I knew I would get a refund for 2020, so I didn't have to file by the normal deadline. At some point in 2021 I prepared a return (with Turbo), used it for a financial aid application, and then promptly forgot to efile it. In my head, I thought I was finished, including the actual filing. When a refund arrived, I didn't notice that it was smaller than expected.

Now I have discovered that the IRS calculated my refund. It didn't include things like college tuition. I would like to remedy this so I get my full refund. Shall I send in my own tax return as though they had not sent me a refund, or should I file an "amended return"?

If I need to file an amended return, will I need to work backwards from the IRS transcript to re-engineer what they did? Can I use the Turbo software to do that?

  • 1
    hrblock.com/tax-center/irs/audits-and-tax-notices/… "If you have back tax returns, the IRS can eventually prepare a return for you (called a substitute for return). The IRS prepares the return based on the information it has from your employer, bank, and other payers, and the substitute return won’t have any credits or deductions in your favor. In this case, don’t file an amended return. Instead, you can file a Form 1040 to replace the substitute for return, to use a better filing status and any exemptions or credits you may be entitled to."
    – ceejayoz
    Jun 3 at 16:46
  • Does your notice say "substitute for return"?
    – ceejayoz
    Jun 3 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


If you have never filed a return - you just file a return. You have nothing to amend since you filed nothing.

The longer you wait the closer you get to the statute of limitations running out. You have 3 years from the due date of your return (the original due date) to file a claim for refund, after which the IRS will no longer be obligated to refund the money to you.

See here for more information about your situation on the IRS website.

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