f you haven’t filed your taxes yet, it’s time to stop procrastinating. If you’re not sure what to do first, the fastest way to get started is to figure out which filing status applies to you. In addition, if your name or that of a dependent changed during the tax year for which you are filing, then you will also need to report the name changes to the Social Security Administration.
Choosing the Correct Filing Status
Choosing the correct filing status is important because it can affect the amount of tax you owe for the year. It may even determine if you must file a tax return. Here are the five filing statuses you can choose from:
1. Single. This status normally applies if you aren’t married. It applies if you are divorced or legally separated under state law.
2. Married Filing Jointly. If you’re married, you and your spouse can file a joint tax return. If your spouse died in 2017, you can often file a joint return for that year.
3. Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns. This may benefit you if it results in less tax owed than if you file a joint tax return. You may want to prepare your taxes both ways before you choose. You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax.
4. Head of Household. In most cases, this status applies if you are not married, but there are some special rules. For example, you must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Don’t choose this status by mistake. Be sure to check all the rules.
5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. This status may apply to you if your spouse died during 2015 or 2016 and you have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.
Taxpayers are reminded that your marital status on December 31 determines your status for the whole year. Sometimes, however, more than one filing status may apply to you. If that happens, choose the one that allows you to pay the least amount of tax.
Reporting Name Changes
All of the names on a taxpayer’s tax return must match Social Security Administration records and a name mismatch can delay a tax refund. Here’s what you should do if anyone listed on their tax return changed their name:
1. Reporting Taxpayer’s Name Change. Taxpayers who should notify the SSA of a name change include the following:
- Taxpayers who got married and use their spouse’s last name.
- Recently married taxpayers who now use a hyphenated name.
- Divorced taxpayers who now use their former last name.
2. Reporting Dependent’s Name Change. Taxpayers should notify the SSA if a dependent’s name changed. This includes an adopted child who now has a new last name. If the child doesn’t have a Social Security number, the taxpayer may use a temporary Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) on the tax return. Taxpayers can apply for an ATIN by filing a Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions.
3. Getting a New Social Security Card. Taxpayers who have a name change should get a new card that reflects a name change. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. Taxpayers can get the form on SSA.gov or by calling 800-772-1213.
If you have any questions about these or any other aspects of filing your tax return, don’t hesitate to call the office immediately.