How to Tweak Your W-4 to Get a Bigger Tax Refund and Why You Probably Shouldn’t

How to Tweak Your W-4 to Get a Bigger Tax Refund and Why You Probably Shouldn’t


You’ll enter an amount for expected itemized deductions or even student loan interest, deductible IRA contributions and certain other adjustments. You’ll take this amount and enter it onto line 4 of the form. If you aren’t switching jobs or going through life changes, you don’t need to refile your W-4 just because the form has changed. However, all new employees need to fill out a W-4 to avoid overpaying taxes. While the form is more straightforward and doesn’t include allowances like it did in the past, it’s still important to properly and accurately list information on your W-4.

tax to withhold

If one does not pay the IRS appropriately throughout the year (via tax withholding and/or “estimated tax payments” if applicable) there is a possibility of penalties and interest for under-withholding. The main differences between the old Form W-4 and the one for 2020 and beyond are steps 2 through 4 in the middle. These are the new sections taxpayers can use to accurately calculate their withholding amount for a wide range of individual situations. Pay attention to your W-4, as failure to do so will result in your employer withholding income taxes at the highest rate without any adjustments. When you start a new job, your employer will supply you with a W-4 form.

Form W-4V

When you submit a W-4, you can expect the information to go into effect fairly quickly. But how long exactly before your paycheck reflects the changes largely depends on your payroll system. Your employer will still withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes regardless of your exempt status. Also, your exemption will only last for one year. You will have to file a new W-4 claiming exempt status by Feb. 15 of a given year in order to maintain that status.


Faster access to funds is based on comparison of traditional how to fill out a w4 for dummiesing policies for check deposits versus electronic direct deposit. Personal state programs are $39.95 each (state e-file available for $19.95). Most personal state programs available in January; release dates vary by state. Additionally, any time you have a major life event you should consider updating your W-4. A marriage, divorce, a new baby, or a child turning 17 will have an effect on your taxes and should be taken into consideration in filling out your W-4.

Step 4: Adjust Your Withholding

If you file as Married Filing Jointly — and you both earn around the same amount, there’s a box you can check to indicate that (it’s part of line 2c). This can help you not withhold too much in taxes. If you try to account for them on both spouse’s forms, you’ll end up withholding too little and could face a hefty tax bill if not penalties at tax time.

  • Take a look at your existing W-4 and your deductions from your last federal tax return.
  • The 2020 redesign was to reflect changes to tax law made in 2017 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
  • If you expect to earn “non-job” income not subject to withholding, such as income from dividends or retirement accounts, enter the amount in this section.
  • You can pay the IRS directly or have taxes withheld from your payment.
  • Taxpayers pay the tax as they earn or receive income during the year.

The deduction was then doubled as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act , while personal and dependent exemptions were eliminated. NerdWallet strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site.

YOUR MONEY: Understanding how to fill out the W-4 form

And while some enjoy seeing a lump sum come through, that lump sum is your funding of an interest-free loan to the government. If you are going to claim exemption from withholding, you must not owe any federal tax from the previous year or expect to owe federal tax from the current year. Filing dependents on both forms will likely result in a lack of withholding, meaning you will need to pay additional taxes at the end of the tax year. The W-4 Adjust tool will let you adjust your tax withholding before you sign and create your W-4 for the current tax year. You will actually know the calculated withholding amount. Select one of the four W-4 tool options below or use the Taxometer guide above to pick one or multiple W-4 tools based on your experience, expectation, or current job situations.

The biggest change is that it no longer talks about “allowances,” which many people found confusing. Instead, if you want an additional amount withheld, you simply state the amount per pay period. “The new version of the W-4 that was introduced in 2020 eliminated the option to claim other personal withholding allowances to lower the amount of federal income tax withheld from your wages. Now, you must claim dependents or use a deductions worksheet,” Grant said. A W-4 is the IRS tax form you fill out upon employment, so your employer will withhold your desired amount of federal income tax from your paycheck. A W-2 is the IRS tax form you receive from your employer at the end of the tax year.


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