Filing your taxes after you’ve changed your name might bring up a lot of questions. Here’s why your name change is important and what you need to do when it is time to file.
Why your name matters for taxes
If you’ve ever legally changed your name, you know that you must notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) for it to be official. But the IRS is different from the SSA — so why do they care what your name is? Here’s why:
Even though the Social Security Administration and the IRS are completely separate from one another, 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.
How to file taxes 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
Filing taxes 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.
What to do 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
Filing taxes 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.
The information in this article is up to date for tax year 2021 (returns filed in 2022).