Amend 2008 tax return prepared by someone else?
Not only can you, you must.
Let me guess, your preparer not only listed you as single, you return was filed as a resident return using a 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. Unless you were in the US on 1/1/2008 and stayed at least 183 days, filing one of these forms was just plain wrong.
Residency. If you arrived after 7/2, you would have been a non-resident because you wouldn't have met the substantial presence test. If you were not in the US on 1/1/2008, but arrived before 7/2/2008 and racked up 183+ days, you would have been dual status. (Dual status returns are a pain to do). If you were in the US on 1/1/2008 *and* had 183 days, you would have been treated as a full resident for tax purposes. There are several differences for tax purposes--including NOT being able to use the standard deduction or claim most credits.
Filing Status. As you already know, you weren't single. That means on a 1040NR, you were supposed to be listed as "married other." On a 1040 or dual status return, you were supposed to be listed as married filing separately. MFS returns do not get certain credits.
On the 1040NR return, you
would have been listed as "other married" (all NR returns are filing by one person). In order to file jointly when your wife wasn't in the US, she'd have to sign a statement that she chooses to file joint with you, list her worldwide income, etc. If you were not a resident for tax purposes at the end of 2008, you'd have to also sign a statement that you wished to elect the first year choice. See IRS pub 519 for the requirements for both statements.
If the correct return should have been a 1040NR, you fill out a completely new return and attach it to a 1040X and mail it to Austin. The 1040X acts as a coversheet. You can compare the new return with the one that was filed to see if you owe. (I think you would.)
If you and your wife want to file MFJ, see the 519 for the rules, fill out a 1040 showing worldwide income for both of you. If the original return was a 1040NR, then you attach the 1040 to the 1040X. If the original return was a bad 1040/1040A or 1040EZ and you go to a joint return, you get to fill in the entire 1040X.
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