Taking time to review some of your previous tax returns could produce a tax refund if you find that you paid extra tax dollars because you overlooked something when you filed.  Check the returns you filed in 2012 and thereafter because you can amend a return within three years of the date you filed it or within two years from the date you actually paid your taxes, whichever is later.

What to look for

There are several common oversights you should look for.  Filing an amended return for any of them could result in a refund.

  • Not taking all the deductions you deserved.  One example that is often overlooked is the deduction for investment interest.  You might find others that you should have taken in the past by comparing previous returns with your 2014 return.  If you did omit a deduction, it might be worth amending an earlier return.
  • Claiming the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions.  Some taxpayers claim the standard deduction because they wait until the last minute and don’t have the time to itemize their deductions.   Others claim the standard deduction because they don’t have the necessary information to itemize their deductions when the filing deadline arrives.  Regardless of your reason, if you claimed the standard deduction, you should check to see whether you would have saved money by itemizing your deductions.  If you claimed the standard deduction in any of the previous years, reviewing it against a checklist of possible itemized deductions is a good way to see what you might have overlooked.
  • Forgetting to take tax credits.  It’s not unusual for taxpayers to overlook certain tax credits such as the child care credit, the earned income credit, adoption credit, and education credits.  Make sure you took all the credits you deserved on your previous returns.
  • Overlooking exemptions.  The most commonly overlooked exemption is for parents who did not live with you during the year, but otherwise qualify as dependents because of contributions you make toward their support.
  • Electing the wrong filing status.  Married couples who file separately usually pay higher taxes than if they file jointly.  You can amend your return if filing jointly would have lowered your taxes.
  • Paying too much Social Security.  If you had more than one employer in a particular year, you may have paid too much Social Security.  The maximum you must pay varies from year to year, but your old returns will indicate the correct maximum amount.
  • Omitting the home office deduction for the business use of a home.  An individual’s trade or business must meet specific tests to take a deduction for the business use of a home.