Marriage or Divorce ? Check Your Social Security Number

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 bride says "I do" and takes her husband's surname, but doesn't tell the SSA 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 SSN. This could result in tax assessments or even an audit since the IRS may be under the impression that you are simply evading taxes.

Similarly, after a divorce, a woman who had taken her husband's name and had made that change known to the SSA should contact the SSA if she reassumes a previous name. Failure to take this action can lead to audits. Can you imagine going through an audit with your former spouse?

It's easy to inform the SSA of a name change by filing Form SS-5 at a local SSA office. 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 SSA Web site provides the addresses of local offices.

Richard Chapo is CEO of - Obtaining tax refunds for small businesses by finding overlooked tax deductions and credits through a free tax return review.

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