The last thing you want to do is frantically run up to your boss asking “How many allowances do I claim on my W-4?”.

Being aware of the number of allowances you are claiming on a Form W-4 [Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate]  is important for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, the number of allowances you claim on a W-4 determines the following;

  1. how much tax will be taken from your income (aka the withholding amount)
  2. the size of your tax refund

Steps to filling out a W-4

You’ll need to follow four simple steps when filling out your W-4 Form:

  1. Fill out your personal information (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Marital Status)
  2. Know the number of personal and dependency exemptions you are claiming on your tax return.
  3. Based on the number from step 2, use that number to help determine your number of allowances.
  4. Don’t forget to sign the W-4 and turn it into your employer!

The allowances you claim while filling out a W-4 if you are single will differ from the allowances you claim if you are married or have kids. 

Claiming zero allowances

  • The maximum amount of tax is withheld. Meaning, when it comes time to file your tax return you will most likely receive a refund.
  • You’re being claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.

Claiming one allowance (ideal if you are single with one job)

  •  You’re single and have one job. Claiming one allowance will most likely result in a refund when you file your taxes.

Claiming two allowances

  • You are single. Claiming two allowances will get you close to your tax liability but may result in tax due when filing your taxes.
  • You’re single and work more than one job. Claim one allowance at each job or two allowances at one job and zero at the other.
  • You’re married.

Claiming three allowances

  •  You are married with one child.

Claiming additional allowances

  • File as head of household if you are eligible. You are able to claim additional allowances.
  • You had at least $2,000 of child or dependent care expenses that you plan on claiming credit
  • You’re eligible to claim the Child Tax Credit

Can I fill out a new W-4 form?

Yes, employees can submit a new W-4 form to their employees at any time during their employment. Have you recently started a second job, had a baby, or tied the knot? Life changes such as these should encourage you to update your W-4 withholding.

A great tool to help you while filling out a W-4 is the IRS Withholding Calculator,  located on the IRS website.

Claiming zero allowances means less take-home pay, but a bigger tax refund during tax season.

The number you report on a W-4 will ultimately determine your take-home pay and your tax refund. Don’t write down any number. Take a few extra minutes to really assess your situation and fill in the W-4 accordingly. By doing so you’re less likely find yourself in a difficult financial situation.

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