Claiming Exemptions—the W-4 for Dummies

February 1, 2013 by Jan Roberg
Filed under: Withholding 

 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how many exemptions to claim on the W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate) form that you give to your employer.  People look at the whole 2 page form and get intimidated.  For most people—you should just ignore the rest and concentrate on the little part at the bottom of page one.  That’s the part in this screen shot up above.   It will make your life a whole lot easier.

 

First, some questions:

 

I claimed the wrong number of exemptions on my W-4 and now its tax time and I’m going to claim a different number of exemptions.  Will I get in trouble for this?


No you won’t.  Your employer doesn’t report you to the IRS for not claiming the right amount of allowances.  The worst that will happen is that you owe a lot at tax time or get a big refund.  (Actually I don’t think of getting a big refund as being a bad thing.  Probably shouldn’t call it a “worst case scenario.”)  Neither of those things are crimes.  It’s possible that the IRS could inform your employer to increase your withholding if the withholding on your W2 is not enough to cover your tax liability.  I have never seen that happen to anyone—but the IRS is allowed to do that if they think it’s necessary.

 

I don’t want any tax taken out of my paycheck.  Can I just claim EXEMPT?

No you can’t.  Exempt is only for people who will have no tax liability at all.  You might have gotten a refund last year, but it doesn’t mean you have no tax liability.  Generally, someone with no tax liability makes less than $5,950 for the entire year.    For most people, claiming EXEMPT is a really bad idea.

 

Okay, so what should I claim? Good question.  Here’s my suggestion list.  See what category fits your best.

 

You are a student, either in high school or in college.  You’re not married and you don’t have kids.  Your parents are allowed to claim you on their tax return (you’re under 24 years old.)  SINGLE, ZERO ALLOWANCES


You’ve got a job, only one job, you’re living on your own, and you’re single.  SINGLE, ONE ALLOWANCE


Now if you have a child, add another allowance for each child.  For example, let’s say you’re single with 2 kids, you’d claim single 3 allowances; one allowance for you and one for each of the children.

 

Single like above but you’re working two different jobs, SINGLE, ZERO ALLOWANCES – because the two jobs kick you into a higher tax bracket than the withholding would show.

 

You’re married and only one person works:  MARRIED, TWO ALLOWANCES


You’re married and you both work—you’ll each have your own W-4 and they will be different

 

Spouse #1 with higher paying job—claim MARRIED and all the allowances for the family

 

Spouse #2 with the lower paying job—claim MARRIED BUT WITHHOLD AT HIGHER SINGLE RATE, ZERO ALLOWANCES


Now this is a pretty simplified guide, but it’s much easier to understand than what is on the form.  I also find that people are less likely to get into tax trouble with my rules than when you follow the allowances worksheet.

 

If you want a really good, accurate calculator to figure your proper withholding, the IRS has one on their website.  The problem is, as I’m posting this—the calculator is down.    You can use this guide for now and you can always tweak your withholding later when it’s back up.  Here’s the link:  http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

Comments

72 Comments on Claiming Exemptions—the W-4 for Dummies

  1. Debbie on Mon, 4th Feb 2013 9:22 pm
  2. Hello, My husband recieved his w2 and we filed our taxes and get a small refund…. all good so far, this week he recieved another updated w2 with the missing allocated tips amount listed and the attached letter told us to file a amended 1040X. the problem is i can’t find where to put the allocated tips amount as in box 8. And how much of the file i need to fill out. Could you please expaine to me in lay mans terms :) where i am to adjust the amount? I filed e-file.
    Thank you
    Debbie

  3. sheena on Tue, 5th Feb 2013 9:06 am
  4. im a single mom work 2 jobs and attend school and i have 1 child.. i need my money through the year instead of at the end so how can i claim during the year to break even?

  5. Jan Roberg on Tue, 5th Feb 2013 9:03 pm
  6. Hi Debbie,
    If you are using computer software, if you input the whole W2–then it will be added into the rights spot automatically.
    If you are doing it by hand, you will add the amount in box 8 to the amount in box 1 for your wages.
    Does that help?

  7. Jan Roberg on Tue, 5th Feb 2013 9:19 pm
  8. Hi Sheena,
    You used to be able to get your EIC throughout the year, but the IRS cancelled that program. You can claim 2 exemptions (maybe even three) so that your weekly take home is a little better, but the best you’ll do is not having any federal withholding at all.

