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Can I Amend My Tax Return for Education?

If the motivation for amending your tax return is to meet income limitations for your school’s scholarship offerings, maximize your federal student aid package or to take advantage of an educational tax benefit, such as the American opportunity credit for your education expenses, you’re still required to follow the IRS rules and tax laws that apply to the tax year that you’ll be amending. The IRS doesn’t need to know why you want to amend your tax return – its only concern is that it receives a complete and accurate Form 1040X from you.

Tax Years You Can Amend

After you amend your tax return and calculate a new income tax bill, you may be entitled to an additional tax refund. However, there is a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time you have to file a 1040X, the amended income tax return form. You have three years from the date of the original tax return’s filing deadline or the date you actually filed it, whichever is later. This three-year period starts on the April 15 deadline (or the next business day if a weekend or holiday) if you mailed or e-filed the original tax return on time, even if early. But when you file the tax return late, you use the actual mailing or e-filing date as the first day of the three-year period.

Reasons to Amend Tax Return

There are a wide range of reasons why taxpayers file tax returns that may need to amend later on. Typical tax return issues include forgetting to take money-saving deductions, such as for college tuition, reporting tax-exempt scholarships as taxable income or forgetting to take a tax credit, such as the lifetime learning credit. However, some taxpayers file Form 1040X to increase their tax bills as well when they realize they’ve claimed a tax benefit that they’re not really eligible for.

The IRS only wants to receive tax returns that are accurate and final, even if it means amending them later. The agency, however, doesn’t want to receive 1040X forms if the changes only relate to computational errors. The agency reviews every return it receives for computational accuracy and automatically corrects your tax return when necessary. But this doesn’t happen immediately. You need to give the IRS about two or three months to process your original tax return before it can redo the math. For example, if every line of your tax return reports an accurate figure and the only mistake you make relates to adding and subtracting each line to arrive at your taxable income, you shouldn’t amend your return. However, if you don’t receive an IRS notice that advises you of the math errors and the corrections that were made after three months, only then should you amend your return since perhaps the IRS missed it.

Filling Out IRS Form 1040X

When filling out your IRS Form 1040X, you’ll notice that the form isn’t as lengthy as the original 1040 form you completed. You only need to update the original lines of your tax return that will change. For example, amending your tax return to claim a $1,000 American opportunity credit simply requires you to insert the credit onto the appropriate 1040X line and then update your tax bill – which should decrease by $1,000. One thing you should always remember is that you need to attach any schedules or additional tax forms that change or weren’t filed with the original return. In the case of an American opportunity credit, you’ll need to prepare a Form 8863 with your Form 1040X.

Reference: IRS Publication 556-Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund