Q: A friend of mine filed his 1996 return as a single status. He now realizes that he could have filed as a head of household status, making him eligible for the EITC. Can he amend his return? O.D., New York, N.Y.
A: No. The rules in this area are strict. A claim for a credit or refund must be filed within three years of the date the original return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. The IRS accepts a few exceptions, but they don't apply to a switch in filing status.