How To Fill Out W-4 Forms


Editor’s Note: With Tax Day behind us, now is a good time to think about the changes you can make to lower your tax liability. The answer lies in how to fill out W-4 Form. Read on!

One of the easiest ways to increase or decrease your tax refund is changing the amount withheld on your paycheck each pay period. Form W-4 allows you to dictate the amount of withholding on your paycheck. This article will address the ways in which you can use the Form W-4 to affect your tax return. To learn more about the form, read “What Is a W-4 Tax Form.”

w-4 worksheet

Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, is generally completed at the start of any new job. This form tells your employer how much federal income tax withholding to keep from each paycheck. This form is crucial in determining your balance due or refund each tax season.

For instance, if you withhold too much, you can end up with a large refund. If you withhold too little, you can create a balance due and potentially an underpayment penalty.

“How Should I Fill Out my W-4?”

The 2020 Form W-4 is redesigned, and you will no longer be able to request an adjustment to your withholding by increasing or decreasing allowances. Instead of using allowances, you will tell your employer specific amounts to increase or decrease tax withholding or specific amounts to increase or decrease the amount of wage income subject to income tax withholding.

On the new W-4, you’ll first fill out your personal information including your name, address, social security number, and tax filing status. On the new W-4, you’ll be able to choose from single, married filing separately, married filing jointly, qualifying widow(er), or head of household. You no longer have an option to choose “Married, but withholding at a higher single rate”.

Filling out your personal information on the W-4 and having your employer withhold at default levels may seem the easiest path. But you might need to complete one or more additional steps to make your withholding match your specific situation.

If you’re wondering “How should I fill out my W-4 with a spouse or dependents if there are no longer allowances? If you are married and have children, and both you and your spouse work, it is extremely important to coordinate how you both fill out your respective W-4 forms. You want to make sure only one of you allows for child-related tax credits through withholding. Generally, it’s best to allow for child-related tax credits on the Form W-4 of the highest paying job. If you and your spouse each allow for child-related tax credits on your W-4, it will likely result in not enough withholding, and having to pay an additional amount to the IRS at end of the year. Step 3 of the new W-4 form will ask you how many qualifying children you have under age 17, and how many other dependents you have. After you complete Step 3, your employer will know exactly how much to decrease withholding to allow for your children.

You might also be wondering how to fill out the W-4 form if you have multiple jobs, your spouse works, or if you have other income like self-employment income. You have three choices. You can use an online estimator to determine a specific amount to have your employer withhold each pay period. This method works the best if you have income from self-employment, because it helps allow for self-employment taxes in addition to income taxes. You can use a worksheet attached to the W-4 form if there are multiple jobs in your household (either you have multiple jobs or you and your spouse each work). Both the online estimator method and worksheet method work well if you’d prefer not to give your employer information about other income you might have. Or, you can check a box and have your employer withhold at a default rate. Checking the box works best if all the jobs have a similar amount of pay.

Checking the box for the default method may seem like the easiest choice. But, this will sometimes result in a refund check and much smaller paychecks throughout the year. If you are in a good enough financial situation, this may not seem like a big deal. But for some taxpayers, they’d like to maximize their paycheck amount while making sure their tax liability is covered for the year.

If you expect to itemize deductions instead of claiming the standard deduction, you can also use a deductions worksheet attached to the W-4 form to ask your employer to decrease withholding by a specific amount each pay period.

Just like it’s important for only one spouse to allow for child-related tax credits on their W-4, it’s important that you only allow for other income or deduction on one W-4.

If you need to claim an exemption from withholding, you can still do that on the new W-4 form. You are exempt from withholding if you owed no federal tax the prior year and you expect to owe no federal tax for the current year. To claim you are exempt, you write “Exempt” on the new W-4 form in the space below Step 4(c).

Form W-4 Help

Need extra W-4 help? Our W-4 tax withholding calculator helps you determine how much withholding you need.

Hands-on Guidance With Filling Out W-4 Forms

Filling out W-4 Forms can be tricky for some. This is why we’re here to help. H&R Block tax professionals can be a great help in this area. In fact, you can get your return reviewed and determine if you over-withheld or under-withheld during the year. If you determine that a change should be made, you can contact your employer and ask for an opportunity to update your W-4. You should be able to make these changes at any point during the year; and the sooner the better if a change needs to be made!

Additionally, any time you have a major life event you should consider updating your W-4. A marriage, divorce, a new baby, or a child turning 17 will have an effect on your taxes and should be taken into consideration in filling out your W-4.

Hopefully we answered the question, “How do I fill out a W-4 form?”If you’re looking for hands-on guidance, look no further than H&R Block. A tax pro should be able to help you make the best decisions for your situation! Find a tax office near you today!

Related Topics

Related Resources

Planning to Deduct Charitable Contributions? Tax Reform May Change That

When it comes to philanthropic giving and larger charitable contributions, tax reform may change how you deduct gifts. Learn more from H&R Block's experts.

IRS Letter 4281C – Breach Notification Letter

Your personal information was lost or disclosed through an IRS data breach. Learn more about IRS letter 4281C from the tax experts at H&R Block.

IRS Letter 3853C – Incorrect or Incomplete Return Was Filed

Learn more about Letter 3853C, why you received it, and how to handle an IRS 3853C letter with help from the tax experts at H&R Block.

IRS Letter 3016 – Innocent Spouse Relief Preliminary Determination

The IRS has made a decision about your innocent spouse claim. Learn more about letter 3016 and how to address it with help from the experts at H&R Block.