  9. SHELLSHELL MCLAUGHLIN on Tue, 19th Feb 2013 12:32 am
  10. HELLO I HAVE A SMALL PENSION, SINGLE , AND ONE JOB I THINK SINGLE AND 0 ALLOWANCE AND AN ADDITIONAL $10.00 JUST FOR THE PENSION SAKE

  11. Jan Roberg on Sun, 3rd Mar 2013 1:57 pm
  12. Hi Shell shell,
    I think you’re probably doing it right.

  13. Brooke on Thu, 7th Mar 2013 12:30 pm
  14. Great information! Thank you! My husband has 3 kids (to his ex-wife). How many he gets to claim rotates every other year. (He got to claim 2 this year…and one next year). I have two children from a prior relationship. Could you please advise how our W-4′s should look. As a side note…we both make about the same amount of money. Thank you again!

  15. Jan Roberg on Sun, 10th Mar 2013 5:00 pm
  16. Hi Brooke,
    The first thing is that because your incomes are about the same, you are probable in a higher tax bracket because of your combined incomes. Generally, one of you would claim all of the exemptions–which would be 5 most likely, and the other would claim zero.

    But if you want to be really accurate–use the IRS withholding calculator. Here’s the link: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    You’ll want your most recent pay stuff and you tax return. It’s a pretty cool tool. It works towards getting a zero refund. If you want a higher refund, claim fewer exemptions (which means less money in your paycheck.)

  17. Kristy on Wed, 15th May 2013 5:55 am
  18. Hi, I’m a college student working a part time job, I claimed either 0 or 1 on my w-4 when i started my job, but my mom told me i should have claimed exempt because i wont make enough money to have to pay taxes. I’ve had about $400 taken out in taxes so far, is there anyway i can get it back next year when taxes are due? or can i get it earlier?

  19. Simone on Thu, 15th Aug 2013 6:59 am
  20. Ive been working at my current job since June 2011. The job was initially a 6 week summer program (paid) for students. The HR rep told me to file exempt because it was only a summer job nd i wouldnt be making alot of money (made ~4,000 that summer). After that 6 weeks my employer decided to hire me as a If & when part time emoployee while i attended college. May of 2013 i recieved a raise and moved into a regular position (10.25 hr 48 hrs a week, during school, 80 hr a week during break). When i submitted my w4 for this year i still wrote exempt. Am i going to owe the IRS money????

  21. Morgan on Thu, 15th Aug 2013 7:15 pm
  22. I am an 18 year old girl with a daughter. I still live at home with my parents. I do not know the number of allowances to list on my IL W4. Can my parents still claim me?

  23. Jan Roberg on Thu, 15th Aug 2013 9:28 pm
  24. Hi Morgan,
    It may be possible for your parents to claim you as a dependent. The big question is–are you still in school? If yes, then your parents could still claim you. Or, they might claim your child. You’ve got a special situation. You’re going to want to work with your parents to come up with the best tax situation for the whole family.

    If your parents can claim you then they would also claim your daughter, in that case–I would claim 0 on your W4.

    If you’re going to be claiming yourself and your child on your taxes–you probably won’t have any tax liability at all and would not need to have any federal withholding.

    Sorry, I’m not really answering your question am I? Claim single and zero–I suspect that it will have you withholding more than you need, but if your parents wind up claiming you that will be perfect. If you wind up claiming yourself and your daughter, you should have a nice refund.

  25. Jan Roberg on Thu, 15th Aug 2013 9:43 pm
  26. Hi Simone,
    You need to change your withholding right away. My gut reaction is to switch to single with zero exemptions, but I think you’ll still need some additional withholding. You can go to the IRS website, they’ve got a special calculator you can use to figure out your withholding. Here’s a link: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    It’s so much easier chaning your withholding now than it is to owe a bunch of money come April 15th.

  27. Michael Siebert on Sat, 31st Aug 2013 12:06 pm
  28. Kristy,

    You will get the money back when you file your taxes in 2013.

    You could fill out another W-4 and hand it to your employer. That will stop the taxes being taken out starting at the time your employer makes the change.

  29. Mary on Sat, 7th Sep 2013 4:01 pm
  30. Hi,
    I have two jobs and last year I barely got back any federal money and i had to pay the state back. I thought if I added the federal and state withholdings from both jobs, I would be able to get an estimate of what I was looking at to receive at the end of the year and it came to be about $1200, but I actually only got like $600 and I owed the state $90. How can I fix this, where I get more back in federal and not pay the state at all or at least less than $90. I’m single and have no dependents. Do I need to fill my W-4′s differently??

