Name Changes and the IRS - 5 Things You Should Know

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When you get married or divorced, or you change your name for any other reason, you have to change your name on checking accounts, retirement accounts, your driver's license, and so on. While you're doing all this paperwork, remember to also change your name with the Social Security Administration.

Here are five things you should know about changing your name:

  1. You do not have to report your name change directly to the IRS. However, it's important to report it to the Social Security Administration (SSA) before you file your tax return.

    You can change your name by mail or go to your local Social Security office. The Social Security Administration updates records of names, a process than can take some time.

  2. You may encounter problems if you don't report a name change.

    If you file your tax return with a name that does not exactly match the name on your Social Security card, the processing of your return may be delayed. The IRS will not accept an electronically filed return if the name and Social Security number do not match their records. If you're expecting a tax refund, that can mean a longer wait for your money.

    Changing your name with the SSA also helps safeguard your future Social Security benefits by assuring proper posting of earnings to your records.

  3. You must have proper documentation to change your name.

    This can be an original or certified copy of one of the following:

    • Marriage document
    • Divorce decree
    • Certificate of naturalization showing a new name
    • Court order for a name change

    In addition, you need two separate documents with identifying information or a recent photograph, such as a driver's license or passport.

  4. You must also notify the Social Security Administration if you change a child's name.

    For example, if you adopt a child, or if the child takes the name of a stepparent, you should report the name before you file your return. Otherwise, you may not be able to claim the child as your dependent.

    If you are not allowed to claim the child as a dependent because the child's name and Social Security number do not match, you could miss out on other tax benefits, such as education credits or the Child and Dependent Care Credit. You also will not be allowed to claim the Child Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit for the child.

  5. Use Form SS-5 to change your name with the Social Security Administration.

    You can get this form on the Social Security website at ssa.gov.

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