Shoeboxed, the #1 receipt scanner app, asked Caryl Ramsey, bookkeeper extraordinaire, for tips on what to do if you have duplicated your tax return. Read on!

Most taxpayers don’t want to file taxes once, not to mention twice. However, there are times when the same social security number will end up in the IRS’s database twice in the same year. Once this happens, it raises a red flag, and the IRS rejects the return until they can determine why the return has been filed twice.

This red flag leads to several questions. How does filing duplicate tax returns occur? Can you file taxes twice? Are there times when duplicate tax returns should be filed? What should you do if you accidentally file a tax return twice? And, finally, how do you go back and correct a problem with the initial return that you filed?

Filing duplicate tax returns: why does it happen?

If the same tax return has been filed twice, it can mean one of two things. It was either filed in error the second time, or you could be a victim of identity theft.

While filing taxes twice can sound like a highly unlikely occurrence, filing your own taxes can be a very stressful process, and stress can make you more prone to errors.

There are several reasons why someone might file their taxes twice. The taxpayer may forget that they’ve already submitted a return and submit it a second time. The taxpayer may have also made a mistake on the first return and submitted a second return thinking that this was the correct process for correcting the mistake. 

However, filing a return twice is not the correct process for rectifying errors. It only further complicates matters and leads to more problems. Another reason for a tax return to be submitted twice is that someone else could have used your social security number to file a return. In that case, you could be a victim of identity theft.

Are there any situations that call for filing duplicate tax returns?

There are never any situations for filing duplicate tax returns. Some taxpayers think that you file a second return to correct a mistake on the first return, but this is not the case. While you can go back and rectify errors, there is a different tax form for doing this. This form is known as Form 1040-X and is the Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Taxes can be filed either by physically mailing your return to the IRS or filing the return through the IRS’s online submission portal. So, while you may file or submit your tax return twice, only one return will be accepted by the IRS. Therefore, you may submit duplicate tax returns, but only one will actually be accepted and filed.

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What happens if you file duplicate tax returns?

So what happens if you file twice? If you do happen to file duplicate tax returns, the IRS will accept the first tax return you submitted. If a second tax return is submitted under the same social security number, the subsequent return will be flagged by the IRS’s automated system, the return will be rejected, and an explanation and error code will be sent to you. The IRS will then investigate the flagged return to determine if it was submitted by mistake, a tax fraud attempt, or possibly a situation of identity theft.

Step-by-step on what to do if a duplicate tax return has been filed

Try not to panic if you file a duplicate tax return. While it may further complicate the process, there are steps you can take to resolve the matter.

Step-by-step on what to do if a duplicate tax return has been filed

Step-by-step on what to do if a duplicate tax return has been filed

Step 1. Recheck the information on your tax return.

After receiving the rejection notification, recheck the information on the return to make sure you entered everything correctly, especially your social security number. If the information is the same on both forms, you may not need to do anything because the IRS is likely to recognize that the second submission was made in error.

Step 2. If you made a mistake, complete and submit Form 1040-X.

If you filed a duplicate tax return to correct a mistake on the original return, you will need to complete and submit Form 1040-X, which is an amended tax return form. You should eventually receive an acknowledgment back from the IRS confirming that the information on the first return has been updated. If you haven’t heard back from the IRS after 3 weeks, contact them directly through their toll-free number (800-829-1040) and inquire about the status.

Step 3. In the case of identity theft, contact the IRS.

If the IRS notifies you of a duplicate tax return submission and you’re confident that you didn’t file your taxes twice, promptly contact the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission. This means that someone else could be using your social security number to file taxes which would lead to a criminal investigation.

Step-by-step on how to fix a problem with the first tax return

There is a process for correcting errors on the first tax return. It involves completing and submitting Form 1040-X to the IRS. Here are the steps to complete that process.

Step-by-step on how to fix a problem with the first tax return

Step-by-step on how to fix a problem with the first tax return

Step 1. Gather needed information.

Gather your original return and any supporting documentation for the changes being made on the tax return.

Step 2. Download Form 1040-X.

Make sure you have access to Form 1040-X and any of the schedules or other forms that will be impacted.

Step 3. Fill out Form 1040-X.

Now, it’s time to fill out Form 1040-X. In column A, fill out the numbers previously reported on your tax return. In column B, enter the amount that needs to be increased or decreased. In column C, add the total from column A and column B. In Part III, write an explanation for why the amended return was needed.

Step 4. Submit your amended return. 

Starting with 2021, you can e-file amended tax returns. For 2020 or earlier, you’ll need to mail Form 1040-X and any supporting documentation to the address provided. If the amendment results in additional taxes due, make a payment on the IRS website or mail a check with the amendment. If you make the payment now instead of waiting for an invoice, you can minimize any penalties and interest you might owe.

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Frequently asked questions

What is Form 1040-X?

Form 1040-X is a form used by taxpayers who need to amend or correct a mistake on a tax return that has been filed previously.

Can I get fined for filing a tax return twice?

No. Individuals who accidentally file duplicate tax returns will not be fined.

In closing

Tax forms and submissions are confusing to a lot of taxpayers, so it’s not unheard of for someone to file their tax return twice. While it may delay and complicate the process to some extent, it’s a problem that can be easily dealt with. 

One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to not wait until the last minute to file your tax return. Working under pressure will cause you to make more mistakes, such as double submissions or incorrectly entering information that will lead to an amended return.

If the filing of duplicate tax returns is due to identity theft, the IRS has very efficient practices in place to protect and notify the taxpayer.

Caryl Ramsey has years of experience assisting in different aspects of bookkeeping, taxes, and customer service. She uses a variety of accounting software for setting up client information, reconciling accounts, coding expenses, running financial reports, and preparing tax returns. She is also experienced in setting up corporations with the State Corporation Commission and the IRS.

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