Unfortunately, it’s not enough to know simple math.
The tax code authorizes the IRS to make an automatic correction to a tax return when any of about 15 different mistakes are made. Simple arithmetic is one of them. In 2021, the IRS mailed 14.5 million “math error” notices to the public. That’s 12 times more than were sent in 2020. What—people can’t add and subtract? Of course, when we’re talking about the tax code, it’s never that simple. Most “math error” notices are not about simple math. For example, the law permits automatic adjustments for the mistaken calculation of tax credits. According to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s office, about 12 million of the notices involved the recovery rebate credit. The massive law changes that occurred in 2020 and 2021, which created the recovery rebate credit, contribute to an already complex tax code. This is probably the key reason the number of calls to the IRS skyrocketed from about 100 million in 2020 to over 282 million in 2021. Don’t expect the numbers to drop in 2022, either for math error notices or phone calls to the IRS. The complexities in the tax code are only getting worse. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to know simple math. You must also know how to navigate the labyrinth of the tax code.