IRS confuses taxpayers with notices of math errors: report

If you’re one of the 9.4 million Americans who received a “mathematical error” notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) this tax season, don’t feel bad if you were confused by what it meant. . The Taxpayer Advocate Service is finally here to validate your pain.

According to a blog post this week by Erin M. Collins, the National Taxpayer Advocate, math error notices — which are designed to notify taxpayers of issues with their tax returns that resulted in an adjustment — “remain vague and confusing” to many people, in part because they don’t always explain exactly what led to the adjustment.

On the contrary, these letters often present a list of potential problems, such as a missing social security number, an over-aged dependent, or an incorrectly calculated amount. This multiple-choice format then naturally leaves taxpayers scratching their heads trying to pinpoint the exact problem. That’s a problem because, as Collins points out, the IRS has the power to simply make certain adjustments, which means it’s up to taxpayers to request an abatement or reversal if they disagree with decision.

And guess what? Taxpayers only have 60 days to do so.

“It is essential that taxpayers understand that once the 60-day period has passed and the taxpayer has not requested an annulment, they lose the opportunity to have the case reviewed by the US Tax Court,” Collins writes. .

One of the reasons the IRS has been sending out so many math error notices lately is because of pandemic-era changes to tax forms. Notably, the Recovery Rebate Credit allows eligible taxpayers who never received a stimulus check to claim it on their tax returns. There is no doubt that many taxpayers do indeed claim this credit incorrectly, but as Collins points out, no one is helped by correspondence that lacks clarity and detail.

In his post, Collins says the Taxpayer Advocate Service recommended that the IRS “provide taxpayers with specific reasons” when making an adjustment on tax returns. It also explains in detail what taxpayers should do if they receive one of these letters.

This is not the first time that notices of math errors have troubled the national taxpayers’ advocate. As we wrote last year, the IRS agreed to return 5 million of these notices after the attorney pointed out that his correspondence did not inform people of their basic rights.

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