for filing has already passed. On the other hand, if the deadline has not passed, you can refile a whole new return, with the correct information. An amendment is necessary after the deadline; however, filing another return before the deadline will replace the original and this is a very important distinction. Don't expect a major fuss to be made over your correction, as there are many accidental errors committed by taxpayers that cause them to make adjustments to their submissions, such as:

  • Filing under the wrong status (such as Head of Household, single, etc.).
  • Failure to include all sources of income (changing your total).
  • The number of dependents you claim.
  • Not claiming a certain deduction you are owed.

Don't concern yourself over minor math errors in your (previously filed) return, as the IRS will make those corrections, usually without incident. In that case, you'd likely receive a notice that mathematical adjustments were made and no further action would be required on your part, unless you chose to challenge the correction.

3. Follow All Instructions You Receive

As your return is being processed by the IRS, they may catch the mistake you made and notify you of it, requesting you make the necessary adjustments. This is one of the easiest ways to resolve your situation, as they'll provide you clear instructions on how to file properly.

4. Don't Be Too Alarmed If You're Audited

If, by chance, you don't realize your mistake until after your return has been processed and the mistake raised a red flag with the IRS, rather than being a simple matter of clerical correction, you could be audited. Audits are intimidating, but if you can demonstrate an honest mistake and are willing to make it right, right away, you should be in the clear. Keep every document the IRS sends you and gather up every single piece of paper related to your filing.

5. Call A Tax Preparer To Help You Sort It All Out

Whether or not you're actually audited, going through the process of catching and fixing a mistake on a return can be a complicated matter; thus, in order to avoid a repeat of this next year, consider hiring a tax preparation service, instead of filing your own taxes. Especially if your return is becoming more complicated due to changing laws, increasing income, a home business or other status change, you simply have too much at stake to risk repeated errors. A tax preparer helps you not only to file without complications and errors, they'll help you get the most money on your return possible or lower the taxes you have to pay, by finding all the deductions you're eligible for.

Taxes are complicated for just about everyone, so don't feel singled-out or expect to see your face on the "Most Wanted" wall at your local post office. Be honest, be prompt in the action you take and get professional help. This isn't something you want to go through again. Visit a site like for more help.