How to Change Your Tax Filing Status

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All is not lost if you make a mistake and select the wrong tax filing status on your annual income tax return. The Internal Revenue Service not only allows you to change your tax filing status from one year to the next, but in most cases it allows you to amend an incorrect filing status on an already filed return.

Establish Eligibility

The IRS allows you to change your tax filing status in most situations. For example, you can amend a return to change your status from single to head of household or from married filing separately to married filing jointly. However, the one change you may not be able make is to switch from married filing jointly to married filing separately. Once you file a joint tax return, you cannot amend your filing status after the filing due date for the current year. The IRS allows an exception: A personal representative for a decedent can amend a joint return filed by a surviving spouse to a separate return for the decedent.

Time Constraints

Unless you are amending a return for someone who has died, the IRS allows a three-year window in which to amend a tax filing status. The three-year window begins on April 15 if you file on or before this date. However, if you request an extension and file after April 15, the countdown begins on the filing date. For a decedent’s return, you have one year from the April 15 due date regardless of when you actually file the return.

Fill out Form 1040X

Use Form 1040X to amend a tax filing status regardless of which tax form you initially used. If you’re amending a tax status for more than one year, file a separate form for each year. Select the correct filing status and show both the original and corrected numbers in the top section. In Part III, explain why you are amending your filing status. For example, a newly divorced person may want to switch from filing single to filing as head of household to get a larger standard deduction.

Filing an Amended Return

When changing your status, you need to fill out and file a paper return. As of the date of publication, the IRS does not have an option to file an amended return electronically. Read the instructions carefully, as the mailing address is often different from that of a regular return. Send the return via certified mail with a return receipt to verify delivery. After three weeks, start checking for status updates -- received, adjusted or completed -- online or by calling 1-866-464-2050.