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Feature Articles: Taxes

Marriage or Divorce: Check Your Social Security Number on Tax Returns

Reviewed and adapted with special permission from the IRS by: Brenda Procter, M.S., and Debby Whiston, M.S., Consumer and Family Economics, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension

Newlyweds and the recently divorced should make sure that names on their tax returns match those registered with the Social Security Administration. A mismatch between a name on the tax return and a Social Security number could unexpectedly increase a tax bill or reduce the size of any refund.

For newlyweds, the tax scenario can begin when the bride says "I do" and takes her husband's surname, but doesn't tell the Social Security Administration about the name change. If the couple files a joint tax return with her new name, the IRS computers will not be able to match the new name with the Social Security Number.

Similarly, after a divorce, a woman who had taken her husband’s name and had already made that change known to the Social Security Administration should contact them if she reassumes a previous name.

It's easy to inform the Social Security Administration of a name change by filing Form SS-5 at one of their local offices. It usually takes two weeks to have the change verified. The form is available on the agency's Web site, by calling toll free 1-800-772-1213 and at local offices. The Social Security Administration Web site provides the addresses of local offices.

Generally, taxpayers must provide SSNs for each dependent claimed on the tax return. For adopted children without Social Security Numbers, the parents can apply for an adoption taxpayer identification number, or ATIN, by filing Form W-7A with the IRS. The ATIN is used in place of the Social Security Number on the tax return. You can download the form at or order it by calling the IRS toll free 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).





Source: IRS Tax Tip 2005-17




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Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009