Time Limit on Filing Amended Tax Return

by Kevin on March 11, 2010

As I reviewed my recent article on amending your tax return I noticed I had neglected an importance piece of information. There is a time limit to filing an amended tax return with the Internal Revenue Service.

Three Year Limit to Amend Tax Return

You’ve got three years from the due date of the tax return you are amending to file an amendment. After three years the government says thanks for the free tax dollars, and you can’t get your money back.

(Note: for those that amend a return that you owed money on, you have a two year time limit (rather than three) if you didn’t pay all of the tax you owed in full at the time you filed.)

For example, I recently discovered I completely neglected to list my tuition expenses on my taxes for 2007 and 2008. I was enrolled in my MBA program, and I paid tuition, but I didn’t note it in my taxes.

This year when I did my taxes I got a nice deduction for having spent money on tuition in 2009. Then I thought about the previous two years and noticed I hadn’t deducting anything for tuition.

I’m researching to make sure the same tuition deduction was in place for those two years, but let’s assume for purposes of this example that it was in place during those years.

Amend 2007 Tax Return

I filed my 2007 tax return sometime in the spring of 2008. I don’t have the exact date, but I know it was before the tax deadline of April 15. Let’s say I filed my federal taxes on March 2, 2008.

According to IRS rules I have three years from the filing date to amend this return. So I have until March 1, 2011 to amend the return.

Amend 2008 Tax Return

Again let’s assume I filed on March 2, 2009. I have until March 1, 2012 to amend this return.

I’m glad to learn about this limit and how it works. I thought it was 3 years from the tax year or something like that… so that for the 2007 return I would need to amend the return ASAP. But that isn’t the case.

Using a Tax Professional to Amend My Tax Return

I know, I know. I’ve told you that filing your own taxes is a great idea. And I do our taxes every year.

But in this instance I’ve made a mistake. I’m unfamiliar with the tuition deduction information from 2007 and 2008. I don’t want to make another mistake and amend my return using a deduction that might not exist!

I’m glad to admit my ignorance and reach out to a professional for advice.

Of course we’re in the middle of tax season. Trying to find someone to do my taxes would be painful and likely expensive. Since I know I have until early 2011 to amend the return I plan to wait until a few weeks after tax season wraps up to find a professional to help me out.

Hopefully I’ll end up with a bigger return coming to me. But I’m also preparing myself mentally just in case additional errors are discovered.

Have you made any large tax errors in the past? How quickly did you resolve the issue?

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Budgeting in the Fun Stuff March 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

We didn’t file our mistakes (thankfully), but a big business loss in 2007 prompted us to hire a CPA for our taxes for 2008, 2009, and 2010. After this last filing, we will be back to normal stuff, so we’ll probably do our own taxes again. Thanks for mentioning amended returns though…just because we don’t think we’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean we didn’t after all…

Forest March 13, 2010 at 2:45 am

I do my taxes every year too but to be honest I think I am going to find a pro as I worry I am making mistakes every year! My taxes are UK taxes and although they look a lot easier than the US type I still worry self silly!

Andrew May 24, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Note that this information is not entirely accurate. while the rules stipulate that you have three years from the date you file your taxes within which to file an amended return, they also state that for a return filed early, that is, before the normal (April 15th) deadline, your taxes are deemed to have been filed on the last day to file without an extension. So if you file on March 2nd, you actually have until three years after April 15th to amend your return. If you file for an extension and then file after the normal due date, THEN you have exactly three years to file an amendment. This subtlety could make the difference between being able to file for a particular year or not.

Fitty Stim February 10, 2012 at 9:18 am

Excellent point Andrew. That makes a huge difference.

Anthony May 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Just a quick correction. It is 3 years from the date the return was originally filed OR the date that the return is due. Whichever comes later. For example: on your 2007 tax return, you would have until April 18th 2011. (tax day was extended that year) Not March 1st 2011.

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