1040-X Form: How Americans Abroad Can Amend Their Tax Returns
Filing a tax return can be complicated for anyone. For Americans living abroad, things only get more confusing. It’s easy to make a mistake, forget an important detail, or miss out on a deduction. If this happens to you, don’t worry—you can use the 1040-X Form to amend your original return and make things right.
Here’s what expats need to know.
What Is Form 1040-X?
Form 1040-X: Amended US Individual US Income Tax Return is a form taxpayers can use to fix one or more errors made on a previously filed tax return. For example, if you forgot to declare a certain type of income on your tax return, filing Form 1040-X would allow you to correct that mistake. Likewise, you can use Form 1040-X to claim deductions or credits you weren’t aware of when you filed your original return.
What Is the Difference Between Form 1040 and Form 1040-X?
Form 1040: US Individual Income Tax Return is the most common form used by American taxpayers to file their annual tax returns. Form 1040-X is used to amend a Form 1040 that’s already been filed.
Benefits of Filing Form 1040-X
In some cases, filing Form 1040-X can shield you from facing penalties for an error on your tax return. If you made a mistake that could result in a fine or additional interest, Form 1040-X will help you fix the problem before it gets any worse.
Better still, Form 1040-X allows you to claim any deductions, credits, or exemptions you may have missed when filing your original return. This could reduce—or even erase—your tax bill and possibly qualify you for a refund.
Other common uses for Form 1040-X include:
- Changing your filing election (for example, a married taxpayer could elect to file a joint return with a spouse or choose “married filing separately”)
- Adjusting an amount you entered
- Adding or removing a dependent
- Claiming a carryback due to a loss or unused credit
Who Can File Form 1040-X?
Any taxpayer can use Form 1040-X to amend their tax return as long as the original return was a form from the 1040 series. This includes Form 1040, Form 1040-SR, and Form 1040-NR.
However, Form 1040-X should not be used to correct simple mathematical errors due to miscalculation. The IRS routinely corrects those kinds of mistakes while processing returns.
Form 1040-X Filing Deadlines
You can file Form 1040-X at any time after filing your original tax return. However, to claim a credit or receive a refund, you generally must file within:
- Three years of the date you filed the original return, OR
- Two years of the date you paid the tax you owed on that return
…whichever is later.
If you filed your original return before the due date, the three-year timeframe will start on the due date. For example, if you filed your tax return on March 1 in a year when the deadline was April 15, you will have three years from April 15 to file an amended return to claim a credit or receive a refund.
However, if you were granted an extension, the deadline will be determined by the date you actually filed your return. For example, if you were granted a filing extension until October 15 and you filed your return on July 1, you will have three years from July 1 to file an amended return.
Note: These are the general rules for the Form 1040-X deadline, but there are exceptions. A qualified tax professional will be able to give you a clearer understanding of your options.
How to File Form 1040-X
1. Gather the Relevant Documents
Before starting your Form 1040-X, make sure you have the documents you will need to complete it. For example, if you’re adjusting the income reported on your return, you may need new or amended forms W-2 or 1099 reporting the correct income amount. Or, if you’re hoping to claim a deduction or credit, you’ll need documentation to support your claim.
You will also need a copy of any tax forms you will be amending. Obviously, that starts with Form 1040, but it may also include certain schedules. For example:
- If you’re changing your itemized deductions, you’ll need a copy of the Schedule A you filed
- Changes to revenue or expenses from a business will require Schedule C and Schedule SE
- Adjusting your capital gains or losses will require copies of Form 8949 and Schedule D
…and so on.
2. Check for Available Credits or Deductions
When amending your tax return, it’s also worth double-checking to make sure you’ve captured every opportunity to reduce your tax bill or increase your refund. IRS provides several tax benefits for Americans living overseas, such as:
- Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
- Foreign Tax Credit
- Foreign Housing Credit
- Foreign Housing Deduction
Using these forms, most expats are able to erase their US tax bill entirely. Consult an expat tax professional to learn what options are available for you.
3. Complete Form 1040-X
Next, you’ll have to fill out the form itself.
Form 1040-X involves itemized, line-by-line descriptions of all adjustments that can be made to your Form 1040 tax return. This allows you to select and enter the exact type of amendment you need to make.
4. Submit Your Amended Forms
Once your Form 1040-X is complete, it’s time to submit it to the IRS—along with any supporting documents, such as:
- New or amended W-2s or 1099s
- All tax forms your Form 1040-X is amending, including Form 1040 and any affected schedules
If you’re amending your tax return in response to an IRS notice, attach the notice as well.
You can e-file Form 1040-X as long as you e-filed the tax return you’re amending. If you submitted your original return through the mail, you will have to do the same with your Form 1040-X. The IRS lists four mailing addresses depending on your location. For Americans living abroad, the standard address is:
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215
Note: If you have to make an additional tax payment as a result of your amended return, include the check with your payment if you are mailing a paper form, or visit the IRS website to make an online payment.
The IRS may take up to 16 weeks to process your amended return. (For 2022, that estimate is increased to 20 weeks due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.) You can check the status of your amended return on the IRS’ Where’s My Amended Return? page.
I Haven’t Filed My US Tax Return Yet. What Should I Do?
Every US citizen is required to file an annual tax return regardless of where they live. However, many Americans living abroad aren’t aware of their US tax obligations. If that applies to you, don’t panic. The IRS provides an amnesty program to help expats come into compliance without facing any penalties: the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures.
To use this program, all you have to do is:
- Self-certify that your failure to file was not willful
- File the last three delinquent income tax returns and pay any delinquent taxes you owed during that time (with interest)
- File Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBARs) for the last six years
This will bring you into compliance with IRS regulations. There are other options available to you as well if you are filing expat taxes late but don’t qualify for the streamlined program.
Get Help from a Team of Expat Tax Experts
Hopefully, after reading this, you have a better understanding of Form 1040-X. Still have questions? We have answers! In fact, we can even prepare and file your expat taxes on your behalf.
At Greenback Expat Tax Services, we specialize in helping expats manage their US tax obligations. Just contact us, and we’ll be happy to help you in any way we can, including with Form 1040-X.