How to Amend Your Tax Return: A Guide for US Expats

Filing taxes can be a complicated process—especially for Americans living overseas. It’s easy to make a mistake. Fortunately, the IRS allows expats to amend their tax returns using Form 1040-X.

Here’s what you need to know.

Can I Amend a Tax Return?

Yes. If you need to update or correct a previous tax return, you can file an amended version using Form 1040-X: Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

When to Amend a Tax Return

If you made a mistake when filing your taxes, amending your tax return can protect you from penalties or additional interest. Alternatively, you can file an amended return to claim any tax credits or deductions you may have missed when filing the first time.

Other common reasons for amending a tax return include:

  • Changing your filing status
  • Adding or removing a dependent
  • Adding or removing an income amount
  • Claiming a carryback for a loss or unused credit

When NOT to Amend a Tax Return

There are times when filing an amended tax return isn’t called for.

First, if you made a simple mathematical error when calculating your taxes, you generally wouldn’t need to file an amended return. The IRS will correct those types of mistakes when processing your return. If the error changes the amount you were required to pay, the IRS will send you a refund or a bill for any additional taxes owed.

You also usually wouldn’t have to file an amended return if you forgot to include a form in your return, such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS will contact you with a request for those forms if necessary.

Other times when you shouldn’t amend your tax return include:

  • You received a CP2000 notice from the IRS
  • You received an audit notice from the IRS
  • The IRS rejected your e-filed return

In each of these cases, filing an amended return would likely complicate the situation unnecessarily.

What Is the Due Date for an Amended Tax Return?

You can file an amended tax return at any point after filing the original return. However, to receive a refund or claim a credit, you usually must file within whichever of these timelines is later:

  • Three years after filing your original return
  • Two years after paying any tax you owed on your original return

If you filed your original return before it was due, the three-year deadline will start on the due date rather than the day you filed. For example, if the return was due on April 18 but you filed on February 1, you would have three years from April 18 to claim a credit or refund through an amended return.

If you requested an extension, on the other hand, the deadline will be three years from the date you filed the return, regardless of the due date. For example, if you requested an extension until October 17 and filed your return on August 1, the deadline for claiming a credit or refund would be three years from August 1.

How to File an Amended Tax Return

1. Gather the Right Documents

When preparing to amend your tax return, the first thing to do is gather any documents you’ll need. The most obvious example of this is Form 1040-X, which you will use to amend the return. Aside from this, you made need other forms to complete it accurately.

For example, if you’re claiming a credit or deduction, you should have the documents that support your claim on hand. Or, if you’re adjusting the employment income reported on your return, you may a need new or amended Form W-2.

You will also need a copy of the tax forms you’re amending. That starts with your Form 1040 tax return itself, but it will also include other forms or schedules. For example, if you’re adjusting your capital gains or losses, you’ll need copies of Schedule D and Form 8949.

2. Claim Any Credits or Deductions Available

Even if you’re amending your tax return for a different reason, it’s always a good idea to check for opportunities to reduce your tax bill. The IRS provides several tax benefits for Americans living abroad, such as the:

Using these benefits, most expats can erase their US tax bill altogether. An expat tax professional can advise you on which options are available for you.

3. Fill Out Form 1040-X

Next, just fill out Form 1040-X itself. This form features a list of any adjustments you can make to your return. Simply review your options and enter the adjustments you want to make.

4. Submit Form 1040-X

Once you’ve completed Form 1040-X, you’re ready to submit it to the IRS along with any supporting documents.

If you filed your tax return online, you can e-file the amended return as well. If you filed your return through the mail, you will have to do the same with Form 1040-X.

Usually, the IRS takes up to 16 weeks to process an amended return. However, due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve increased that timeline to 20 weeks for tax year 2022.

Get Help from an Expat Tax Professional

We hope that this guide has helped you understand how to amend your tax return. If you still have questions, we have the answers. In fact, we can even prepare your expat taxes on your behalf.

At Greenback Expat Tax Services, we specialize in helping expats file their US taxes accurately and on time. Just contact us, and we’ll be happy to help you in any way we can.

Learn more about our services and flat-fee pricing to file your expat taxes.