Taxes 2023: Common Math Errors That Could Delay Your Refund

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Despite coming at the same time every year, millions of Americans have a tendency to feel anxious and helpless about filing their returns. There are even stories of those who, knowing they are getting a refund, still find the task so daunting they procrastinate

For most taxpayers, the fear comes not only from the stressful prep work and complicated forms, but from the pressure to make it perfect, without any mistakes. Simple errors like misspelling names or improperly claiming a dependent happen, but the most common mistakes made on tax returns involve bad math.

Not surprisingly, a large majority of math errors in recent years stem from the Recovery Rebate Credit. As the Taxpayer Advocate Services reports, in calendar year 2021 through July 15, 2021, the IRS made about 9 million math error corrections on returns filed by taxpayers, about 7.4 million of which were related to the credit. For 2020, almost 88% of all errors on individual tax returns were RRC-related, according to Accounting Today, citing IRS data.

The IRS often corrects smaller math errors and sends taxpayers a notice of the changes. But mistakes, both small and big, can delay your refund and even affect the size of it, depending on the errors.

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Using the most recent IRS data available, here are the Top 10 most common math errors — by number and percentage of total errors — identified during the 2021 tax filing season (tax-year 2020).

10. Refund/Amount Owed

  • Number of errors: 41,879
  • Percentage of total errors: 0.3%

9. Filing Status

  • Number of errors: 42,902
  • Percentage of total errors: 0.3

8. First-Time Homebuyer Credit Repayment

  • Number of errors: 61,132
  • Percentage of total errors: 0.5%

7. Education Credits

  • Number of errors: 90,904
  • Percentage of total errors: 0.7%

6. Standard/Itemized Deduction

  • Number of errors: 119,115
  • Percentage of total errors: 0.9%

5. Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Number of errors: 155,351
  • Percentage of total errors: 1.2%

4. Child Tax Credit

  • Number of errors: 244,148
  • Percentage of total errors: 1.9%

3. Adjusted Gross/Taxable Income Amount

  • Number of errors: 283,346
  • Percentage of total: 2.2%

2. Tax Calculation/Other Taxes

  • Number of errors: 407,757
  • Percentage of total errors: 3.2%

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Find: Top Tax Deductions and Tax Credits You Should Know for 2

1. Recovery Rebate Credit

  • Number of errors: 11,372,980
  • Percentage of total errors: 87.9%

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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