A mismatch between a name and a Social Security number on a tax return could mean costly problems.
At best, it could slow down a refund. At worst, it could unexpectedly increase a tax bill. And in the longer term, a name and ID number discrepancy could prevent your wages from being posted correctly to your Social Security record, which could mean you wouldn't get all the federal retirement benefits to which you're entitled.
That's why it's critical to make sure you:
- Have a Social Security number for everyone listed on a return -- you, your spouse, children and any other dependents you claim.
- Enter those numbers correctly and, if you're filing on paper, legibly.
Why such concern over 9 digits? Because there are so many transactions -- income statements, savings account interest, retirement plan contributions -- that are keyed to this number.
Add your numbers
Before identity theft was such a problem, taxpayer Social Security numbers were preprinted on tax packages the IRS mailed out each year. That practice stopped years ago. The privacy enhancement, however, produced other problems.
The IRS found that removing the personal information also meant that some taxpayers forgot to enter their identification numbers on their tax returns.
So it's now up to you to fill in your Social Security number as well as any other numbers required on your return and associated schedules.
These numbers are particularly important for the recently married or divorced.
The IRS urges newlyweds, where one spouse takes the other's surname, to let the Social Security Administration, or SSA, know about the name change. If the couple file a joint tax return with the new name, IRS computers will not be able to match the new name with the number until the SSA is notified.