How to Fill Out a W-4

Updated

Like most tax-related forms, the W-4 can be confusing if you're not familiar with tax terminology. Many caregivers need help filling out their W-4 before they begin working and it's important that this is done correctly so the correct amount of federal income taxes can be withheld each pay period. To assist with any federal W-4 help you may need, let's walk through the Personal Allowances Worksheet since that will most likely be what's required in your situation.

If you don't have a 2019 Federal W-4, visit our Forms page to download a copy and follow along with the following instructions:

Line A

Enter 1 if no one can claim you as a dependent. This would apply to most household employees because they're no longer a minor being claimed by their parents or an elderly or disabled individual being cared for by someone else.

Line B

Enter 1 if you are married and you and your spouse will be filing an income tax return together also called filing jointly.

Line C

Enter 1 only if you can file as Head of Household. That means you are unmarried and pay more than 50% of the costs of your home for you and your dependents. Costs would be things like rent, property taxes, mortgage interest, utilities, repairs and food.

Line D

You will Enter 1 if any of the following scenarios is true:

  • You are single and have 1 job or are married and file a separate income tax return than your spouse and have 1 job.
  • You are married, file jointly with your spouse, have 1 job and your spouse does not work.
  • The combined wages from your second job and your spouses job pays $1,500 or less during the calendar year.

Line E

This part covers addresses both your income and your children.

  • Enter 4 for each child you have if your total household income is less than $71,201 or $103,351 if you are married filing jointly.
  • Enter 2 for each child you have if your total household income is between $71,201 and $179,050 or between $103,351 and $345,850 if you are married filing jointly.
  • Enter 1 for each child you have if your total household income is between $179,051 and $200,000 or between $345,851 and $400,000 if you are married filing jointly.
  • Enter 0 if your total household income will be higher than $200,000 or $400,000 if you are married filing jointly.

Line F

This section covers any other dependents you have other than children.

  • Enter 1 for each dependent you have if your total household income is less than $71,201 or $103,351 if you are married filing jointly.
  • Enter 1 for every 2 dependents you have if your total household income is between $71,201 and $179,050 or between $103,351 and $345,850 if you are married filing jointly. For example, you enter 0 if you have 1 dependent, 1 if you have 2 or 3 dependents, and 2 if you have 4 or 5 dependents.
  • Enter 0 if your total household income will be higher than $179,050 or $345,850 if you are married filing jointly.

Line G

This section asks you to add up several credits that appear in IRS Publication 505 on Worksheet 1-6 and covert them into a numerical result. As things like the Childcare Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit and Premium Tax Credit will be different or not applicable to everyone, we recommend completing this area to the best of your ability. Adjustments to your W-4 can be made throughout the year if it seems like too much or too little is being withheld from your paycheck.

Line H

This is where you do the math. Add up all your allowances and this is how many the IRS suggests you write on Line 5 of the Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate on the W-4 to get you within a couple hundred dollars either side of $0.

Remember, the W-4 doesnt have to be filled out exactly like this and it's up to you to decide what you're most comfortable with. Decrease your number of allowances to have more federal income tax withheld each pay period if you want a better a shot of having an income tax refund. Increase the number of allowances to have less taxes withheld each pay period.

Again, this advice is tailored for the Personal Allowances Worksheet. If you have a complicated tax situation that requires you to use the Deduction and Adjustments Worksheet, you should speak to your personal income tax preparer.