File taxes with a name mis-match?
January 31, 2008 5:38 PM   Subscribe

There's a name mis-match between my social security card and my W-2. Can I still file my taxes and get a refund?

I am a single, unmarried dude. Let's say I changed my name from John Public Doe to John Public. This is not due to marriage or anything (just didn't like my old last name; I changed it to my middle name). I have not gone down to the social security office to change it (my legal paperwork is elsewhere and I can't get to it anytime soon).
But at work, the payroll person changed it to John Public as soon as I told her about it in conversation. Now my W-2 says John Public but my name with SS/IRS is John Public Doe. Can I still file my taxes (online, Turbotax if it matters) and get a refund? I am broke and would like a quick refund. But will this automatically get flagged and endlessly delayed?

I tried to google and came across this. It seems like a workable answer (file with old name and get it changed as soon as you can). Can I just go ahead and file (given same problem but different circumstances)?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go get your W-2 issued with the name SSI/IRS has on file. If you file with two different names, you will receive a letter from the IRS telling you to straighten yourself out with SSI. And you will not get any $ from the IRS until you do.

This is the voice of experience.
posted by jdfan at 5:56 PM on January 31, 2008

Although not the same issue, I just tried to file taxes electronically for the first time a couple of days ago, and it wouldn't go through, because there is a discrepancy between my stated birthday and the birthday on record with the social security office. So I went from having my refund in 1-2 weeks to having to go down to the social security office to fill out forms that will take about four weeks to resolve, before I can even file my taxes.

What is interesting, however, is that this is an issue that never came up when I filed my taxes on paper. And I've been doing that for a couple of decades now. I suspect though that your situation is much more likely to be flagged with the IRS, if there is a discrepancy.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:28 PM on January 31, 2008

I have filed online and gotten refunds under circumstances very similar to yours for several years. My married name is Jane Public Doe. That's what my SS card says, but my job, my bank and pretty much everybody else knows me as Jane Public. I file using the name Jane Public, but have filed using the full name in the past.

The difference might be that my husband's name is also on the form, or that I've been doing this for so long that it matches everything prior.
posted by sageleaf at 6:48 PM on January 31, 2008

I got married five years ago, never sent in the form to change the information with Social Security, and I file taxes every year. Nobody has ever said boo.
posted by padraigin at 6:59 PM on January 31, 2008

Maybe because you have changed the surname? I have my full name on a W-2 and I always have filed using my nickname. I've done it for 20 plus years with no problem. Actually, they go by the SS# so I don't know why it's that big of a deal. The law states that unless you are out to commit fraud - which you are not - you can use any name you want. I don't know of any stipulations that say, "except the IRS," but one never knows with Internal Revenue. I'd play it safe; especially if your are due money. Playing safe, in this case, would be to get your employer to re-issue the W-2 with the name the IRS has and then as soon as possible take the time to get it done - legally - how you want it. A legal change is cheap - and easy. Just do the one-page form, file it at the desk of the proper court and - depending on the state - you may or may not have a hearing to attend. Most states just review the information, and if all looks good and legit, you receive the court order. You then take that order to get a new Drivers License, SS card, etc.
Here's a good page to take a look at.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:09 PM on January 31, 2008

OK, the IRS is primarily concerned with your Social Security Number, but if there is a mismatch the computer may flag your return for manual processing. This could delay receiving a refund. If they have a problem they'll send you a letter. (Lazy way out.)

But to really get this fixed, go to the horse's mouth. You need to refile Social Security form 5FS (See p.2, CHANGE OF INFORMATION.) A marriage certificate, for example, is sufficient for a spouse to prove change of identity, but a single person will probably need a court order. The consequence for not doing this could be a real snafu years down the road if your earnings are not collated into the correct account. (Imagine trying to get W-2s corrected for a defunct business.)

For the IRS, it is simpler. File Form 8822 and fill out Line 5.
posted by dhartung at 12:13 AM on February 1, 2008

Just to follow up: I changed my name when I was 17 or so but didn't do the actual, legal name change until I was in my late 20s. The only thing that prompted me to follow through and get it done was a letter from the IRS stating that they would not refund my money until the name I filed with them matched the name at SSI.

A big difference I've noticed between the OP (and I) and some of the replies: we're male, we didn't get married, we changed for our own reasons.

That was almost 10 years ago. Maybe the IRS has become more relaxed in the interval.
posted by jdfan at 7:28 AM on February 1, 2008

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