How Far Would I Go Back to Amend My Income Taxes?

The question of how far can one go back to correct a previously filed income tax return is not only time sensitive but also quite dicey (legally speaking), especially for foreigners living permanently or temporarily in the United States. But before that, let’s put a few things straight.

For starters, an income tax amendment is simply a correction to a return that was filed sometime in the past. Technically speaking, you are allowed to make amendments to a return should you discover deductions or credits that you’re eligible to (but which you missed during the original filing process). The ball rolls both ways, however.

You’re also required by the law to amend your tax return if you discover that you hadn’t included a part of your annual income while filing the original tax returns.

And if any of these amendments result in any changes to your federal taxable income, you’re also legally obligated to file an amendment for your annual state tax return as well.

That being said, the gavel is struck differently for different tax brackets as far as how far one can go to correct a filed return. Here’s a quick primer on that.

1. Federal Taxes

Generally speaking, federal taxes can be amended as far back as three from the original due date of the return. Note that ‘the original due date of the income tax return’ is not the same as the ‘original tax year.’ In addition to making amendments to changes in the deductions, credits, and general income, you can also amend your previously filed return to omit or add new dependents. You can also change your filing status from ‘single’ to ‘married’ or vice-versa as long as you weren’t filing jointly with your previous spouse.

2. State Taxes

Some states will impose income tax on their residents. In such a case, you’re obligated to file a new state return if any changes made in the federal tax amendment will result in alterations in the resultant federal taxable income. Like federal taxes above, you usually have three years from the original due date of the previously filed state return.

3. Substitute Returns

A substitute return is basically an income tax return the state or the IRS will prepare for you. This is quite common among foreigners especially when the taxing authority receives income documents from your employer/any other third party without an accompanying tax return from you for the same tax year. The IRS or the concerned state taxing authority will then use the income document to prepare a tax return. As it often happens, the taxing authority will miss any eligible deductions or list an incorrect filing status. If this happens, you can request an amendment to the previously filed substitute tax return at any time. There are no time limits whatsoever on how far this can go.

In Closing: How to Order Income Documents

Just as the IRS or any other stately taxing authority will use your income documents ( sourced from your employer ) to prepare a personal substitute return for you, you too can also make use of the same information to verify/proof that you’ve included all your qualifying income when making an amending a return. You can order these docs by completing one IRS Form 4506-T then checking the box found on line 8. You should receive a transcript showing the companies you’ve worked for, the amount of money earned and, of course, any taxes that were withheld from your previous payments/earnings.

Read more about When You Can File an Amended Tax Return.