While the big tax day is still a few months in the future, for business owners, January 15th is one of the dreaded estimated tax payments deadlines.  As I was writing out my check to the IRS, I got to the part where it says “Write your social security number and 2008 Form 1040-ES on your check or money order” and wondered in this day and age of identity theft, is this such a great idea?

A little over a year ago, Nina wrote about “How to Prevent Identity Theft” .  All good, basic tips.  When I think about it, it seems like a total display of negligence to scribble my social security number in the memo of a handwritten check that will be wander through the postal service, into the hands of government processing centers, and ultimately back through the banking system. Yet, if I don’t clearly identify myself on the check and it gets separated from the form along the way, the chances my payment will be properly credited is about nil.  On more than one occasion in the past, the PA Department of Treasury has sent me a nasty gram telling me I didn’t pay my taxes. When I investigated and dealt with their offices by sending in a copy of my cancelled check, it was discovered that the payment was accidentally credited to someone else. And THAT was  WITH my social written on the check.

According to eHow, here is what they have to say about this matter in “How to Write a Check to the IRS”:

Write clearly in the memo section of your check your Social Security number, the tax year to which the payment applies, and the tax form related to the check (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ – or ES for estimated payments).

I find it fascinating that the IRS explicitly tells you to write your social security number on your check.  Then, if you hop on over to another venerated government agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and check out their tips on “DETER: Minimize your Risk of Identity Theft”, they tell you:

Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check.

Um, OK, Got it, I wouldn’t think of writing my Social Security number on a check, but…. Uncle Sam just TOLD ME TO.

I certainly don’t have any earthshattering answer to this conundrum. I suppose you could do a hybrid and put the last 4 digits of your Social on the tax check but I’m not sure that helps a thing.

What has been your experience?  What do you do when you write a check to the IRS — do you put your Social on it or not?  If you have been a victim of identity theft how has that changed your approach?  Please share in the comments…

Photo Credit: Betssssy


Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life coaching for lesbians who are ready to create their lives and businesses in a way that fits who they are rather than how they were told they “should”. Visit her site to get the Free eCourse “The 5 Crucial C’s You Need to Succeed in Life”