The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Filed an amended tax return with the IRS? You have a long wait.

If you file an amended return and owe the IRS, you must pay by the April deadline. Average refunds are down 9 percent.

Amended return Form 1040-X.
If you're filing an amended return using Form 1040-X, know that processing it is a lower priority for the IRS than current-year filings. (Illustration by Emily Wright/The Washington Post; IRS, iStock)
6 min

For the most part, this tax season has been short on drama.

Even though returns received by the Internal Revenue Service are slightly down compared to last year at this time — more than 101 million filed as of April 7 — the number of returns processed is virtually identical.

And as expected, with certain coronavirus-related credits gone, the average refund is smaller, down $297, or 9.3 percent, to $2,878.

A less dysfunctional tax season doesn’t mean people aren’t having issues, especially if they need to amend a return. The process is like a tortoise in the IRS system — slow-moving.

IRS has $1.5 billion in unclaimed 2019 refunds. Is one yours?

I’ve been getting questions from folks who need to file an amended return.

Q: My husband filed our federal taxes and the next day realized he had neglected to report one form. He filed an amended return that significantly reduced the amount of our refund. We filed electronically using Turbo Tax. A direct deposit for the original (significantly higher) amount was deposited into our bank account. We are not sure what to do. Do we just sit tight and wait and then send a check for the overpayment?

During a online tax chat, another reader had a similar question: “I supported my 21-year-old son, who was a full-time student in 2022, so I claimed him as a dependent on my return. He got his first job and filed a return to get his $127 refund. But he did not check the box on his return that said he could be claimed as a dependent on my return. I filed, and my return was rejected by the IRS for this reason. He has since mailed in an amended return with the correction. I want to resubmit my return, but I am concerned that the delay may cause my return to be rejected again. How do I deal with amended return issues with the deadline fast approaching?”

A: “Unfortunately, things like this happen to a number of folks every year,” according to IRS spokesman Eric Smith. “That’s been true for decades.”

The IRS prioritizes processing current-year original returns, especially those claiming a refund, Smith said. In addition, the agency handles all amended returns, regardless of whether they are amending a current or prior year, on a first-in, first-out basis. Taxpayers file about 3 million amended returns each year, agency data show, a sliver of the returns processed each year.

If you need to amend your 2020, 2021, or 2022 Forms 1040 or 1040-SR, you can now file electronically using available tax software products. You’ll use Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

To check the status of your return, use the agency’s Where’s My Amended Return? online tool. You can also call 866-464-2050.

By the way, filing your amended return electronically doesn’t get you to the front of the line. Calling won’t speed things up.

“Whether paper or electronic, all amended returns are handled in the order received,” Smith said. “Right now, it’s taking over 20 weeks to process an amended return.”

The processing time can be even longer if there’s an error, the return is incomplete, or the IRS needs more information. As of April 1, the agency had 1.13 million unprocessed 1040-X forms.

Fear an IRS audit? Here are six alarms that trigger the system.

If after filing your return, you discover that you’ve omitted income, neglected to claim a deduction or credit, or the IRS sends you a letter about your return, here’s the best course of action:

  • Let’s start with a math error. “Regardless of whether they agree in full, disagree in full or partly agree with the math error change, no amended return should be filed,” Smith said. “Everything related to that error can be handled in their response to the notice.”
  • If you get a document-matching notice, usually CP 2000, you don’t need to file an amended return. This type of notice is generated when amounts reported on a return don’t match what employers, banks and other third parties have reported to the IRS on W-2s, 1099s and other forms. Again, just as with a math-error notice, you can handle the issue in response to the IRS notice.

Seven red flags that your tax preparer is a fraud

  • If you catch your own error, wait until after the original return is processed to file the amended return. “That’s because having both an original return and an amended return in the system for the same year at the same time will usually delay the processing of both returns,” Smith said. “If refunds were claimed on both, that could mean a substantial delay for both refunds.”
  • If you are due a refund, beginning this year, direct deposit can be requested for electronically filed amended returns for tax years 2021 and 2022. Previously, taxpayers had to wait for a paper check for any refund.
  • If an amended return shows you owe, pay the IRS by April 18 to avoid interest or a penalty. If you live in an area hit hard by storms last year, you’ll have more time to file and pay. Victims of severe storms in most of California, and parts of Alabama and Georgia, have until Oct. 16 to file their individual and business tax returns and pay what they owe. Some Tennessee, Mississippi, New York, and Arkansas residents have extended filing deadlines too, due to severe weather. To find out if you qualify for the later date, go to and search for “Tax Relief in Disaster Situations.”

Fortunately, you don’t need to mail a check; there are several electronic payment options, including IRS Direct Pay. It’s available only on

“With the uptick in reported instances of mailbox theft and scams like check washing, many in the banking industry and others are recommending that consumers pay their bills electronically, as much as possible,” Smith said.

E-pay is preferred, but if you choose to make the payment by check, send it, along with a payment voucher — Form 1040-V, to the IRS lockbox address for your state of residence, shown on the 1040-V. Make the check or money order payable to “United States Treasury,” not IRS, Smith said.

B.O.M. — The best of Michelle Singletary on personal finance

If you have a personal finance question for Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary, please call 1-855-ASK-POST (1-855-275-7678).

Recession-proof your life: The tsunami of economic news is leading consumers, investors and would-be homeowners alike to ask whether a recession is inevitable. Regardless of the answer, there are practical steps you can take to help shield yourself from a worst-case scenario.

Credit card debt: Carrying credit card debt is never good and you should ditch the habit. Here are seven ways to lower your credit card debt in light of the Fed continuing to raise interest rates.

Money moves for life: For a more sweeping overview of Michelle’s timeless money advice, see Michelle Singletary’s Money Milestones. The interactive package offers guidance for every life stage, whether you’re just starting out in your career to living an abundant life in retirement.

Test Yourself: Do you know where you stand financially? Take our quiz and read advice from Michelle.