  31. Jan Roberg on Sun, 8th Sep 2013 8:11 pm
  32. Hi Mary,
    I know exactly what happened, it happens to people all the time. You’ve got two jobs–if you only had one of those jobs, then you’d probably be getting a real nice refund. You’re withholding based on that lower income. But because you’ve got two jobs, your income actually bumps you into a higher tax bracket.
    Here’s what you can do to figure things out. The IRS has this thing called a withholding calculator. Here’s the link: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    It will really help to have your last year’s tax return with you, and you’re also going to want to have your most recent pay stub. It’s a bit of a pain in the butt to go through the questions, but it really gives you a good answer about what your refund would look like if you keep doing things the way you’re doing them.

    So, if you want a bigger refund, you withhold more–meaning claim fewer exemptions, if you’re claiming one, then claim zero. If you’re already claiming zero, then claim zero and withhold additional.

    The IRS calculator does help you with your state withholding, but the principle is the same–want a bigger refund, claim less exemptions.

    Whatever you do, do not–I repeat DO NOT, write “exempt” on your W4. I told someone to claim fewer exemptions last year so she wrote exempt on her W4 thinking it would mean the most- (it really means they don’t withhold at all) -and she got hit with a huge tax bill.

  33. So Confused on Tue, 29th Oct 2013 4:27 pm
  34. Hi, I’m a single parent of 1 child and work 2 part time jobs. I am currently claiming 0 with my main/first job and claiming 2 with my other seasonal job.

    I’m confused on what to claim on my W-4 anymore. I do like a big refund at the end of the year, but would like to make it that I basically break even (or at least not owe anything) nowadays since money has been tight.

    Please help!

  35. Jan Roberg on Sat, 2nd Nov 2013 9:28 pm
  36. Hi So Confused,
    One thing we can both agree on these days is money is tight! You have a right to be confused, especially with two jobs! It’s kind of tricky for you. A lot of it depends upon how much you make. Generally, when you have two jobs, it kicks you into a higher tax bracket so you definitely want to withhold more than normal. On the other hand, if your income is low enough and your child qualifies you for EIC, then it won’t hurt if you increase your exemptions.
    The IRS has a calculator that’s pretty helpful. Here’s the link: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    You’ll want to have your paystubs and your last year’s tax return. If you generally get a big refund, what I’ve been telling people is to switch their withholding so they get more money now (claim 2 exemptions on your main job instead of zero for example) so that you’ve got a little spending money for the holidays. (Tax refunds are looking like they’ll be late this year so you can’t count on your refund to help you pay the bills.)

    If you don’t normally get a big refund–then that’s not a good idea. And it sounds like you’re probably doing the right thing by claiming zero on the main and 2 on your second.

  37. Airren on Sun, 3rd Nov 2013 7:38 am
  38. I know I shouldn’t worry but I’m afraid I might have to owe taxes. I got this new job and I’m married with one child. I had claimed 3 on my form should that be right? My husband is also working as well. Should i have claimed him or should I have just claimed my daughter and I?

  39. Ellen Sklar on Sun, 3rd Nov 2013 11:22 am
  40. I am single and I have 3 jobs. At one of my part time jobs I recently filled out a State of Connecticut W4. I used the code F, and no state tax is being taken out of my check.. I must be missing something. What do I add to my CT-W4 so that they take the correct amount of taxes out ? I want to have the taxes taken out so that I don’t have to pay the state at the end of the year. (I get paid bi-monthly at this job).

  41. Carolyn on Tue, 12th Nov 2013 1:37 pm
  42. I just got married and I am filling out the W4 for my new job. My husband and I are going to file jointly and he makes more money than I do. I checked the box “married, but withhold at higher single rate” does this mean that I put 0 on line 5 or do I put 1? Also, do I have to fill out the two-earner worksheet or would he just have to do that because he will be considered HOH?

  43. Jan Roberg on Thu, 14th Nov 2013 9:01 pm
  44. Hi Airren,
    Congratulations on the new job. Generally, when you have a married couple, the spouse that makes the most money claims all the exemptions and the spouse that makes less claims zero exemptions. It’s not a perfect formula, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
    When I have spouses that make about the same, I usually have them both claim zero exemptions just because they often get kicked into a higher tax bracket and of they claim all their exemptions, they don’t have enough withheld.

    That said, if your income is low enough combined that you can still get an Earned Income Tax credit–then it usually doesn’t matter if you both claim the exemptions–the EIC will cover the withholding.

    A good calculator is on the IRS website. Here’s the link: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    You’ll want to have the latest copies of your pay stubs and last year’s taxes to fill out the form, but it gives you a good clue as to if you’ll owe money or not.

