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taxes

Amending Old Tax Returns to Claim Overlooked Credits

You have up to three years to file an amended return and other paperwork with the IRS to claim missed tax deductions or credits.

Question: I read your column on An Overlooked Tax Break for Part-Timers -- about semiretired people and the retirement savers’ tax credit -- just in time to claim the credit when filing my taxes for 2017. I contributed to an IRA over the past few years, and I think my income would have qualified for the credit in those years, too. Can I file an amended return and get back money for the savers' credit in the past?

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Answer: If you qualified for the credit in previous years, you can file an amended return and get back the extra money as a refund. You generally have up to three years after the deadline for filing your original federal tax return to submit an amended return if you missed a tax break or need to make other changes. You'll need to file a separate Form 1040X for each year you're amending. Enter the year you're amending, note the changes you are making, and attach any tax forms that are affected by the change. (You can't file amended returns electronically.) See the Instructions for Form 1040X for more information.

In your case, you'll attach Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Saving Contributions. See the All Form 8880 Revisions link for previous years' versions of the form and more information about each year's requirements. (The income levels to qualify for the retirement savers' credit were slightly lower for each of the past few years.) See the Saver's Credit factsheet for the income levels from 2015 to 2018. While you're at it, take a look at our 22 Most Overlooked Tax Deductions slideshow to see if you qualified for any other breaks that you missed.

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It can take the IRS up to 16 weeks to process the amended return. You can check its status starting three weeks after you file using the tool Where's My Amended Return? For more information, see the IRS's Amended Return factsheet.

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