If you're eligible to claim a child as a dependent on your taxes, you're going to need their Social Security number, or SSN, in order to take advantage of the tax benefits available to parents. Filing your taxes without your child's SSN won't change how you prepare the return, but it will likely increase the amount of tax you'll pay. There are, however, some things you can do to avoid paying more tax than you really need to.
Filing Without SSN
The Internal Revenue Service requires your child's SSN if you want to claim them as a dependent and reduce your gross income with an additional exemption. However, there's no requirement that you report your child as a dependent. If you choose to file without claiming your son, you can simply skip the section of your 1040 that gives you the option of listing dependents. Realize that this will certainly increase the amount of tax you owe. Not only will you lose your child's exemption, but if you're unmarried and would be eligible to file as head of household if claiming a dependent, you'll now have to file as single. This means your standard deduction is less than it could be and larger portions of your taxable income will be subject to higher rates of tax since the tax brackets for head of household filers are more favorable.
Losing Child-Related Benefits
There are many tax credits that you're ineligible for when choosing not to claim a dependent, or for which the IRS will disallow when claiming your child as a dependent, but failing to include his SSN on the return. Some of these valuable tax credits include the child tax credit, credits for your child's higher education expenses, and the credit for child and dependent care expenses. And if you qualify for the earned income credit, the amount you can take will likely be lower than the amount you'd qualify for when claiming a dependent child.
File For Extension
One way to avoid losing all these tax benefits is to take advantage of the automatic six-month filing extension so that you have more time to obtain a SSN for your child. To obtain the extension, you either need to file Form 4868 by April 15, or if you know that you'll owe tax, you can get the extension without filing any forms if you make an electronic tax payment by the filing deadline. Keep in mind that if you file Form 4868, you'll need to estimate your tax liability on it.
Apply For SSN
The most effective way to avoid paying more income tax than is really necessary is to file an application (on Form SS-5) with the Social Security Administration for a new SSN for your child. You can submit the application in person at a local Social Security office, or drop it in the mail. Either way, it only takes one to two weeks to have a new SSN assigned. If, however, your child is 12 or older, they will need to apply for the SSN in person.
Michael Marz has worked in the financial sector since 2002, specializing in wealth and estate planning. After spending six years working for a large investment bank and an accounting firm, Marz is now self-employed as a consultant, focusing on complex estate and gift tax compliance and planning.