Microsoft overpaid severance packages for an unknown number of the 1400 employees that it laid off last month, and now the software giant is asking for some of that money back. The layoffs came in the wake of the company's first-ever year-over-year fall in revenue for its desktop business software, which includes Windows and the Office productivity suite.

In a letter to these ex-employees that was first published on the TechCrunch Web site, Microsoft admits to an accounting error that led to the overpayment. "An inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft," the letter reads. "We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you."

The ex-employees are asked to then submit a check within 14 days for the overpayment amount made out to "Microsoft Corporation." Checks are to be sent to the software giant's payroll department, which is apparently in Fargo, North Dakota.

Microsoft has confirmed that the letters are real but will not discuss the number of amounts of the overpayments. "This is a private matter between the company and the affected people," the company noted in a public statement. It's unclear if they really believed this would be kept a secret.

Given the state of the economy, the lingering embarrassment over Microsoft's first-ever major layoffs, and the difficulty these ex-employees will have finding new jobs, maybe the software giant could simply do the right thing and forgive the overpayments. Or it could point the laid off employees to its latest business venture, the Elevate America Web site, which will "provide up to two million people over the next three years with the technology training needed to succeed in the 21st-century economy." Yep, that's right: Microsoft is helping people find jobs in the tech industry.