Do you know where your Social Security card is located? Hopefully, it's in a safe place, tucked away securely with your other important papers. It certainly should not be in your purse or wallet and should not be carried with you every day, since it can be more valuable than cash to an identity thief.
Do you know your Social Security number? Chances are you have it memorized. If you know your number, you might never need your card again. It is the number, not the card, that is most important.
In the event that you lose your Social Security card and really need a replacement, you can find out all the details on how to obtain a free replacement card and what specific documents you need to provide at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. Each situation is unique, but in most cases you simply need to print, complete and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the appropriate documentation (original or certified copies only).
If you need to apply for a Social Security card and number for your child, you can do that the same way, and get the specific information at the same website. In almost all cases, though, an application for your infant's Social Security card and number is taken in the hospital at the same time that you apply for your baby's birth certificate.
Why does a baby need a Social Security number? There are a number of reasons, but the main one is so that you can claim your child as a dependent on your tax return. Social Security numbers also are needed for children to apply for certain government and social service benefits.
As you prepare for tax season, just around the corner, make sure the children (and all the dependents) whom you list on your annual tax return have Social Security numbers. If you want to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return (and who doesn't?) your child will need a Social Security number. Note that all dependents listed on your federal tax return will need Social Security numbers, including a dependent parent who lives with you and receives support from you.
Learn more about Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov. And learn more about your Social Security card and number at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber, where you can print out an application and find out everything you need for your specific situation.
Ken Hess is the Social Security public affairs specialist for northern Wisconsin. Contact him at 2213 Eighth St. S., Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494; or email at Kenneth.email@example.com.