  45. Jan Roberg on Sat, 30th Nov 2013 8:39 pm
  46. Hi Ellen,
    It looks to me like you did it right. If you’re single and expect to make over $14,000 for the year, you chose F. But your employer isn’t withholding, so that’s a little odd. I would think that you could either chose to withhold a little extra. The marginal tax rate for Connecticutt is 5% so I’d just write 5% of whatever your paycheck is as your extra withholding. That way, you’ll know you’re taking out what needs to be taken.

  47. Jan Roberg on Sat, 30th Nov 2013 9:06 pm
  48. Hi Carolyn,
    Congratulations on your wedding! I would put zero on line 5 just to be on the safe side. Generally, the spouse with the higher paycheck should claim all of the exemptions, and the spouse with the smaller paycheck shoudl claim zero exemptions. That’s not perfect for everyone, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.
    You’ll want to take another look at your income and deductions after you’ve done your first tax return together and maybe tweak things a little. But if you claim zero and have your husband claim two, you should be fine. If you’re itemizing on your return you might have him claim more exemptions–but no more than two if you’re not itemizing and there are no children involved.

  49. Tiffany on Tue, 28th Jan 2014 1:24 pm
  50. Hi~
    Very confused about the tax thing :( MY husband and I got married July of 2012, we have 2 children, I was unemployed then so things were easier … He has a full time job and makes way more than I do and claims the kiddos from what I know, NOW I have a part time job and made close to 10,000 for the year, I was told I should put (1) on line 5…NOW I’m scared thinking I should have put (0), was hoping for a nice refund. We also paid daycare for 2….PLEASE ease my mind!

  51. Jan Roberg on Wed, 29th Jan 2014 8:03 pm
  52. Hey Tiffany,
    Don’t worry about it. The worst thing that can happen is that you owe tax. Yes, that would be bad, but you haven’t done anything wrong or bad or anything like that.

    Now personally, I (me–what I really do when I get a W2 because my husband makes more than me too) I claim “Married but withhold at the higher single rate” with zero exemptions. Back when I had a wage type job my income was just extra on top of my husbands. Well, my husband by himself was in a higher tax bracket. My income, if I was single would be at a lower tax bracket, but since my income was just extra on top of his, I withheld more to cover the taxes. (Plus, I like refunds. I know tax people are supposed to say you want to break even, but me personally, I like to get a refund.)

    So technically, I would have your husband withhold as married with 4 exemptions and you claim single with zero. Remember, you’ve got the child tax credit for 2 kids, plus you’ll have your day care credit so as long as your husband withheld, you should probably be okay anyway.

    Good luck!

  53. Heather on Sat, 1st Feb 2014 1:24 am
  54. Hi, I ran into a conflict with my taxes this year, when i filled out my w-4 form for 2012 for some reason i had misread the form and wrote exempt, and when i got my w-2 back in 2013 there werent any federal taxes taken out and i had to pay in. After realizing i made the mistake i filled out another w-4 form to correct my mistake, I had thought everything was taken care of ,but when i got my w-2 for 2013 they still did not take out federal income taxes, i called the accountant to see what the problem was and found out she had used my w-4 form from 2012 instead of using the revised 2013 w-4 form. so now IRS says i have to pay in again. I dont know what to do, i had already fixed this problem this time last year, and had talked to the accountant and she told me there was nothing she could do about it. Is there anyway to resolve this? I do not want to pay for a mistake that i didnt make.

  55. Jan Roberg on Sat, 1st Feb 2014 4:21 pm
  56. Hi Heather,
    A couple of years ago, I had a couple of people come to me with a similar problem. The IRS had changed the withholding tables and some employers did their employee withholding wrong. Big companies use software that’s all computerized, but some smaller companies were using the tax formula and had copied it down wrong so people’s withholdings were wrong.

    So what happened? The IRS said that even though it was the employer’s fault, the individual taxpayer was still the one who was liable for paying the tax.

    Now as far as the employers go–one of them was quite generous and paid a bonus to the employee to help her with her taxes. The other one did nothing–they weren’t required to.

    At the end of the day, it’s money that you would have paid anyway. (Although if you’re hit with a penalty I would think that your employer would at least pay that.)

    Now what should you do? First thing–change your withholding. Second, when you get you next paycheck, look carefully to see if any withholding is taken out. Federal withholding is called just that: federal withholding. You’ll have social security and medicare taxes taken out–that’s called FICA. Social Security is 6.2% of your wages. Medicare is 1.45% of your wages. State withholding will say state withholding. If there’s nothing on the line for federal withholding–you need to go to the accountant right away and have her fix it.

    Since you know that the accountant is irresponsible, you’ll have to watch your pay stubs carefully. I hope she at least said she was sorry.

