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 help you may need, let’s walk through the Employee’s Withholding Certificate since that will most likely be what’s required in your situation. Keep in mind that allowances no longer exist so there may be a little more work required on your part to complete your W-4.
This is one of two required sections of the W-4. You simply fill out your personal information and indicate whether you’re:
Single or married, but filing a separate income tax return than your spouse.
Married filing jointly (both you and your spouse are included on the same tax return).
Head of household (you’re unmarried and pay more than half the costs of upkeeping your home for yourself and at least one other person, such as a child)
You only need to complete this section if you have more than one job at a time, such as working in a nanny share, or if you checked the box in Step 1 indicating that you’re married filing jointly and your spouse also works. To complete the section, do one of the following:
Use the IRS’ online withholding estimator tool to see if there is an amount you will enter on line 4c. If you’re married, only do this if you earn more money than your spouse does.
Use the Multiple Jobs Worksheet on page 3 to get a similar figure to enter on line 4c. Again, if you’re married, only do this if you earn more money than your spouse.
Check the box on the right side of the section and the IRS will assume both of your jobs pay you roughly the same amount. If you’re married, both you and your spouse need to check the box, but if you earn more money than they do, you’ll need to complete steps 3 and 4. If you’re not married, only proceed to Step 3 if you’re filling out your W-4 for the job that pays you more and you will claim a dependent (child, elderly parent, etc.).
If your income will be $200,000 or less — or $400,000 or less if married filing jointly, you can claim your dependents in this section. First, multiply the number of children you have under the age of 17 by $2,000 and enter the result in the corresponding line. Then, multiply the number of any other dependents you have by $500 and enter this amount as well. Add the total of both calculations and proceed to Step 4.
Complete this step to adjust your tax withholdings for the following reasons:
4a — You know you have income for the year that is not related to a job and will not have taxes withheld from it. This is usually from interest, dividends or retirement income. Enter this total on line 4a.
4b — You plan to claim something different than the standard deduction and want to reduce the amount of tax withholdings you’ll have. You should complete the Deductions Worksheet on page 3 of your W-4 and enter the result on line 4b.
4c — This is for additional withholdings per pay period that you either calculated earlier in Step 2 or wish to include because you think you’ll need more taxes withheld.
You’re done! Just sign and date your W-4 and give it to your employer.
Remember, the W-4 doesn’t have to be filled out exactly like this and it’s up to you to decide what you’re most comfortable with. Again, this advice is tailored for the Employee’s Withholding Certificate. If you have a complicated tax situation, you should speak to your personal income tax preparer.