Filing your taxes after you’ve changed your name might bring up a lot of questions. 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? Learn why putting the correct name on your tax return is important, and what you need to do when it is time to file.
Why your name matters for taxes
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.
What name goes on my tax return if I haven’t officially changed my 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 you’re a newlywed but you haven’t officially your name yet, enter your name as it appears on your Social Security card right now. Note: 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. When you are married anytime before Dec. 31 of the current tax year, the IRS considers you as married for the entire year for tax purposes.
Just married? Changing your name is only the beginning. Read also: 5 Tax To-Dos for Newlyweds
If you recently or 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
TaxSlayer uses your Social Security number to match your W-2 with your return–so if you’ve already notified the Social Security Administration of your name change, then go ahead and file under 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
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 about how divorce could change your tax situation.