  57. kristi on Sun, 2nd Feb 2014 11:11 am
  58. I’ve been claiming married 6 for the last 12 years with my employer. I honestly never knew that I was claiming 6. (I was young when I started my job and had no one to guide me with filling out my w4) so now I’m not married and my children dont live with me. I’ve been told that if I suddenly change my withholdings from married 6, to single 0 or single 1, they I will end up owing the government. can you give me some advice?

  59. Jan Roberg on Sun, 2nd Feb 2014 2:59 pm
  60. Hi Kristi,
    I’ve you’ve been claiming the same thing for the last twelve years and haven’t had a problem–well, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    If you change form withholding 6 exemptions to 0 or 1, then you shouldn’t wind up owing the government more at tax time, but owe less or even get a refund.

    But if you’ve been filing your taxes every year and you’re doing just fine–I wouldn’t change a thing.

  61. Erin on Mon, 3rd Feb 2014 9:32 pm
  62. I recently filed my 2013 taxes and january last year I was working a full time job and left there to go into the military. I wasnt aware on what I was suppose to put on my w4 form so now I have to owe federal. For the future reference I am a reservist part time and going to be working a full time job also. What should I put as my number of exemptions for each?

  63. Jan Roberg on Tue, 4th Feb 2014 4:44 pm
  64. Hi Erin,
    Thank you for your service to our country. It sounds to me like you’re going to have two W2s next year; one for your full time job and one for being a reservist, right?

    The best way to figure this is to use the IRS withholding calculator. It’s a pain in the behind at first, but it gives you a really accurate result. Here’s the link: http://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/

    My gut reaction is that you should claim single 1 exemption on your main job, and single 0 exemptions on the reservist job. That’s completely by the seat of my pants, not knowing your income or anything like that. It’s probably not a bad number.

    If you like a little refund, or are a little nervous about paying in–go for single, zero exemptions on both.

    It’s hard to tell when someone has two jobs, that’s why I like the withholding calculator. When you’ve got two jobs, you often get kicked into a higher tax bracket, but the withholding is at the lower tax bracket so you get messed up. But if your reservist duty is one of those once a month for a weekend kind of deals–you’re probably okay doing it the way I told you.

  65. BC on Mon, 10th Feb 2014 10:34 am
  66. I just completed my 2013 taxes and owe about $2000. Single and claim one of my children (age 7) as a dependent. No other credits or deductions (no house; some student loan interest, but my income is too high to claim it.) Two jobs – one pays about $85K and the other is a “seasonal” job in the fall which pays about $2500.

    I’m looking to change my withholdings on my W4. Making sense of it is like Greek to me. I want to essentially “break even” at the end of the year. Would it be wise to simply use a single (1) withholding?

  67. Jan Roberg on Mon, 10th Feb 2014 9:57 pm
  68. Hi BC,
    I’m guessing single 1 withholding for your main job and single 0 on the second job.
    I’m guessing that your child that you claim doesn’t live with you, otherwise you’d use the head of household filing status and that would lower your taxes.
    At your income, the second job is taxed at 25% but the withholding is next to nothing, that’s pretty much why you owed so much. You can probably get away with single 2 exemptions on the main job and single zero on the second job. For a really accurate reading, go to the IRS website and use your most recent paycheck on the withholding calculator. http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

  69. CC on Tue, 11th Feb 2014 9:41 pm
  70. Hello,

    I have a peculiar situation. My wife and I both work (I earn higher, if that’s relevant). On my 2013 W3, I’m listed as SINGLE with zero Federal and State exemptions. On hers, she’s listed as MARRIED with 2 Federal and 0 State exemptions. We have no children.

    How do I deal with this scenario in my returns? How will it affect my return?

    Thanks,
    CC

  71. Jan Roberg on Wed, 12th Feb 2014 8:35 pm
  72. Hi CC,
    The best answer I can give you is to prepare your tax return and see how it turns out. When you’re married with two incomes, there’s so many possibilities. I suggest you do your taxes, see how your refund/balance due looks. If you’re happy, don’t change things. If you’re not happy, then make adjustments. And I’d use the IRS withholding calculator. It’s a good tool.

  73. NL on Wed, 26th Feb 2014 2:18 pm
  74. Hello,

    I am getting married in October. I understand that this will mean that we are considered married for all of 2014. I make a little more than half of my soon to-be husband’s salary. We both currently claim Single-1. I know from your blog I should claim married but withhold at higher single rate, zero allowances.

    My question is – Is it an issue to go ahead and change my W4 now so I am withholding the correct amount all year, even though we aren’t married yet? Or should I perhaps just change to single-0? Will that get me close enough for now?

