What To Do If You Can’t Verify An Employee’s Social Security Number

To successfully file W-2s for payroll purposes, you must request Social Security information from your employees when they are hired. While this usually is not a problem, it is possible that you will have trouble verifying an employee’s Social Security number at some point.

The good news is that this problem is fairly common, and there are several things you can do to resolve the issue and ensure your company follows the applicable regulations. In this situation, take the following steps:


  1. Verify the number you are entering: If you are unable to verify a Social Security number, make sure you are entering the same number and name that is on your employee’s paperwork. You might find that you mixed up a digit or spelled something wrong in your initial verification attempt.
  2. Try different name configurations: If your employee has multiple first or middle names, try entering different configurations. It’s possible you may be entering the name in a format not consistent with the name on the Social Security card.
  3. Ask your employee to confirm the number: After ensuring that you’re entering the name and number accurately, reach out to your employee and ask him or her verify the Social Security number to ensure it was entered correctly on the paperwork.
  4. Instruct the employee to visit the Social Security office: If the number your employee gives you still does not verify, instruct your employee to go to a Social Security office to get to the bottom of the issue.
  5. Document your efforts: You should carefully document each step you take to verify an employee’s Social Security number. By documenting your efforts and keeping that information on record for at least three years, you can protect your business from liability.

What happens if you cannot verify a Social Security number?

Many employers assume they have to let an employee go if they are not able to provide a valid Social Security number, but that’s not necessarily true. In fact, suspending or firing an employee due to verification problems may leave you in violation of federal and state employment laws. Instead, simply document your efforts to verify the Social Security number and keep that information on file.

Create a company policy

The best way to ensure you can handle a Social Security verification problem effectively is to create a consistent company policy. This policy should detail the steps to be taken and a general time frame for various actions if you experience an issue with Social Security verification. Having a payroll policy in place ensures you can effectively navigate the verification process while staying in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.