How Do I File an Amended California Tax Form 540A?

By LD Withaar - Updated August 24, 2018
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California has changed the way its residents file amended tax returns and it looks like it could make your life a lot simpler. Gone is the three page Form 540X with its five pages of instructions. In its place is a one page Schedule X that you attach to the form you’re amending.

Tip

Use Schedule X along with a Form 540 to file an amended tax return in California.

Schedule X requires basic information to identify yourself, the financial adjustments you’re requesting and your reason for requesting them. It’s designed to quickly reconcile the difference between the original return you filed and the amended one. Attach it to the California Form 540 that applies to you (540, 540NR Long, 540NR Short, or 540 2EZ). Be sure to check the amended box on whichever California Form 540 you use to show it’s an amended return.

Decide When to Amend

In general, you might want to file an amended tax return if your filing status, income, deductions or credits have changed. You might also want to amend if you made an error that increases your tax bill or you realized that you missed a tax break to which you’re entitled. You do not automatically need to file an amended state return just because you filed an amended federal return. The only time that’s warranted is if the amended federal return resulted in an additional amount of tax due to California or an additional California tax refund due to you.

California asks you not to file an amended return to correct errors in your Social Security number, name or address. Call or write instead. The phone number is 800-852-5711. The address is Franchise Tax Board, P.O. Box 942840, Sacramento, CA 94240-0040. If you’re unsure whether you should amend or not, check with a professional tax preparer.

E-File Your Return and Amendment

California has been accepting e-filed tax returns since the 2015 tax year. You can e-file your state tax return in one of two ways: either use a professional tax preparer who is registered as an Electronic Return Originator with the state of California or use an online tax preparation app.

An ERO is authorized by the state to submit returns electronically to the Franchise Tax Board. Most tax preparers in California are EROs. They just have to be licensed and in good standing with the IRS. In fact, if your tax preparer is an approved provider in the IRS’ e-file program, she is automatically enrolled in California’s e-file program.

Beginning in January 2018 for tax year 2017, Californians can e-file amended state tax returns, too. Your licensed tax preparer can e-file an amended 2017 return for you, or, if you e-filed your own original return using a tax preparation app, you may be able to e-file your own amended 2017 return. The tax preparation app you used has to support filing an amended tax return for California. Since e-filing an amended tax return for California is a fairly recent development, not all of them do.

Franchise Tax Board Addresses

If you’re unable to e-file your amended 2017 return, attach a printed copy of Schedule X to a printed copy of the appropriate California Form 540 and mail both to the state’s Franchise Tax Board. Include relevant supporting documentation like a corrected W-2, escrow statement or court documents. If you’re including a payment with your amended return, mail it to Franchise Tax Board, P.O. Box 942867, Sacramento, CA 94267-0001. If you are not including a payment and/or are expecting a California tax refund, mail it to Franchise Tax Board, P.O. Box 942840, Sacramento, CA 94240-0001.

If you’re filing an amended return for tax years 2016 and earlier, you’ll have to mail it in. Use the old Form 540X and mail it to the applicable address above. You can still download and print a Form 540X from the CA.gov website. Since this form been officially discontinued, it may not be as readily available as it used to be at post offices and libraries.

Send it Certified or Registered

When you mail a tax return of any kind, it’s always a good idea to send it via certified mail and request a return receipt. It costs a a few dollars, but this way you’ll have proof that you mailed your amended return and proof that the California Franchise Tax Board received it. Registered mail may also be used. Like certified mail, it provides both proof of mailing and proof it was received. However, registered mail comes with a lot of additional security that you probably don't need, like electronic or physical USPS signatures at each stage of the delivery.

About the Author

LeDona Withaar has over 16 years’ experience in the legal services industry. She worked in the National Association of Securities Dealers alternative dispute resolution program and later ran its mediation program for the western U.S. She was a securities compliance specialist in Capital Group’s legal department and later handled building code and ADA compliance at a commercial interior design firm. LeDona has an MBA from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts and a BA from Mills College in Oakland, California. She currently owns and operates her own small business in addition to writing for business and legal publications.

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