If you've recently married, divorced or changed your name for another reason, it's important that you make sure the IRS knows what happened. Without an IRS name change, your name and Social Security number won't match. As a result, the IRS will refuse to accept an electronically filed tax return, and they may delay or deny the processing of a paper return. Businesses also must make sure to change their name with the IRS after a merger or other name-changing event.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Individual taxpayers make name changes through the Social Security Administration, while businesses must contact the IRS directly.
Making IRS Updates
Changing your name with the IRS actually doesn't involve the IRS at all. Although the IRS will verify that your name and Social Security number match, most tax-related matters get tracked through your Social Security number. When a divorce, marriage or court order changes your legal name, you need to report the change to the Social Security Administration. To do so, you'll need a Form SS-5. Once completed, you'll need to take this form to your local SSA office along with proof of your name change, such as your marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order.
You cannot complete an SSA name change online, so you will need to visit a nearby SSA office in person. This service is free, so never trust anyone who tries to charge you for the name change. After you file your Form SS-5, the SSA will update your record to protect any Social Security earnings you've already accrued and will issue you a new Social Security card. When you file your next tax return, the IRS will automatically verify your new information with the SSA.
Exceptions and Other Updates
While individuals change their name through the SSA, businesses must contact the IRS directly. The precise method of doing so varies based on the business structure and the timing of the name change. In some instances, your business name is all that will change. In others, however, to change a business name will also require applying for a new employer identification number using Form SS-4. A business needs a new EIN when changing their name in several instances, including after bankruptcy, when incorporating or when adding or removing partners.
Both businesses and individuals must remember that changing your name with the SSA and IRS won't necessarily change it everywhere. You will still need to contact state and local taxing authorities to learn their particular name-change protocols.
2018 Name Change Procedures
Individual name changes are fairly simple. Just print Form SS-5 and take it to your local SSA office with proof of your name change. Businesses must follow different guidelines, however. If you're changing the name of a sole proprietorship, simply send a letter explaining the name change to the IRS at the same address where you file your tax returns. Use this same process if you are a single-member limited liability corporation.
If your partnership is changing its name at tax time, simply report the change on Form 1065 of your tax return. Report the change on page 1, line G, box 3 of the form. If you've already filed, send a letter to the IRS at the address where you file your taxes. Use this process if you are a multi-member LLC as well.
Corporations have their own set of rules. If the corporation already filed its taxes for this year, write to the IRS and send the letter to the same address where you send your corporate tax returns. If your name change happens before you file, report it on page 1, line E, box 3 of your Form 1120 or on page 1, line H, box 2 of your Form 1120S.
2017 Name Change Procedures
The process for changing both individual and business names has remained unchanged for several years. If you changed your name in 2017, you should have already submitted your name change to the SSA or IRS. If you haven't, do so as soon as possible to avoid future problems.
- Use your new name on your income tax return – as long as you changed your name with the SSA, the IRS will connect your new name and your Social Security number to make the complete connection between your old and new name.
Michelle earned her accounting degree summa cum laude and has extensive experience in business management and accounting. Entrepreneurship is in her blood, and her work focuses on helping small businesses successfully compete in a big market. Michelle also knows the value of a dollar and enjoys helping readers understand how best to maximize their money and enjoy a healthy financial life. Her work appears Chron's small business site. She has also worked on small business blogs for a national insurance chain.