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Microsoft has asked some former employees it recently laid off to return a wad of their severance pay after the software giant made an embarrassing accounting cock-up.

The blunder was picked up by TechCrunch, which obtained a copy of a letter Redmond had sent out to an undisclosed number of ex-employees. Microsoft has since confirmed that the letter was authentic.

"An inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft," reads the letter, dated 18 February. "We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience to you."

It’s understood that some former MS staff were given too much severance pay while the company had underpaid others. Those who were overpaid were sent letters asking them to refund Microsoft either by cheque or via a money transfer.

The firm axed 1,400 jobs following a less-than-pretty earnings report last month. It plans to let go of an additional 3,600 workers over the next 18 months.

Microsoft described the accounting error as “a private matter between the company and the affected people”.

Meanwhile in not unrelated news, the firm announced the launch of a new US-based job training tools website, dubbed Elevate America.

Microsoft claimed that its new initiative would "provide up to two million people over the next three years with the technology training needed to succeed in the 21st-century economy".

However, the resource, which includes guides on how to use the internet, send email and create a resume CV, as well as more advanced programs on using specific MS apps, is only currently available to residents in three states in the US: Florida, New York and Washington. Anyone else will be shuttered out for the foreseeable future. ®

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