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Excel/Getting answer FALSE, but cells are equal!


Hi Tom

I am using the formula =P1=L1+M1 to try show if the difference between L1 anD M1 is equal to P1, and am getting FALSE as the answer (see below).  However, L1+M1 is equal to P1, at least to the two decimal places I can see.  Do you think the FALSE result is because of further decimal places I cant see, and if so, is there a way of making the formula look only at 2 dp?

L1          M1          N1          P1
75,799,878.18   -73,974,228.04   FALSE      1,825,650.14


In excel, all numbers are stored with 15 digits of precision and when you are trying to do equality that often causes a problem.  (Of course 1/2 is .5 so no problem there)   Let's take our decimal system.   You know that 1/6 + 1/6 = 1/3

but if we tried to write it as a decimal value, it would never be exactly 1/6.  We could write 0.166666666666666666667  but never exactly 1/6.  And adding the representations together, the sum will not exactly equal .3333333333.  This is a two fold problem because both sides of the equation are imprecise.  

same when we store a number as binary.  Some fractions can not be represented exactly.   Excel follows the IEEE standard for representing floating point numbers.

So you are exactly correct in that your problem is based on decimal digits you do not see unless you format the cell to show more decimal places.  You can look in the formula bar with the cell select and should be able to see the additional decimals.  

to solve you would do


Note that this is a general computer storage problem (just like in the decimal system) and not just an excel problem.  There is an option in excel to do Precision as displayed but when you set it for that workbook, the values are inherently rounded to the format precision and stored that way.  The setting can not be reversed once applied.

Tom Ogilvy  
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Tom Ogilvy


Selected as an Excel MVP by Microsoft since 1999. Answering Excel questions in Allexperts since its inception in 2001. Able to answer questions on almost all aspects of Excel's internal capabilities. If seeking a VBA solution, please specify that in your question itself so I give you the answer you want. [Excel has weak protection - if you are distributing an application, I don't answer questions on how to protect your project from your users.]


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Master of Science (MS) degree Operations Research (ORSA)

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Microsoft MVP in Excel.

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