Names & work
July 17, 2014 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Summer contracting job -- when do I have to use my legal name?

My legal first name is very ethnic, very long, and very much a pain in the ass, so ever since I was sentient I've used a shortened version of it. I'm about to start a new job with an independent contractor, for which I've interviewed, gotten my log-ins, etc. with my shortened name (my "illegal" name). This week I'll be getting some of my tax paper work done.

Does it matter if my illegal name is:
a. on my paycheck? (FWIW my bank doesn't have an issue depositing checks with my illegal name)
b. on my 1099 form?

Normally I'd assume the obvious answer for B is to use my legal name, but I've been told insistently by a couple individuals who have gone through the name-change process that you can use whatever name. (And though the obvious answer for this whole thing is just to suck it up and use my legal name, I'd just like to know how it all works in any case.)
posted by krakus to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where are you located?
posted by brainmouse at 7:08 AM on July 17, 2014

I have a bootleg hyphenated name. Talk about a pain in the ass. In my last job, they insisted on issuing my check in the same name as my Social Security Card. In this job, they're fine with the hyphenate.

So Call HR and ask. They'll let you know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:09 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

As an aside, calling it your "illegal" name instead of an "alias" or better still "preferred name" is bound to raise red flags - although "alias" has some negative connotations, it's doesn't bluntly convey a sense of wrongdoing!
posted by onshi at 7:10 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, in HR terms in the US it's generally called "preferred name" or "nickname". :) HR should be able to tell you what the requirements are for your 1099.
posted by RogueTech at 7:14 AM on July 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

In most states, it's legal to use any name you want, as long as your intent isn't to defraud.

That said, I think calling HR is your best idea.
posted by BrashTech at 7:15 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding onshi - don't call it your "illegal" name, call it your "nickname", because that's what it is.

And this happened to me a lot for summer jobs too, and I don't have an "ethnic" name; I just have a longish WASPY name ("Kimberly"). In high school, I'd always introduce myself to people using my preferred nickname ("Kim").

For jobs where I had to fill out one of those W-2 jobbers, I'd use the full name, and that's how they did the paychecks; for more casual jobs, where I didn't have to fill out a W-2, they just wrote the check out to "Kim" instead because that's what they were used to. Also, my first freelance writing in the 2000's was for a director who had known me as "Kim" for years, and that's how he made the checks out as well.

If memory serves, whenever I had to do taxes or deposit money in the bank, precisely zero fucks were given whether my papers said "Kim" or "Kimberly". Check with your HR if you like, but I"m sure you're fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on July 17, 2014

I'm in the same boat as you, name-wise. I prefer to call my preferred name a "nickname," or maybe even "preferred name" (since that's how a lot of databases will store it).

To make my life easier, I generally tend to go with my nickname in situations where I'll need to talk to humans, but my legal name for when I'm dealing with robots.

So, in a work context? Resume, IT setup, name badge - nickname, HR forms - legal name.

My bank has my preferred name listed as an alias (because I get cheques from people who can't even spell my legal name), but I think it's just easier if your cheques and your tax forms match the name on your social security card.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:17 AM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Preferred name is the term to use.
posted by odinsdream at 7:21 AM on July 17, 2014

I have a couple coworkers who are in the same boat. Very long, ethnic first name that they prefer shortened for general use (i.e. their nickname). Heck, even I do the same thing with Jennifer/Jen.

The only people who know their full legal names are me (HR for benefits purposes) and my boss (who inputs the payroll). Our email addresses, business cards, building ID cards, etc all reflect our preferred names. All legal documents (payroll, taxes, health insurance, etc) reflect the full legal names.

Does it "matter" if there's a discrepancy between your full legal name and your nickname on a payroll check? I don't know. But it will make it easier for everyone (and you) to keep documents and taxes straight if you stick to the name on your government-issued ID.
posted by phunniemee at 7:42 AM on July 17, 2014

brainmouse -- I'm in North Carolina.
posted by krakus at 7:53 AM on July 17, 2014

I use my preferred name on everything, including taxes, and have done for many years.
posted by theora55 at 9:14 AM on July 17, 2014

It's probably better if the name on your checks and 1099 is your legal name, however I don't think it's a disaster if it isn't. As far as I know, your tax stuff is all tied to your social security number--my brother's name was misspelled on his W-2 and I've filed state taxes with my name spelled totally wrong and neither of these things mattered. (I contacted the state asking what I should do. They send "Are you getting a refund? If it's direct deposit, it doesn't matter, if we're mailing you a check*, we should do something.") Likewise, loads of people are going to change their names between a W-2 or a 1099 being issued and actually filing their taxes, but it works because the IRS really cares about the social security number, not the name.

*But I've been given checks made out to my middle name. The internet told me you endorse it with both the name on the check and then with the name on the account and that didn't cause any problems.
posted by hoyland at 9:18 AM on July 17, 2014

Your legal name should be on your tax stuff. You might need to make it clear to HR what you go by and what your legal/wallet name is, and where each should appear. Your checks should be made out to the name on your bank account, or you may have trouble cashing them.

If it's obvious that your preferred name is derived from your legal name, like Kim/Kimberly, then you have some leeway with checks, particularly if your preferred name isn't surprising or unusual (Kim/Kimberly won't run into trouble with the teller, but Bob/Kimberly probably will) but your tax stuff must must must be in your legal name (which must match what the SSA has) just to head off any confusion.

Name change and name variation is a lot less flexible than it used to be due to 9/11-related security measures, which is a major PITA for people with complicated names. My advice is to play it really safe.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:35 PM on July 17, 2014

« Older I need a landline telephone — but just for 9 hours   |   Weird PC problem with 3 programs Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.