    Thank you

  75. Jan Roberg on Thu, 27th Feb 2014 6:23 am
  76. Hi NL,
    congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

    You can change your withholding now. That’s fine. Go ahead and do the single 0. It will withhold a little more than the Married 0 but that’s probably good. (Personally, when I was a W2 employee I always withheld at the higher single rate.)

    Good luck!

  77. Atul on Tue, 11th Mar 2014 4:37 pm
  78. Hello,

    I am single and live at home and just noticed on my W4 that there are 2 exemptions. I don’t have any dependents so I am not sure why there are 2 exemptions in the first place. What should I change it to or should I even change it at all?

    Thanks!

  79. jessi on Thu, 13th Mar 2014 9:45 am
  80. My husband just started a new job in Feb. After being unemployed 2 months after getting out of the military. Ive never filled out a w-4 but he had me do it and i think i filled it out wrong…. it says thee are ZERO fed coming out of his pay and he is claiming 11…?! I don’t work and we have 3 kids. help please! I can’t figure out what to do!

  81. Anna on Sun, 16th Mar 2014 3:06 pm
  82. I am married and have one child. I am starting a part time job that will probably earn about $10,000 or so a year. My husband is the main wage earner and we file jointly but always claim less exceptions than we are entitled because he likes to get a refund. I would like to claim married with three exemptions because I want to get as much in my paycheck as possible for spending money. I don’t think that this extra money will put us into another tax bracket. Am I ok to claim the most exemptions even though he is the main wage earner. Thanks for your help.

  83. Jan Roberg on Sun, 23rd Mar 2014 8:02 pm
  84. Hi Atul,
    If you’re single and live alone you should probably claim 1 exemption. If you’re living with your parents and still in school, you should claim zero.

  85. Jan Roberg on Sun, 23rd Mar 2014 8:37 pm
  86. Hi Jesse,
    If your husband’s income is really low, that might be okay because with you not working, and having three kids, there could be EIC and that would cover your taxes.

    But if he’s got a good job, I’m thinking the most he should claim right now is 5 exemptions. If you get a giant refund next year, well then you can boost it up. But claiming 11 and having nothing taken out sounds a little worrisome to me.

    To know for certain, grab your tax return and his most recent pay stub and check out the IRS withholding calculator: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    It will tell you exactly home many exemptions he should be claiming to get to a zero balance return. If you want a bigger refund, claim fewer exemptions.

  87. Jan Roberg on Sun, 23rd Mar 2014 9:30 pm
  88. Hi Anna,
    Here’s the thing. I’m guessing that you and your husband are in the 25% tax bracket. So, your $10,000 of income will create $2,500 worth of taxes. And if you claim married and 3 exemptions on your W4, you’re going to have hardly anything taken out in taxes.

    So instead of getting a refund, you could even have a balance due. Is that what you really want?

  89. xerfence25 on Tue, 13th May 2014 12:24 pm
  90. Hi I’m divorce I have 2 children and right now I’m claiming 1 on my allowance and I make around 30000 a year, but I take home a little, I want to take home more but I don’t want to pay tax end of the ye

  91. Priscilla on Tue, 27th May 2014 11:36 am
  92. Hi, I am 40 yrs old, My son just turned 18 and will be going to college. He may end up getting a part time job. He will still be a dependent b/c he has aspergers and is not yet ready to be on his own.
    1) What should my allowances on my W-4 reflect?
    2) Can I still be HOH on W4? On taxes?
    3) Can i claim him as dependent?
    4) If he gets a part time job… how should he fill out w4?

  93. Jan Roberg on Sat, 31st May 2014 7:21 am
  94. Hi Priscilla,
    Congratulations on your son going to college. Because he’s going to college you will still be claiming him on your tax return.

    If it’s just you and your son–you can claim 2 exemptions of your W4. (You might be able to claim more if you have a lot of other deductions or qualify for EIC, but 2 is what I’d normally recommend.)

    Yes, you are still head of household.

    Yes, you can still claim him as a dependent.

    If he gets a part time job he should fill out his W4 as single with 0 exemptions.

  95. Jan Roberg on Sun, 1st Jun 2014 6:04 am
  96. Hi Xerfence25,
    The best way to figure your withholding is to use the IRS withholding calculator: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    Shooting from the hip, if you have two kids, and you can claim the exemptions on your tax return, then I think you could easily claim 3 exemptions on your withholding, maybe even more. But there may be other things with your taxes and life that I don’t know about so it’s worth your while checking out the IRS withholding calculator and getting a more tailored answer for you.

