Lawrence T. Ullmann, Attorney At Law
Tax, estate and trust planning, and real estate advice and representation from an experienced attorney.
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Every year, Congress makes changes to the tax code, and keeping up with these changes can be challenging even for tax professionals. Therefore, if you complete your own taxes, you may inadvertently make a mistake.

This is what happens if you make a mistake on your taxes.

No one identifies the mistake

In some cases, neither you nor the IRS finds your error. Although nothing typically happens initially, a future audit may reveal your error and you may face penalties and interest if you owe money. Remember that the IRS can audit your return for three years after you file.

The IRS identifies the mistake

The IRS has extensive technological tools that it uses to find errors on tax returns. This software compares the information you submit with any files submitted by employers or other sources. These programs check every return, so they are likely to catch an error.

When the automated program finds an error, it flags the file and sends it to an individual for analysis. If the IRS catches the mistake, the office may correct it and send you the updated filing as well as a bill for any taxes, penalties and interest you owe.

You identify the mistake

In some cases, you may be the first to find your error. If you find a mistake, you can file an amended return or 1040-X. The form requires an explanation of why you are amending your taxes. You typically have three years to file your amendment.

If you did not intentionally make a mistake on your taxes, you are unlikely to face criminal charges and jail time. However, you should keep the lines of communication open if the IRS or you find an error. Be prompt in your payment to avoid additional interest and penalties.