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taxes

How to File an Amended Tax Return

If you missed a tax break, you could qualify for a retroactive refund. You generally have three years after the filing deadline to claim it.

I read your column about how you can take advantage of a portion of the child-care credit even if you use your flexible-spending account for child-care costs. I have two kids and a lot of child-care expenses, and it looks as if I would have qualified for the extra credit for the past few years, but I didn’t know I could claim it. Is it too late to file an amended return to get the money?

No, it’s not too late. You generally have until three years after the deadline for filing your original federal tax return (or three years after the date you filed your return, if you received an extension) to file an amended return if you missed a tax break or need to make other changes. The sooner you file the amended return, the sooner you’ll get the refund.

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Download Form 1040X, enter the year of the return you are amending, fill in the new numbers, and attach any tax forms that are affected by the change (you’ll need to submit Form 2441 for the dependent-care credit, for example). You must file a separate form 1040X for each tax year you are amending and mail them in separate envelopes (you can’t file an amended return electronically). For more information, see the IRS’s amended returns information page and amended return FAQs.

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It can take up to 16 weeks for the IRS to process an amended return. You can check the status using the IRS’s Where’s My Amended Return? tool, starting three weeks after you mail your amended return. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, birth date and zip code.

Before you submit the amended return, take some time to see if you missed any other frequently overlooked deductions. See The Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions for some ideas.

And note that snagging a retroactive refund for federal taxes may mean you’re due one for state taxes, too. Check with your state for instructions on how to amend your state income tax return.

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