    Here’s another clue. Did you get a pretty decent refund this past year and were you making the same amount of money? Then that’s a good hint that you can up your exemptions.

  97. Tasha on Sun, 8th Jun 2014 11:54 pm
  98. By what’s stated on the W4 worksheet I should be claiming 7, can I keep this as my allowance for a few months to make alittle extra money then lower it to 4 on my W4? If so will this mess up my taxes at the end of the year to much? I don’t want to pay a ton to the IRS.

  99. Afreeca B. on Thu, 12th Jun 2014 7:41 pm
  100. Hello,
    My husband left Active duty August 2013 and is now a reservist (one weekend a month). He is about to begin a new job soon (June 2014). I have been working a part time job with full time hours. I cannot remember what I claimed on my W2 when I filled it out, but we have three children. What exactly should he be claiming on his W2 for the new job? What should I have on mine? And we are interested in getting more money back with each paycheck and less at the end of the year or breaking even. Thank you so much. Namaste!!!

  101. Jen on Tue, 17th Jun 2014 1:36 pm
  102. Hello. I just got a new job starting this week. As I was filling out my w4 I stopped and realized I wasnt sure if I should claim my 2 month old son as a dependent or not. My boyfriend makes a lot more money than me. What happens if I claim him as opposed to what happens if I dont? I was told my boyfriend would be claiming our child around tax time since he makes more. Does that mean I should say I have no dependents? Thanks for your help.

  103. Jan Roberg on Wed, 18th Jun 2014 9:43 pm
  104. Hi Jen,
    On your W4, I would claim 1 exemption–just you. That way, if you don’t claim your child on your tax return, you’ll be fine taxwise next year.

    BUT– don’t automatically assume that your boyfriend should claim your son next year. (By the way, congratulations on your new baby! I bet he’s adorable.)

    But, I’m guessing that you and your boyfriend are a family and working together to make the best life possible for your child, right? So maybe he should claim the child, but maybe not.

    What you want to do next year is to sit down together and have both of you prepare your tax returns. Each of you do it two ways, one with claiming your son, one without. Then figure out what scenario gives you the most money as a family.

    If you read the rules, it says that if you and he disagreed over who should claim the child–then the exemption goes to the person with the higher income. But–a couple working together for the good of the family–you’re not disagreeing so you don’t have to worry about tie-breaker rules. You’re united.

    Sometimes, it’s better for the parent with the lower income to claim the child because of the earned income tax credit.

    So, run the numbers both ways. And–if you two get more money by having you claim your son–by all means do it that way. Then take the extra money that you as a family earn and put it in the bank to save for your son to go to college.

  105. samantha on Thu, 19th Jun 2014 9:41 am
  106. I got confused on my w-4 and after everything was said and done I ended up with 8 deductions total. Im single, 2kids, one job and I file head of household. Will I end up paying in??

  107. Katherine on Sat, 21st Jun 2014 6:31 pm
  108. Question, I have a temporary job and it will end in two -three weeks with one more paycheck. The Hours I put in and then what is taken away in taxes is incredibly high. Can I change my allowance to from 1 to 2. Since the W-4 says add one for yourself and another if your single and only have one job. Will this affect me in my filing return for next year. It just one paycheck and I wont get another job in awhile.

  109. Jan Roberg on Sun, 22nd Jun 2014 7:06 am
  110. Hi Katherine,
    For your situation, I’d go ahead and claim 10 exemptions just to get as much money as possible.

    For your situation, it’s only a temporary job and you’re not going to be working in another week or so–you won’t need the high withholding so go ahead and take as much money as you can.

    If you were going to be working at a job consistently for the entire year, then it would be wise to keep the withholding up, but it sounds like you need your cash now and from what you’re telling me, I don’t think it would hurt you at all.

  111. Jan Roberg on Sun, 22nd Jun 2014 9:29 am
  112. Hi Samantha (post 51, sorry I got out of order here)

    You may be just fine. I’m guessing 1 for you, 2 for the kids, another 1 for claiming head of household, 2 more for the kids getting the child tax credit–that’s 6 right there.

    Basically, if your income is pretty low, you’re fine claiming that many exemptions–if your income is high (or you have a second job or other income) then you should probably change it.

    The best way to tell for sure is to use the IRS withholding calculator: http://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/

    If you use the standard deduction (you don’t itemize things like mortgage interest) then you just need your latest pay stub. If you itemize, then you’ll want a copy of your latest tax return also.

    If you’re not withholding enough, the calculator will tell you exactly what to change your withholding to.

  113. Jan Roberg on Sun, 22nd Jun 2014 10:56 am
  114. Hi Afreeca,
    Congratulations on your husband being back from active duty.

