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Did you recently marry or divorce?
All newlyweds and divorcees must file Form SS-5 for a new Social Security card to avoid problems with the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security

Have you recently married or divorced?  If so, have you taken the name of your spouse, adopted a hyphenated version of a combined name, or reverted back to your maiden name?  If you have done any name changes, you are required to file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card at your local SSA office in order to avoid any problems filing your tax return.

When recent newlyweds or divorcees file a tax return using their new last names, IRS computers can’t match the new name with their Social Security Number.  Consequently, in order to process your tax return without delay, problems, and endless follow up notices from the Internal Revenue Service, you must notify the Social Security Administration of your name change.  Otherwise, your earnings may not be recorded properly and you may not receive all the Social Security you are due. Not changing your name with Social Security also can delay your income tax refund!

You can get Form SS-5 by downloading it on the Social Security Administration’s website, by visiting any Social Security office or by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213.

To change your name on your Social Security card you must provide documents to prove your identity, support the requested change, and establish the reason for the change.  A document supporting a name change must be recent and identify you by both your old and new names. If the name change event occurred over two years ago or if the name change document does not have enough information to prove your identity, you must also provide documents to prove your identity in your prior name and/or in some cases your new legal name. Generally, documents without an expiration date should have been issued within the past two years.  If you were born outside the U.S. you must provide a document to prove your U.S. citizenship or current lawful, work-authorized status. 

Documents Social Security may accept to prove a legal name change include:
  • Marriage document;
  • Divorce decree;
  • Certificate of Naturalization showing a new name; or
  • Court order for a name change.
If the document you provide for a legal name change does not give enough information to identify you or if you legally changed your name more than two years ago, then you also must submit to the Social Security Administration two identity documents including:
  • One document in your old name; and
  • A second document with your new legal name.
In addition to your name, these documents also must contain identifying information or a recent photograph.

As further proof of your identity, you may be required to provide a U.S. driver’s license or U.S. passport.

If you do not have one of these documents, the Social Security Administration may accept
other documents that show your legal name and biographical information, such as a U.S. military identity card, Certificate of Naturalization, employee identity card, certified copy of medical record (clinic, doctor or hospital), health insurance card, Medicaid card, or school identity card/record.  It will not accept a birth certificate, a hospital souvenir birth certificate, a social security card stub, or a social security record as evidence of identity.
 
If you are a U.S. citizen born outside the United States and Social Security's records do not show you are a citizen, you will need to provide proof of your U.S. citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current immigration documents.

Only original documents will be accepted by Social Security.  Notarized copies or photocopies which have not been certified by the custodian of the record are not acceptable. Social Security will return any documents submitted with your application.  Consequently, it is strongly advisable to take these documents, rather than mail them, to your local Social Security office.

Form SS-5 requires the following information:
  1. Your new name;
  2. Birth name;
  3. Place of birth;
  4. Date of birth;
  5. Citizenship;
  6. Ethnicity;
  7. Race;
  8. Sex;
  9. Mother's birth name and social security number;
  10. Father's birth name and social security number;
  11. Name on previous Social Security card;
  12. Your contact information;
  13. Your signature.
Failure to provide all of the requested, correct information may result in you not being issued a new Social Security card.  The new card will have the same number as your previous card, but will show your new name.

Since the documentation requirements become more rigorous after two years, it is recommended that you obtain the new card as soon as possible.  As with any governmental agency, processing what you contemplate to be a simple request might involve a lengthy search for acceptable documentation and more than one trip to your local Social Security office.  However, if you provide all requisite documents at your local Social Security office, it may be able to verify them online with the Department of Homeland Security and process your request for a name change quickly.  On the other hand, if your documents cannot be verified online or if you should mail Form SS-5 with all accompanying documents to a Social Security office, it may take at least several weeks to receive your new card.  Normal processing time is two to three weeks.

This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to be construed as legal, accounting, or other professional advice.  For further information, please consult appropriate professional advice from your attorney and certified public accountant.

Have a tax or an accounting question?  Please feel free to submit it to William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant, Hartford CPA Accountants.  For information and assistance on any tax and accounting issue, please visit our website, Accountants CPA Hartford, and our blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified.
If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  The above tax advice was written to support the promotion or marketing of the accounting practice of the publisher and any transaction described herein.  The taxpayer recipients of this offering memorandum should seek tax advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.
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