When I first got married, I didn’t immediately change my name. It felt weird to me to have my maiden name for years and years and then – poof! – be somebody else. My diplomas, my law licenses, all of it was in my maiden name. It was who I was. Plus, I liked my name (Phillips). So I held onto my name for a bit.
I eventually changed it, for a lot of reasons, but I still couldn’t give up my “old” name. So, I tacked my married name onto my maiden name and I now use both (without a hyphen) as my legal name.
I’m not alone. While many women hold onto their maiden name long term, the majority of women still change their name in some way when they get married and often back if they get divorced. This can cause complications if you don’t take the right steps.
As far as taxes are concerned, if you legally change your name, you must be sure to report the change to the Social Security Administration (SSA) before filing your federal income tax return. You’ll do this by completing a form SS-5 (downloads as a pdf) and take or mail the form to the appropriate office (information available on the SSA website). It’s best to do this as soon as possible after a name change in order to prevent delays in processing your federal income tax return, including when you get your refund. It’s also important to note that if your name change isn’t confirmed with SSA, certain deductions and credits may be reduced, disallowed or significantly delayed.
If you don’t legally change your name – you just use a different name from time to time – then you should continue to use your legal name on your federal income tax return. I don’t care if your mom calls you Skippy.
Remember that you want your information reported to the SSA to match what’s being reported to the IRS. This includes your name, Social Security number and your address – you can correct your address directly on your tax return or use federal form 8822 (downloads as a pdf). Keeping your information up to date prevents confusion and can save you a lot of time and aggravation. And that’s what we all want, right? More time, less aggravation.