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IRS Name Change for the Married and Divorced

how to change name with irs

It's that time of year again. The time when we all look up, see the date on the calendar and think "oh no. Taxes are due how soon? Arrrrghhhh!"

The last thing on your mind right now—now that you've noticed the date—is working on changing your name. "That can wait for a while," you might be thinking. "I need to find those receipts and that W-2 and wait… am I filing taxes alone or are we filing together? How do you even do married taxes?"

Let's leave the "how do you do married taxes" question for another time. For now, let's just impress upon you that this is not the time to stop working on getting your name changed. In fact, now is the time when you want to ramp up your name change, particularly if you haven't yet changed your name with the Social Security Administration.

IMPORTANT: You cannot file your taxes under your new married name until you have legally changed your name with the Social Security Administration.

ALSO IMPORTANT THOUGH LESS FUN: If you are divorced and have taken back your maiden name (or taken on a new name altogether), the same rule applies.

The name you give to the IRS and the name on file with the SSA has to match.

This is because the IRS verifies the information you put on your taxes with the information on file with the Social Security Administration. If it doesn't match badness ensues, such as a potential delay in receiving any tax refund that you're entitled to.

The IRS may simply decide that, since the information doesn't match, it will not process your taxes. Because this is the "busy season" for them, you might not receive notification about this until well after the deadline for filing has passed. Failure to file is not a boat in which anybody wants to sit.

If the IRS does process your taxes, it may decide to hold on to your return until the name on file with the SSA matches the name you entered on your forms. Again, it might take weeks for this decision to be communicated to you. This is not helpful if you had big plans for your tax return!

You could get entangled in weeks of red tape, forms and headaches as you work to get the Social Security office and the IRS on the same page. And believe us, getting everybody on the same page is going to be your responsibility. These agencies merely process forms and hunt down errors. Fixing the errors is not in either of their wheel houses.

Nobody wants to deal with all of that.

Usually, changing your name with the SSA isn't that big a deal. You simply mail in the correct form, legal proof of your name change (a certified copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree should suffice unless you live in a state where more steps need to be taken) and wait for your new card to arrive in the mail. Pretty easy, right?

Sorry, not today!

Because it's later in March and your taxes need to be filed by April 15, there is no guarantee that the SSA will receive your paperwork and get your name change processed in time. You're going to have to go down to the SSA office and change it in person.

Changing your name is one of those things that feels like a giant hassle. It's understandable that you'd want to put it off for as long as possible. Luckily there are things that you can use to help streamline the name change process. If you wanted, you could even get almost all of your name changing done (or at least set the wheels in motion) in a single day.

What matters is that you don't put it off. Putting it off, like most things that feel like a giant hassle, only makes the problem worse. Once you get started you'll see how little of a hassle the process actually is.

In this case, the good news is that, because you're actually going to the office, the system should process your name change within a day or two. Hooray!

Still, you'll want to wait at least ten business days before you actually file your taxes, just to give the SSA some wiggle room. That's okay though: you need that time to find your receipts, W-2s and fill out your forms!


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    Allison Wallace January 15, 2015

I have been married for two years but I have only had my husbands last name for a year now. I've changed my SSC, passport, mailing and bank name but I still haven't changed my Drivers licenses (cuz we're moving) and my last name at school. I'm most concerned for my name at school. I will be receiving a 1098-T Form from my school with my maiden name on it. My name on everything else is my married name and I will put my married name on our taxes but my school form will still say my maiden name. Will this be a problem when we file taxes?


    Valera January 19, 2015

Will this be a problem when we file taxes?

It could be. The name you provide to the IRS must match the name on your social security record.


nicole January 24, 2015

i recently got married and hanged my name with the social security i worked 2 different jobs last year and the w2 forms have my old name on them what should i do?


    Valera January 26, 2015

Hi Nicole. The W-2C form is used by employers to make name corrections.


Faith February 3, 2015

I went to the social security office and changed my last name because I forgot about it well I went and changed it with the ssa how long does it take for the irsto get that update


    Valera February 5, 2015

how long does it take for the irsto get that update

Typically, around 10 days.


Heather March 4, 2015

I filed my taxes under my maiden name. I just received notification that the SSA office received my name change application and was sending my new social security card. Will this delay the processing of my taxes??


    Valera March 6, 2015

You should be fine. The SSA will notify the IRS when they process a name change.


Nathan April 21, 2015

I have a question. My wife and I got married, and she sent the forms to the SSA to have her name changed, We filed our taxes jointly and used her maiden name. We just got word that our Tax return got sent to the errors dept and we are assuming its because the last name on the tax return doesnt match the name with the ssa. How do we get both on the same page?


    Nathan April 21, 2015

well my wife said the the SSA didnt change her last name because we didnt send in a certified copy of the Marriage license.


    Valera April 23, 2015

True. The social security administration requires a certified copy of your marriage certificate. This can be acquired by contacting your local vital records office. So, if your wife's name was not successfully changed, what's the current name on file with the SSA? Her maiden, or a prior married name? Where is the name mismatch occurring with between the SSA and IRS?


Valera April 23, 2015

Hi Nathan. The IRS goes by what's on the social security record. When you file your taxes, the name must match what's on file with the SSA. So, if you have to refile or have it go through corrections, you'll want to confirm what's on your wife's social security record.


Anna August 5, 2015

Following Nicole's question how will employers know to send a W-2C if we don't work there anymore? Should we call old employers to let them know that we have changed our last name and to file a W-2C?


    Valera August 5, 2015

Hi Anna. Yes, updating your previous employer is a good idea.

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Category: Taxes

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