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i would think that there would be some sort of internal accounting that would prevent a refund check being issued for other than the amount shown on line 23 of the 1040x ("amount you want refunded to you")

I think you're expecting too much of the IRS. They can and do make errors, though this one sounds rather odd. I'm curious about the numbers - your taxable income went up and still you got a bunch of money back. There must be another credit in there somewhere...

i live overseas, so calling is not a good option for me. but due to the nature of the error, i am concerned that trying to resolve this through the mail is going to take a lot of back and forth. are my concerns justified, or is this simpler than i think?

I think your concerns are quite justified. I lived overseas for a few years, and while there had a difference of opinion with the IRS. I wasn't inclined to call them, and I never was able to get it straightened out with letters. So - good luck.

should i wait to cash the check until this is resolved? or should i go ahead and cash this check, after which i will receive another one for the difference?

I think you should deposit the check. They gave it to you, and I don't think there's any kind of mechanism for you to give it back to them and get credit for it. Assuming you can get this resolved, you should then get a check for the difference.

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