Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ROYALLY SCREWED!

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the screwed.

One of my clients is a couple who has been married and filing joint returns for probably close to 20 years – many of them with me. Each year they have filed as Alfred and Jane Wiedersein. They filed their 2007 Form 1040 requesting a substantial refund. When they got the check they noticed that it was less than the amount that we asked for on the 1040.

Alf called the IRS and found out that the problem was that Jane did not change her last name with the Social Security Administration when she married. The SSA still shows her Social Security number as belonging to Jane Taxpayer.

FYI, as I have been telling clients and readers for years now (below from my posting “Getting Ready to Prepare Your Return” from January 2007) -

The IRS is very picky about matching names to Social Security numbers. If a Social Security number and name reported on your tax return does not match exactly the name in the files of the Social Security Administration the IRS will remove the name and dependency exemption of that person and automatically recalculate the tax liability as Head of Household, Married Filing Separately or Single.
.
If you have changed your last name as a result of marriage or divorce during
{the year} make sure to notify the Social Security Administration of the change before filing your tax return. You do this by submitting a Form SS-5 to request a new Social Security card. Go to
www.ssa.gov/ssnumber.”

After all these years of filing joint returns with Alf under her married name the IRS picks 2007 as the year to question the issue!

Anyway Alf straightened things out regarding his 2007 Form 1040 with the IRS and received an additional refund. Jane subsequently changed her last name with the Social Security Administration.

But this is not the problem. Alf and Jane are now told by the IRS that they will not be getting an economic “stimulus” rebate check because a Social Security number on the 2007 Form 1040 does not agree with the records of the Social Security Administration!

As Alf had done, I, too, went to “Where’s My Stimulus Payment” on the IRS website and entered the appropriate information. Here is what I was told –

You did not qualify for the Stimulus payment because the Taxpayer Identification Number shown on your tax return for yourself or your spouse was not valid. Your last name and/or Social Security Number did not agree with either our records or those of the Social Security Administration, or you used an IRS issued number such as an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or IRS number. You must have a valid Social Security Number to qualify for the Stimulus payment.

Helpful Information:
.
The 2008 tax instructions will include a worksheet to help those who did not qualify for a payment or those who received a reduced amount determine if they can obtain a benefit when they file their 2008 tax returns next year
.”

In addition to the above response to his online inquiry, Alf was also told by an IRS representative over the phone that he would not be getting a stimulus check because of the Social Security number.

The IRS did not just reduce the rebate by the amount that would have applied to Jane – they disallowed the entire rebate check! And the check would have been substantial as Alf and Jane have three dependent children under age 17.

It is true that when I file Alf and Jane’s 2008 Form 1040 I will be able to get them the entire amount of the rebate to which they are entitled based on 2008 information. But why should they have to wait until 2009 to get this money? The whole purpose of the meshuga rebate is to get money into the economy now! And what if one of the 3 kids who were under age 17 in 2007 turn 17 in 2008. Alf and Jane will be screwed out of $300!

Jane is not a foreign citizen without a Social Security number who married an American serviceman. She is a native born American citizen. Now even Americans who marry foreigners with no Social Security number can get the rebate – but not Alf and Jane.

It apparently does not matter that the issue with the Social Security number has been resolved with the IRS for purposes of the 2007 Form 1040 refund – or that Jane has changed her name with SSA. They still do not qualify for the rebate!

I am at a loss as to what to do. I will probably write to my Congress persons, since the IRS has blamed Congress for screwing the Wiederseins, but who knows if this will do any good.

Any suggestions?

TTFN

FYI, my “sitemeter” reports that THE WANDERING TAX PRO has exceeded 75,000 visits since returning to Blogger as its host (I am not quite sure if sitemeter started on the first post or was added a few days or weeks later). A pat on the back to me!

4 comments:

Bruce said...

Congrats on the counting from sitemeter. I have a long way to go.
I am not great with words, but it has been a long time since I have had to look one up.
“Meshuga.”
I like to think I am a “stimulus” knowledge base. I agree they should have their rebate now. Their situation is unique but with it all said and done they should have their rebate. The 1040X would have resubmitted and corrected the issue, or should have.
I am now being told that I can’t look into any further until Monday.
Back to vaction

Anonymous said...

All this sounds very interesting! So now I have a question regarding two people getting married where the female does not wish to change her name. What does she do for social security?

In addition, after the marriage takes place, the new husband will not have received an economic stimulus payment since he did not live or work in the U.S. in 2007 but is here in 2008 while the spouse already has received her single amount economic stimulus payment as a single person in 2008 for 2007. Also, no changes were made to the wife's claiming single exemption on social security forms since we figured out that they take even less money out of the paycheck when claiming married and she would be underpaying if she did that.

Any suggestions?

Robert D Flach said...

Bruce-

Meshuga:

According to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary – “Yiddish meshuge, from Hebrew mĕshuggāʽ, crazy, foolish.”

From the Free Online Dictionary - “crazy, senseless”.

The issue of filing an amended return has come up – but what am I amending? The number has been changed with the SSA – so there is no longer a federal income tax issue.

Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

TWTP

Robert D Flach said...

Anon-

First part – if a woman who marries wants to keep her maiden name, and not take the last name of her husband, she does not have to do anything for Social Security. Her name has not changed. When filing the annual joint Form 1040 she must list her maiden name on the 1040. If her husband is Alfred Wiedersein and she is Jane Taxpayer the first line of the 1040 (“Your” name) would be Alfred Wiedersein and the second line (“Spouse’s” name) would be Jane Taxpayer. This way the names on the Form 1040 and the names for the corresponding Social Security numbers in the records of the SSA will be the same.

The advance rebate check is based on the information on the 2007 income tax return. So if the new husband did not qualify based on 2007 information he would not receive a check in 2008.

The actual “credit” is ultimately based on 2008 filing information. If on the 2008 joint return the couple would qualify for a full $1,200, but together they only received $600 in 2008, I expect they would be able to claim the additional $600 on Line 71 of the 2008 Form 1040 (as per the current 2008 draft – which will most likely change before the end of the year) and increase their refund or reduce their balance due by the $600.

You did good by continuing to have the wife claim “Single” (or “Married But Withheld At the Higher Single Rate") on her W-4 at work. It is true that by claiming “Married” on the Form W-4 will result in less withholding.

Have I covered it?

TWTP