Error Correction in Business Documents and Forms
Correcting Errors in Tax Forms
Using the form for the wrong year (Use the form for the tax year, not the year you are completing the form)We've all been there. We read through an important document and discovered an error. And the error was significant. Mixing up the lessor (the building owner) and the lessee (the company leasing the space) in a lease document, for example, is a common error. Errors can happen in leases, employment agreements, real estate contracts, sales agreements, tax forms...any legal document.
Errors in Your Legal Document
When you find an error, take steps to correct it as soon as possible. You'll need to bring the error to the attention of any other party or parties involved in the document, especially if it's any type of signed contract.
Follow these standard steps for correcting mistakes in important documents:
- Line through the incorrect information (make sure the information can still be read).
- Make the change.
- Date and initial the change.
- Have the other party date and initial the change also, so it's clear that the change has been acknowledged by both parties.
Another example of this is correcting a mistake in a time sheet. The mistake should be lined out then the correct information inserted. Then, the employee and the supervisor (or another authorized company representative) should both initial/sign and date the change.
In a sales contract, such as documents involved in the sale of a business, the buyer and seller may go back and forth and make changes as they work through the negotiation, to include or remove a particular asset or assets. It's important that all such changes be lined out, corrected or updated to the latest agreed-upon version, then signed and dated by both parties.
The Mechanics of Corrections
For some contracts, you can just handwrite in your changes, strike through or draw a line to cross out the old data, and initial the change. In some cases, though, detailed contracts may involve many changes, and it's best to access the document on the computer, use your word processing software's strikethrough function to draw a line through the unwanted text, and type in the new text.
For example, the Microsoft Word program has an option to make changes to a document and show the old text with a red line through it. This function is called, not surprisingly, redline, and can be accessed by first turning on the Track Changes feature on the Review menu.
Make the error corrections to your document, but only after you've turned on the track changes option. Then, choose the option, Show all markup to see the old text highlighted in red, with a strike-through line through it. You can print this view using a color-capable printer to preserve the red color. If you use a black-and-white printer you'll still see the strike-out lines through the old text.
The Wrong Way to Correct
When making changes to a document, things can start to look messy if you have several changes and have lines striking through all of them.
Resist the urge, however, to clean things up just for the sake of looking "clean." Do not use correction fluid or try to erase the mistake or error. If the document ever ended up in court, it might look like you were intentionally trying to hide something. Hiding a change might cause you to be charged with fraud, or at least put a shadow of doubt in the counter party's mind, so don't attempt it.
Correcting Errors in Business Tax Forms
Errors in business tax forms can have serious consequences. For example, a missing incorrect taxpayer ID number on a form can mean the form is rejected. Another consequence of errors can be fines and penalties by the IRS. These penalties can be for:
- Underreported or underpaid business income taxes,
- Unpaid payroll taxes (from Form 941), or
- Late filing penalties for W-2 forms or 1099-MISC forms.
Correcting Errors on Payroll Tax Forms
The IRS has special forms (called "X" forms) for correcting information returns, including Form 941, Form 1099-MISC, and Form W-2. The X forms follow the format of the original form so you can correct just one part of a form
Common errors on annual wage and tax reports (Form W-2 and Form 1099-MISC) include:
- Missing or incorrect taxpayer ID numbers
The IRS has a Taxpayer ID Matching Service you can use to check IDs for 1099-Form payees against the IRS records.
- Not entering information in the correct boxes
- Not using the correct form. Use W-2 forms for employees and 1099-MISC forms for non-employees.
- Using the form for the wrong year (Use the form for the tax year, not the year you are completing the form)
You can't print a W-2 form or 1099-MISC form from the internet. You must buy a standard form with Red printing. The IRS will reject forms that aren't machine-readable.
Do not send corrected returns to the IRS if you are correcting state or local information only. Contact the state or local tax agency for help with this type of correction.
Errors on Business Income Tax Returns
The most common business tax errors are:
- Missing the due date
- Including the wrong Tax ID number
- Filing with the wrong status (head of household, for example, instead of filing single)
- Errors in calculations.
The IRS will fix small addition errors but for larger errors, you'll need to go through a specific process to correct the error. An error in calculating estimated taxes, for example, might mean a penalty for underreporting income.
Failing to attach forms, like your W-2 or 1099-MISC form.
Correct errors, file an amended return, and make payments as soon as possible. Fines and penalties can add up quickly.