Filing your taxes when you’ve changed your name might seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some common issues and what to do when it is time to file.
Why your name matters for taxes
The first thing to do when you legally change your name is to notify the Social Security Administration. The IRS and the Social Security Administration are completely separate from one another, but the IRS uses your Social Security number (SSN) to make sure that the info on your tax return is correct. If the name and number on record don’t match, it could cause your refund to be delayed. For this reason, it’s very important that the name on your tax return matches the name associated with your SSN
How to change your name
To officially change your name, you need to submit a Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can find this form and the instructions online at SSA.gov.
If you haven’t officially changed your name yet
On your tax return, you will always need to enter the name exactly as it is shown on your current Social Security card.
If your name is changing because you got married, enter your name as it appears on your Social Security card right now. Even if your last names don’t match, you and your spouse should not file as single. You will need to file as married filing jointly or separately.
Just married? Changing your name is only the beginning. Read also: 5 Tax To-Dos for Newlyweds
If you just changed your name
In general, you should wait a minimum of ten days after the Social Security Administration changes your records before you file your tax return. This leaves enough time for your name to be changed across all the databases used by the IRS when they verify your info.
If your W-2 is in your maiden or former name
If you file your tax return electronically with TaxSlayer, your W-2 is matched to your return using your Social Security number. So, if your W-2 arrives and is still in your maiden or former last name, this won’t be an issue on your return.
If you have already notified the Social Security Administration of your name change, then go ahead and file using your new name. But do tell your employer about your name change and make sure they correct your information for next year.
If your dependent’s name changed
The same basic info is true here: the Social Security Administration needs to be notified first. If the dependent is a minor, you will complete the name change application for them. The name you use to claim the dependent on your tax return will need to match the name on their SSN card.
If you adopted a child and their name is not officially changed to your own by the time you need to file, you can apply for a temporary Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) with the IRS. You’ll use Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S Adoptions, found on the IRS website here. If you are adopting a child who is not a U.S. citizen, you can obtain a taxpayer ID for them using Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
You might also be interested in: The Adoption Tax Credit: Money Back for Growing Families
If you were recently divorced
Updating your name and personal information after a divorce is important. You’ll also need to consider things like your filing status, W-4 withholdings, and possibly even alimony or child support payments. Read more about the impact of divorce on your tax situation here.