First introduced in 1936, the Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued by the US government to all eligible citizens and residents! It is primarily used to track workers’ earnings throughout their working years. With this number, the social security benefits of workers and other entitlements can also be calculated and tracked. Since its inception, the SSN has substantially expanded in use. Today, the social security number has become the de facto identifier for US residents. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recorded over 450 million SSNs issued, with nearly all legal US residents having one. With its incredibly efficient universality, the SSN has been adopted throughout the private sector and government as the primary identifier and way of carrying out background checks.
The SSN Deconstructed
The SSN, as it is currently used, comprises three parts. The first part is the 3-digit area number assigned by geographic region. Since 1972 the area number has been assigned in line with a worker’s ZIP code and mailing address to reflect workers’ areas of residence better. The group number consists of the fourth and fifth digits. SSNs were initially issued out in groups of 10,000. Group numbers start from 01 and go up to 99 with 00 remaining unused. Lastly, you have the serial number, which consists of the last four digits of the SSN card. The serial number is a straight series of numbers from 0001-9999 used within groups.
When Do You Need Your Social Security Number?
You’ll need your SSN most when getting a new job. The accounting department at your new job uses this number to inform the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about your income and the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your Social Security wages.
Your SSN also comes in handy when filing state income tax reports in states where these are required. Some employers also use E-Verify, where they ascertain that you are legally allowed to work in the US. For such applications, an SSN verification API is used to quickly confirm that information such as name, date of birth, and other details match. With the latest high-tech API, employers can rapidly clear you to start working.
When Filling Your Tax Returns
It would help if you had your SSN when filing tax returns since the IRS uses it to match your tax information to what income your employer reports to have paid you. When filing your returns, you also need your child’s SSN. With it, you can claim them as a dependent when filing your tax returns.
When You Open Accounts with Financial Institutions in the US
Your SSN is vital to financial institutions as they use it to report your income or losses and interest to the IRS. Banks also use it to indicate your tax-deductible mortgage to the IRS. The number generally enables such institutions to run your account smoothly as it connects all the information, they need to understand your financial position. Alternatively, financial institutions will accept your Employer Identification Number (EIN) in place of your SSN, which you get from the IRS.
To Apply for Public Assistance
The federal government has various public assistance programs that aid different sections of the population that need such help. Such programs include disability income and unemployment benefits. The agencies managing such programs use your SSN to verify who you are and ensure that you don’t claim benefits you are not entitled to.
When Getting a Driver’s License
You must produce your SSN in most states when applying for your driver’s license. However, an SSN is not required for non-citizens, as it is in most situations where residents would need it. You can get services without having to produce an SSN when applying for certain forms of public assistance, applying for private medical cover, and registering for school when you are not a citizen of the US. The only reason you would need this in financial institutions is so that they could run a background check on you before you are eligible for loans.
Your Passport Application
Federal law requires you to produce your social security number when you apply for a US passport. People who don’t have a social security number must provide a sworn statement stating they have never received the number
When Not to Use your SSN
According to federal law, the information on your SSN is usable on many occasions. Nevertheless, you aren’t required to share it every single time. Your SSN carries vital information about you that you shouldn’t readily share. Remember that your SSN is probably not needed whenever you are asked to produce it. For instance, medical providers tend to ask for it, but you can leave this space blank. Businesses can often verify your information in other ways without needing your SSN, even though some will deny you service should you fail to provide it.
To keep your information safe and avoid losing your social security card, you should only carry it when you have a specific use for it in the day. If, for instance, you are going to make official applications that will need you to have a social security card such as your passport or driver’s license or a job, then you should have it on hand. Keep the card safe and minimize how much you use the number to keep yourself safe from identity theft.
The SSN has developed from occasional use to a unique identifier. From tracking your lifetime earnings to opening a checking account and processing your social security benefits, the social security number has become a must-have in society’s private and public sectors. But be warned, with its wide-ranging applications comes a broader range of identity theft threats. You must guard it, so it does not get into the wrong hands.