your tax return — February 10, 2014

What's In a Name? The IRS Says Plenty

by Bob Williams

using the correct name on tax return

The old phrase says “The only thing constant is change.” And these days, that’s certainly true. The only thing changing as fast as technology, for example, is the structure and demographics of the American family.

Along with nuclear families, blended families and everything in between, come changes in the names of family members. Sometimes, it’s as easy as a well-placed hyphen. Other times, it’s a whole new surname.

Just remember: there’s more to a name change than just informing the people on your Contacts list. Make sure the Social Security Administration gets the word as well – before you file your income tax return. That’s because the name on your tax return has to match the one the SSA has on file for you.

If it doesn’t, you’ll probably get a rejection from the IRS about the mismatch. And that in turn could delay any tax refund you have coming.

There are two main instances where you really should contact the SSA:

First, if you got married (or divorced) and you changed your name in the process.

And second, if a dependent you claim had a name change. For example, if you adopted a child and that child’s last name changed.

In the above instances – and there certainly could be others – you’d want to file Form SS-5 – Application for a Social Security Card, with the Social Security Administration. You can get the form on SSA.gov by clicking here, by calling the SSA at 800-772-1213, or by dropping by your local Social Security Administration office.

You can file the SSA form at an SSA office or by mail. Your new card will still have your Social Security Number, but will reflect your new name.

In the case you have an adopted child who does not have an SSN, use a temporary Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on your tax form. You can apply for an ATIN by filing Form W-7A – Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions, with the IRS. You can download the W-7A from IRS.gov by clicking here, or by calling 800-829-3676.

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