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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