When you e-file your income tax return, the processing time for the IRS to review your tax return is much shorter than when you mail it in. Unfortunately, you might still get a little impatient waiting to see if the return has been processed online and submit it again. Don't worry, though, because the IRS will only process one return with your information and will reject the other if you're guilty of accidentally filing your taxes twice. But, if you receive a rejection stating that your return was already filed but you haven't filed it yet, it could mean that your identity was stolen.
For some individuals, tax filing season is made even more stressful when they discover that a return has already been e-filed in their name. The IRS will not accept a second return under the same identity, and will contact you to determine what problem has occurred.
Can You File Your Tax Return Twice?
When you file your income tax return electronically, the IRS will receive and begin processing it within 24 to 48 hours. Most tax return software programs show you the status of your return and will not allow you to e-file the same return again. If, somehow, you manage to e-file the same return twice, the IRS will scan your return for duplicate information within the system. This information includes your Social Security number, your spouse's Social Security number if you filed a joint return and any dependents' Social Security numbers. Once the IRS determines that a return with any of these numbers for the current tax year has already been filed, it will reject the second return. You will receive an email detailing that the return has been rejected because it appears to be a duplicate in the system.
Amending a Return
If you find that you have made an error on your tax return, don't try to re-file it online with the corrected information. This will trigger a rejection because the IRS only accepts one tax return per year with your information, even if the new return differs from the original. To correct anything on the tax return, you will need to file Form 1040X - Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return with the IRS. Fill in all of your information, including the corrected information and file this form by mail because you cannot file an amended return electronically.
Dealing With Identity Theft
If your tax return is rejected because a return for the same tax year with your Social Security number has already been received by the IRS, you may be the victim of identity theft. What this means is that someone else has filed a return using your name and number. Unfortunately, once a return has been filed, even if it's fraudulent, you will have to file your tax return by mail. You will also need to fill out and include IRS Form 14039 – Identity Theft Affidavit. This allows the IRS to properly file your income tax return and investigate the fraudulent return.
Avoiding Filing Errors
Once you have filed your tax return electronically, don't attempt to submit the return again. You will receive confirmation from the IRS that your return has been received within 48 hours by email. Also, don't claim a dependent on your tax return that someone else has already claimed. If your return was rejected due to errors other than filing two tax returns, you can correct those errors and then e-file the tax return again with the corrected information. Note that some errors may require you to file by mail.
If you are waiting for your IRS refund, e-filing your taxes more than once won't speed up the processing of your tax return. To check on the processing of your return, use the IRS online Where's My Refund? tool. This tool lets you know the status of your return and any refund within 24 hours of e-filing. You can also use the IRS2Go app to check on the status of the return and refund. You will need your refund amount, Social Security number and filing status to use these tools.
- Internal Revenue Service: Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft
- Internal Revenue Service: Age, Name or SSN Rejects, Errors, Correction Procedures
- Internal Revenue Service: Ten Facts on Filing an Amended Tax Return
- Internal Revenue Service: 2017 Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions
- Internal Revenue Service: Seven Reasons Taxpayers Should E-file Their Taxes in 2017
- Internal Revenue Service: Refunds
- Internal Revenue Service: Form 1040X
- Internal Revenue Service: Form 14039
- IRS. "Filing Season Statistics for Week Ending June 26, 2020." Accessed July 7, 2020.
- IRS. "Common Penalties for Individuals." Accessed July 7, 2020.
- IRS. "Third Party Authorization Purpose." Accessed July 7, 2020.
- IRS. "Refund Timing for Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit Filers." Accessed July 7, 2020.
Susan Paretts has contributed to a variety of publications and websites about financial topics including City National Bank, Bizfluent, AZCentral, Consumer Reports and Money Magazine among others. Her expertise is in tax law, nonprofit issues, small business concerns, ways to grow you business, financial planning and retirement.