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If you have 2019 tax credits you overlooked, you can file an amended return electronically

Key Points
  • Amended returns are normally prepared by hand and delivered by mail. You might file one if you missed some income in a prior year, or if you were eligible for certain tax credits but didn’t claim them.
  • The IRS has said it would start receiving e-filed amended returns for the 2019 tax year this summer. The agency receives about 3 million filings of Form 1040-X each year.
  • Tax professionals at H&R Block will begin accepting these electronic returns on Aug. 17. Other tax preparation companies and software providers are adding the necessary forms.
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If you missed a couple of tax credits when you rushed your 2019 tax return out the door in July, you might soon be able to amend it without leaving your living room.

While most taxpayers submit tax returns electronically, amended income tax returns — updates to your Form 1040 — are only processed on paper. You or your tax professional would then send the return to the IRS via certified mail.

The taxman said it would begin accepting e-filed amended returns for the 2019 tax year this summer, and tax prep providers and software companies are just now adding the necessary forms.

The IRS receives about 3 million filings of Form 1040-X — the one for amended returns — every year.

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Tax professionals at H&R Block will start processing 2019 e-filed amended returns on Aug. 17, said Andy Phillips, director at the Tax Institute at H&R Block. Do-it-yourselfers who file through the company will be able to e-file last year's 1040-X starting in 2021, he said.

"It's not that burdensome once you understand it, but printing and mailing the return to the right location, including the forms and the postage, can be daunting and inconvenient," said Phillips.

TurboTax is also gearing up and should have the capability "in a few weeks," said Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and tax expert at the firm.

"On amended returns, e-filing just gives you more accuracy," she said.

Amending in a time of Covid-19

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In an otherwise uneventful year, filing an amended return can be a headache.

For instance, taxpayers might receive a corrected Form 1099 from their brokerage firm or a late Schedule K-1 from a partnership after they've already filed, and they'll need to make the appropriate updates to report the income.

"It's such an archaic process," said Albert Campo, CPA and managing partner at AJC Accounting Services in Manalapan, New Jersey. "When you submit it by paper, there's that element of human error."    

The pandemic compounded the problem. During the spring, IRS employees worked remotely and the mail piled up at the agency's offices.

"With the IRS having to shut down processing centers and dig out from millions of pieces of mail, any advancement in the ability to file electronically means a lot to taxpayers," said Phillips.

Individuals with amended returns from 2018 or 2017 will still need to turn in paper documents. Further, if you owe taxes from those years, penalties and interest continue to accrue.

Stem the bleeding by paying the IRS online.