How To Fill Out The New W4 Tax Form

July 9, 2021

Filing taxes can be a complicated process with lots of forms to consider like the W4. By using the tax professionals at Check City you can get all of your taxes prepared at a reasonable price, so you don't have to worry about doing taxes alone. 

What is a W4 Tax Form?

The title of the W4 tax form is "Employee's Withholding Certificate." This is the form that employees use to tell their employers how much income tax to withhold from their paychecks. 

The tax withholding decisions employees make on their W4 will determine how much they pay in taxes each paycheck. 

Some employees might choose to not withhold anything and pay their taxes in full each paycheck. Other employees might choose to use certain withholdings to make their paychecks a little bigger. 

Employees that use their W4 for tax withholdings might then be more likely to owe taxes when they file taxes each year. 

How To Fill Out W4

Generally, new employees will fill out a W4 form when they first begin at a job. But you can also change your W4 at any time if you change your mind about the withholdings you do or don't want on each paycheck. 

You can download a free W4 tax form on the IRS website.

The most recent W4 comes with 5 sections and 5 steps to fill it out. 

Step 1: Enter Personal Information

How to Fill out a W4 Step 1

(a) Fill out your first name and middle initial in the first box. Fill out your last name in the next box. 

*Your name should match the name on your social security card. If it doesn't contact SSA at (800) 772-1213 or visit the SSA website.

(b) Provide your social security number in the first box, your street address in the second box, and your city, town, state, and ZIP code in the third box. 

(c) In this section of step 1 there is a box with three options you can choose by marking the appropriate checkbox. 

Here you will indicate how you file your taxes: single or married filing separately, married filing jointly or qualifying widower, or head of household. 

You will only fill out the following steps (steps 2 through 4) if they apply to you. If they do not apply to you, then skip to step 5 and leave steps 2 through 4 empty. 

Step 2: Multiple Jobs or Spouse Works

How to Fill out a W4 Step 2

You will fill out this step only if you have more than 1 job or if you're married, filing taxes jointly, and your spouse also works. 

Basically, if your household income includes more than 1 job between you and your partner then fill out this step. 

You will need to submit a W4 form for each job you do. Then, fill out steps 2 through 4(b) only for the highest paying job you have. 

The information found in step 2 of the W4 form helps you know how to calculate the right amount of withholdings for your household if you have a multi-income household. 

(c) Mark the box found in substep C of step 2 if there are only 2 jobs total in your household. 

The next 2 steps (steps 3 through 4) will need to be filled out for only one of your jobs. 

If you are exempt from withholding you will write the word "exempt" in this step. 

Step 3: Claim Dependents 

How to Fill out a W4 Step 3

If you have a total income of $200,000 or less as a single filer or $400,000 or less as a joint filer then you will fill out this section. 

This W4 section includes 3 dollar boxes for different monetary amounts. 

The first dollar amount should be the number of qualifying children you have under the age of 17 multiplied by $2,000. 

For example: 

2 (number of children I have under the age of 17) X $2,000 = $4,000

$4,000 is then what I would write in the first dollar box found in step 3. 

The next dollar amount should be the number of all other dependents multiplied by $500. 

For example: 

2 (number of other dependents I have) X $4,000 = $8,000

$8,000 is then what I would write in the second dollar box. 

In the third and final dollar box, you will write the total, adding the numbers calculated in the first 2 dollar boxes together. 

For example: 

$4,000 + $8,000 = $12,000

$12,000 is then what I would write in the third dollar box in step 3 of this form. 

Step 4: Other Adjustments

How to Fill out a W4 Step 4

This step is optional. You only need to fill out this step if you want to. 

On the old W4 form, this section was where you'd mark the number of allowances you need. Since the IRS got rid of this step, it's been replaced with these estimated monetary figures. 

(a) In this dollar box you will write the amount of other income you expect to make this year.

(b) In this dollar box you will do some calculations to find what your other deductions would be if you wanted to include more than the standard deductions. Use the Step 4(b)—Deductions Worksheet found on page 4 of the W4 form to calculate this number. 

How to Fill out a W4 Step 4B

(c) Here you will enter any other extra withholdings you want to be withheld from each paycheck. 

Step 5: Sign Here

How to Fill out a W4 Step 5

Now we are back to the steps that everyone will fill out. 

In this section you, as the employee, will sign your name, validating the W4 form. Without your signature, the W4 form is not valid, so don't forget to sign! 

When you sign this form you are also stating that "under penalties of perjury, [you] declare that this certificate, to the best of [your] knowledge and belief, is true, correct, and complete." 

Don't forget to also include the date you signed on the dateline beside your signature. Then you're done! 

The rest of step 5 is for your employer to fill out so don't write in the Employers Only section of step 5. 

What are W4 Exemptions? 

In step 2, section C of the W4 form (as outlined above) you can write the word "exempt" if you are exempt from federal tax withholdings. This means that you won't pay federal income tax through your paychecks during the year. 

In order to file exempt on your W4, you'll need to meet certain requirements. You can file exempt if you expect to have no tax liability during the year. This might happen if you didn't make enough income to actually owe income tax the previous year, and you expect the same to occur the following year as well. 

How Many Allowances Should I Claim?

Setting the number of W4 allowances you want was a part of the old W4 form. The newest W4 form no longer has this question about withholding allowances where you need to determine a set number. 

What is Different About the W4 2020 Form? 

You can find out more about the changes to the W4 tax form under FAQs on the 2020 Form W-4 on the IRS website. But essentially, the IRS wanted to simplify the form and make your life easier.

They removed the complicated worksheets from the form. Now there are straightforward questions that are easy to understand and easy to answer so filling out your W4 is quick and painless. 

There is also no more "how many allowances" question on the new W4 form. Instead, you only write the estimated dollar amount of allowances you need in step 4. You can calculate these numbers with the help of the worksheet found on page 3 of the W4 form.  

Do I Need to Fill Out a New W4?

If you filled out a W4 for your job before the year 2020 then you do not need to fill out a new w4 form. Your employer can continue to use the same W4 you turned into them at the start of your job. 

If you want to change something about your tax withholdings at your job, then you can fill out a new W4 form with the correct withholdings information on it and turn that into your employer to replace the older form. Otherwise filling out a new W4 form is usually unnecessary.