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How and When to File a Superseding Tax Return

There is no question the tax code is massive. No matter how knowledgeable or experienced you are, mistakes will happen. The consequences of such mistakes can be minor or they can cost serious amounts of additional tax, interest and penalties.

Filing an amended return is your only option after the due date, including extensions. An amended return solves most problems. Interest and penalties may apply. In some cases even an amended return can’t fix an error; you could lose entire deductions forever.

The number of elections available is large. Some are irrevocable. Making, or failing to make, an election is set in stone in some cases with the original return. Failure to check one little box can cost you a large deduction permanently.

A superseding return may be the only option if you file it on time.

Amended or Superseding Return

A superseding tax return incorporates the new information into the original tax return if filed by the due date, including extensions. 

A superseding return is filed after a subsequent return and before the due date, plus extensions. (That was worth repeating.) The second return is a superseding return. A superseding return it generally treated as the original return, incorporating the new information and modifying (superseding) the earlier return.

Here is a small example where a superseding return is valuable tool.

A common error involves the Section 1.263(a)-1(f) de minimis safe harbor election. Most tax professionals (and readers of this blog) know they can deduct assets up to $2,500 rather than depreciate these expenses over a number of years if they make the appropriate election. The election is required every year. (The IRS says the election must be made “timely”. I take this to mean the election must be made on an original return filed by the due date, plus extensions. A late filed return may not allow the election.) The election is irrevocable.

In my office we automatically make this election for all returns with rental properties or a small business. (All corporate and partnerships returns also automatically get the election.)

Making the safe harbor election covers items a client may have neglected to inform the tax preparer of. If the election is made and not necessary, no harm done. If the election is necessary and forgotten, serious potential harm exists.


The IRS is less than clear when it comes to superseding returns. Corporations (S-corps, too) have a nifty box to check when e-filing a superseding return. Only corporations can electronically file a superseding return. Be sure to check the appropriate box or the IRS will probably reject the return as duplicate.

There are IRS instructions on when a superseding return must be filed on an individual income tax return. Unfortunately there are no instructions how to do it!

Superseding personal returns MUST be paper filed. Some tax professionals prefer filing a superseding personal return in the format of an original return and writing “SUPERSEDING RETURN” across the top of the first page. Because this will probably be flagged as a duplicate return another method is advised.

A superseding personal return should be prepared as an amended return on Form 1040X. (There is no superseding box to check.) All amended personal returns filed before the due date, including extensions, are automatically treated as superseding, incorporating the new data and modifying the original return. This means a forgotten irrevocable election CAN be made and is treated as if made on the originally filed return.

If a superseding return is filed before the due date (without consideration for extensions) interest and penalties are also avoided.

Amended returns filed after the due date, including extensions, are not incorporated into the original return. A required “timely” election is not allowed at this point.

In English, What Does This Mean?

The concept is short and simple, but often forgotten. A business owner may discover forgotten deductions for her business return when filing her personal return. The superseding return is a simple and fast solution for a previously filed corporate return. Add the new data, check the box marking the return as superseding and electronically file.

Individuals file an amended return for the same result, which must be mailed.

It sounds like a minor issue. When I review returns from outside my firm I need a powerful tool to make changes, especially when elections are involved. The tax code doesn’t automatically grant you preferred treatment. Special treatment must be requested in writing. Many elections are irrevocable. Many elections are required on an originally return filed by the due date, including extensions.

In English, filing an amended return before the due date (including extensions) on a personal return supersedes the originally filed return and solves most election issues. You can add a forgotten election if you catch it in time. Waiting for the IRS letter is too late. Consider the superseding return an amended return with a really tight due date, allowing you full sway in how the original return looks. It also eliminates or reduces interest and penalties.


Tuesday 18th of May 2021

Hi Keith,

I filed my original return on 05/14 and on that I missed some captial gain 1099 with large profit($70000) because I had multiple trading accounts...I immediately fixed/amended it using the tax software and efiled it on 05/15 and since I filed the amendment before the tax deadline, It supersedes the original return right?.....also please explain legal protections between a superseded filing (amendment before due date) and the regular amendment done after due date is well passed......would i avoid penalities or legal issues since I fixed it before the due date, even though that amount was huge?

Keith Taxguy

Wednesday 19th of May 2021


If you filed the amend by the due date, including extensions (if you have one) you have a superseding return. The superseding return now becomes the originally filed return. Why is this important? Some elections made on a tax return must be made on an originally timely filed return. If you catch the missed election before the due date you can file the superseding return which then becomes the original, making the election valid.

John Langlais

Thursday 8th of April 2021

Keith, with the recent rule change that allows the 1040X to be filed electronically, will a 1040X that is filed electronically before the due date (extended this year to May 17, 2021) be considered a Superseding return? Additionally, if the taxpayer neglected to make an IRA or HSA contribution before filing the original return, may those contributions be made and then file a superseding return to reflect them?

Keith Taxguy

Thursday 8th of April 2021

A superseding return replaces the prior filed return. Filing on the 1040X before the due date of the original return effectively makes that the superseding return. IRA contributions, etc are all required by the due date which is May 17th in 2021.


Monday 16th of September 2019

Thanks, that make sense, the hope is that the one dropped off late on Saturday is already on the way, the plan today is to wait until 4:30 PM and get the superseded one postmarked as late in the day as possible. Media mail seemed like an option because it takes longer to deliver, however it is unknown if media mail an acceptable form of postage for tax returns.

Another option would be to wait and do an amended return a couple of weeks later, but from what I understand superseded return is a better choice as long as the option is there.

The error was with the Section 179, instructions said to add it, but the software would not agree since it transfers over to the K1


Monday 16th of September 2019

Keith, when filing a Superseding tax return for a partnership for 1065, would it be preferable to checkbox "amended return" on the Superseding Tax Return even though it is a Superseding return filed before the due date, not an actual amended return?

In addition, if a Superseding tax return gets sent 1 day after the first return, is there any benefit in sending it express so that the IRS received the Superseding one first or does this not make any difference?

Thank you

Keith Taxguy

Monday 16th of September 2019

Nedim, you need to check the amended return box so the IRS computers are not confused. It is still treated as superseding.

I would clearly mark on the top of Form 1065 the return is superseding. I can see this becoming a mess real easy.


Thursday 22nd of February 2018

Keith, where is the box to check to do a superceding tax return on an S-Corp Form 1120-S? I dont see the box.

Keith Taxguy

Thursday 22nd of February 2018

It depends on the software, John. In my office software they don't have a checkbox. Instead, check the "Amended Return" box. A return filed before the due date with an original already on file will incorporate the new data into the original solving election and other issues required on a timely filed original return.

I suspect many tax professionals and DIY taxpayers have unwittingly filed a superseding return. This is a good thing. The important point is to get the amended return in before the due date, including extension (superseding). What you mustn't do is throw up your hands when an election is missed. Instead, be thankful you caught it before the due date and get that superseding return out. Superseding individual returns are always handled with a 1040X filed by the due date, including extensions. The only difference is corporate superseding/amended returns are efiled and personal returns must be paper filed.