Received A Math Error From The IRS? Here’s What To Do

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If you’ve recently received an error notice from the IRS due to a “math error” — you’re not alone. According to the Taxpayer Advocate, since July 15 there have been 9 million error notices sent. The majority, over 7.4 million notices, stemmed from stimulus check payment errors.

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The IRS is currently correcting more errors on returns and issuing more math error notices than in previous years, the TAS report. Specifically, from January 2020 through July 15, 2020, there were 628,997 math-error corrections made on tax returns. For the same period in 2021, there have been about 9 million errors on returns. The IRS was overwhelmed this year with the task of providing several rounds of stimulus payment while simultaneously providing regularly scheduled returns. Pandemic stressors, like shortened staff, closures, and lockdowns also complicated processing times.

These notices usually reflect an adjustment to one’s account, usually in the form of a larger or smaller refund but can also include money owed. One of the biggest gripes taxpayers report is that some notices lack important information and details. The IRS is sending out balance due notices with no calculation or explanation analysis, CNBC reports.

Many math error notices are vague and do not adequately explain the urgency the situation demands, and, in some instances, math error notices don’t even specify the exact error that was corrected, but rather provide a series of possible errors that may have been addressed by the IRS through its math error authority, TAS adds.

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What To Do If You Receive A Notice

The most important thing to note if you receive a mathematical error notice is to remember that you have 60 days to respond.

On page 2 of the notice, you will be directed to call the IRS if you have questions about the adjustment. TAS advises that the 60-day requirement does not “jump off the page,” is not sufficiently evident and does not include an exact date by which the taxpayer must respond. Taxpayers will need to understand exactly what changes the IRS made and what they need to do if they do not agree with the changes made.

Unfortunately, these notices do not make what adjustments were made very clear.

You can request an abatement, with which the IRS must comply and abate the assessment. After the abatement is granted, the IRS must follow the deficiency procedures to reassess the tax. The IRS also cannot collect the assessed about during the 60-day period that the taxpayer has to request abatement.

If you accept the adjustment but are unable to pay the entire amount, you can work with the IRS to request an installment agreement, offer-in-compromise, or ask to be placed in currently not collectible status.

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See: Tax Experts Share the 6 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Filing
Find: 10 Top Tips for Dealing With a Tax Audit

Once the 60-day time period has elapsed and the taxpayer has not requested abatement, the math error assessment is final and cannot be reviewed in the U.S. Tax Court. This is very important as the Tax Court is the only way in which a taxpayer does not have to pay the tax liability before petitioning the court.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 
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