The IRS has broad powers to evaluate taxes with math errors or clerical mistakes. The extent of what the IRS considers errors ranges from common typos and transposing numbers to missing Social Security numbers and beyond. When the IRS adjusts errors on your tax return, they will issue either a CP11 Notice or CP12 Notice by mail. These math error notices inform the taxpayer of an adjustment, error correction, and tax balance due or revised tax refund amount.
In essence, CP11 or CP12 math error notices clarify what needs to be adjusted and advise whether there is a change to the tax amount owed or if there is a tax refund.
What Is IRS “Math Error Authority”?
Math error authority is a Congress-provided program granted by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6213 to the IRS for assessing additional tax that corrects mathematical and clerical errors appearing on a tax return. Math error authority is an abbreviated process that surpasses standard procedures.
Initially, Congress reserved the authority for simple mathematical or clerical mistakes on the tax returns specified in Section 6213. Congress has since expanded math error authority to include clerical errors, like discrepancies on the tax return and a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or Social Security number (SSN) that doesn’t match up with the Social Security Administration database.
What Are the IRS Math Error Notices Sent? Do They Identify Specific Mistakes?
The IRS typically sends two types of math error notices. Here’s what they mean:
- CP11 Notice: If you have received a CP11 notice from the IRS, you have a miscalculation on your tax return. The CP11 math error notice specifies that the IRS has made what it considers necessary corrections and adjustments to your tax return, and because of these adjustments, you now owe the IRS.
- CP12 Notice: If you have received a CP12 math error notice, the IRS corrected errors on your tax return that either resulted in a new tax refund amount or an overpayment because you now don’t owe as much.
How Much Time Do I Have to Respond to an IRS Math Error Notice?
The IRS gives taxpayers who received a math error notice more time to respond. Typically, you have 60 days to respond to an IRS math error notice from the date you received the notice. When requesting a reversal, you don’t have to submit extra documentation or further explanation. However, the IRS will consider any information or documentation you provide to them in support of your abatement request.
If the IRS doesn’t receive any documentation supporting your original tax return, it will forward your case to audit. The audit team will connect with you within six weeks to explain the audit process as well as your rights.
If you don’t request an abatement within 60 days, the math error assessment will not be changed and it can no longer be reviewed in the US Tax Court. Once the matter has been closed, the IRS will have a right to move towards collections.
Can I Dispute an IRS Math Error Notice?
The IRS makes mistakes too. If you disagree with the adjustment in your math error notice, you have 60 days from when the IRS sends you the math error notice to ask for an abatement of your math error assessment. If you request abatement, you can submit documentation that shows why the adjustment in question is incorrect. However, even when a taxpayer requests abatement without accompanying documentation, the IRS must still comply and abate the adjustment.
If the IRS agrees with your observations, the abatement will be input, and a CP21 Notice will be sent informing the taxpayer that the matter has been resolved. Notably, IRS won’t collect the calculated math error amount during the 60 days that you have to request abatement.
What Are My Options If My Tax Debt Increased Because of a Tax Math Error and I Can’t Afford to Pay?
If you accept the math error notice adjustments but cannot pay your entire tax debt, you can work with the IRS and apply for an IRS payment plan or installment agreement, submit an Offer in Compromise (OIC), or request Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status:
- IRS Payment Plan / Installment Agreement: An IRS payment plan or installment agreement is a favorable payment arrangement with the IRS that allows you to repay your tax debt in manageable monthly payments instead of lump sum amounts. For long-term installment agreements, the IRS will typically give you 72-84 months to pay. During that time, you’ll make monthly installment payments.
- Offer in Compromise (OIC): Offer in Compromise is an IRS program that allows you to settle what you owe the IRS for less than the total amount owed. Once your offer is accepted, you’ll have either 5 months (“lump sum cash offer”) or 24 months (“periodic payment offer”) to pay your offer amount. Read more about the Offer in Compromise requirements here.
- Currently Not Collectible status: If you are experiencing financial hardship, you can request Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status from the IRS. With CNC status, you won’t have to make tax payments until your financial status improves.
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