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Marriage, Divorce, Taxes and Your Social Security Number

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In preparation of upcoming nuptials, we can often get so preoccupied with our wedding plans that taxes and our Social Security numbers are the furthest things from our mind. Alternately, the same can be said if the marriage doesn't work out and we're thinking of how to get divorced. However, the name and social security number we use to file our taxes is essential to getting filings correct, so when they change, so must our filings.

The following is a quick introduction to marriage, divorce, taxes, and your Social Security number; and how to change your name to ensure you're filing correctly.

How Your Name Affects Your Tax Filings

There can be benefits from filing a joint tax return with your new spouse. At the same time, you may not want to split your tax return with your new ex. Newlyweds and the recently divorced should make sure that names on their tax returns match those registered with the Social Security Administration (SSA). A mismatch between a name on the tax return and a Social Security number (SSN) could unexpectedly increase a tax bill or reduce the size of any refund.

For newlyweds, the tax scenario can begin when the couple says "I do" and a spouse takes their spouse's surname, but doesn't tell the SSA about the name change. If the couple files a joint tax return with the new name, the IRS computers will not be able to match the new name with the SSN. Similarly, after a divorce, a person who took their spouse's name and made that change known to the SSA should contact the SSA if they reassume a previous name.

How To Change Your Name

Whether you're changing your name after marriage or after a divorce, it's easy to inform the SSA of a name change once you've received your marriage license or divorce decree. To inform the SSA, you will complete Form SS-5 at a local SSA office. It usually takes two weeks to have the change verified with the SSA. The form is available on the agency's Web site, by calling toll free 1-800-772-1213, and at local offices.

Generally, taxpayers must provide SSNs for each dependent claimed on the tax return. For adopted children without SSNs, 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 SSN on the tax return. You can download the form or order it by calling the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) toll free at 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).

Marriage, Divorce, Taxes, and Your Social Security Number: Resources

The following resources will help you navigate the various agencies and processes for changing your name, informing the IRS or Social Security Administration about the changes, and related matters.

Learn More About Marriage, Divorce, and Taxes: Call an Attorney

There are many legal considerations required when navigating into and out of marriage. Taxes, tax filings, and your Social Security number are some of the more important factors to consider. Much of the confusion comes when there's a disconnect between the individual and their social security number or other information. Consulting with an experienced, local divorce attorney can help you understand the process and better protect your rights.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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