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Made a tax mistake? Make amends!

Nobody's perfect, especially when it comes to taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service keeps track of the top mistakes made each filing season, both by individual filers filling out their taxes on their own and by paid preparers.

Yes, even tax pros trip up now and then.

And although tax software has been a blessing for many filers, it's no guarantee of a perfect return. The adage garbage-in, garbage-out is the perfect motto for tax time.

So it's no surprise that the IRS still sees a lot of mistakes on our returns. Among the most common wrong entries this year are:

  • The wrong amount of taxable Social Security benefits was entered. 
  • The amount of tax entered was incorrect based on taxable income and filing status
  • The amount of tax entered was wrong because tax rates on qualified dividends and capital gains are generally lower than the standard income tax rates.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit was figured or entered incorrectly.
  • The last name of one or more dependents doesn't match IRS records or the records provided by the Social Security Administration.
  • The amount of business income or loss was incorrect because there was an error on Schedule C or C-EZ.

But as the latest Weekly Tax Tip points out, the IRS gives you a second chance. You can file an amended tax return via Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and straighten out your taxes.

Here are some key things to think about when amending a tax return.

Form 1040X works to correct errors on all previously filed tax forms: the 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

You cannot e-file an amended return. You must send in a paper 1040X.

Generally, you don't need to file an amended return to correct math errors. The IRS will automatically make these corrections.

Don't file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will send you a request asking for the documents.

Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. You usually must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing office. You can find those addresses in the 1040X instructions.

If your changes involve another schedule or form, attach that schedule or form to the amended return. In fact, be very thorough when telling the IRS why your are amending your original return.

When your amended return nets you more refund money, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X.

But you don't have to wait to cash that first refund check. Go ahead and put that tax cash back to good use.

If, on the other hand, your 1040X means you owe Uncle Sam -- and yes, you should send in the correct filing information even if it means you owe more taxes -- file the amended from as soon as possible. It's better that you catch the mistake before the IRS does.

Plus, your amended, correct return will put a stop to accruing penalties and interest sooner.

Finally, remember that your state tax liability could be affected by any change made on federal Form 1040X. For information on how to correct your state tax return, contact your state tax office.

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