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;
- how much tax will be taken from your income (aka the withholding amount)
- 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:
- Fill out your personal information (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Marital Status)
- Know the number of personal and dependency exemptions you are claiming on your tax return.
- Based on the number from step 2, use that number to help determine your number of allowances.
- 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.