    Here’s the quick and dirty option: have whichever one of you makes more money claim married with 5 exemptions and the one who makes less claim single 0.

    Or, for the more accurate reading, go to the IRS withholding calculator: http://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/

    That will give you a really accurate reading and it goes for a zero refund keeping as much in your paycheck as possible.

  115. mark on Thu, 26th Jun 2014 10:22 am
  116. if I make for example 130k annually, my wife do not work and we have one child, what should I have on the W4 ?

  117. Jayne M on Mon, 30th Jun 2014 9:22 am
  118. Hello, I am head of house hold and a single mom of 3 making close to $40,000 a year. How many exemptions should I be claiming on my w-4? I am getting close to $300-$400 taken of my checks every 2 weeks leaving me with anough to pay bills and thats it. How can I fix this?

  119. Donnah on Wed, 2nd Jul 2014 8:37 am
  120. hello. i work a fulltime job, im the head of household and i have 3 kids.. my employer help me and she said to put 5 for withholding.. i usually get $200-$250 taken out of every check for taxes. what disappoints me is that if i work more than 75hrs in those 2 weeks, im getting a check like im working less 75hrs in 2weeks.. why is that? should i claim more to get more money or just leave it how i have it on my w4?

  121. santos on Wed, 2nd Jul 2014 11:06 am
  122. Hi,

    I have a 2 year old i live with my in-laws but me and my boyfriend have always argued of who will claim the baby i am working a job right now i have 6 months working here and they are asking me to fill out my w-2 form to update it i don’t know if i should claim my son if my boyfriend is already calming him on his. Can you please help i am getting paid less than him. What would you suggest?

  123. Jan Roberg on Sat, 5th Jul 2014 1:16 pm
  124. Hi Santos,
    You’ve got a really good question, but I’m sorry I don’t have an easy answer for you. You see, it depends. When you get to tax time next year, it may make sense for you to claim your child, or maybe your boyfriend should. Or maybe your in-laws should. You’ve got so many options.

    Here’s what I think you should do. For now, you should claim one exemption on your W4–that way you’re covered no matter what you do.

    You said “boyfriend” instead of husband so I’m assuming that you’re not officially married. If you were married and had to file a joint return, I’d have you claim zero exemptions.

    When tax time rolls around next year, you, your boyfriend, and his parents (if they make more money than you and your boyfriend) will all sit down together and do your taxes. Everybody will run the numbers with and without your child. Assuming you’re all working together for the good of the child, right?

    Then, whoever gets the biggest refund or deduction for claiming your child should take the exemption. But–whoever gets the exemption only takes as much refund as he or she would get if they didn’t claim your child. The extra money goes into a special account to pay for college, or medical expenses, or whatever your child needs.

    Bottom line, you and your boyfriend should argue over who claims your child since you should be working together for the good of baby. Right?

  125. Jan Roberg on Sat, 5th Jul 2014 1:41 pm
  126. Hi Donnah,
    So I’m guessing that you make about $20 an hour? If you made $20 an hour and worked an 80 hour week, your gross pay (that’s how much you get before they take out taxes) would be $1600 every two weeks. And your employer would take out $122.40 for your FICA (that’s Social Security and Medicare) and another $97 for your IRS withholding. That comes to $219.

    Now, if you don’t make close to $20 an hour, then there may be something wrong. But you’ll want to check about things like health insurance or other things your company might withhold for–like daycare.

    And don’t forget your state income tax–they have to withhold for that too.

    So if this is all making sense, then you’re okay, but if it’s not, go to your employer and have her explain what all the deductions are. I know some people feel embarrassed having to ask questions–but this is your money and you have a right to know. It’s not like you’re accusing her of cheating you, you just want to understand what is going on with your money.

    And, not that your employer would cheat you, but I’ve seen cases where the withholding was wrong. Wouldn’t you rather ask and get it straightened out if that was the case?

    If you’re feeling like doing some work on this, try using the IRS withholding calculator. Here’s a link: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

    It’s a great tool for figuring out if you can change your exemptions or not. You’ll need your last pay stub and your last tax return to get an accurate reading, but it’s pretty good.

  127. Jan Roberg on Sat, 5th Jul 2014 2:57 pm
  128. Hi Jayne,
    I’m going to give you similar advice as Donnah–check out the withholding calculator.

    But also, what all is coming out of your check? At $40,000 a year with 5 exemptions, I’m thinking that you would have about $203 taken out for federal and state taxes. Depending upon what state you live in, that could be another hundred maybe. But what other things are they taking out? If it’s health insurance–that’s a good thing. It’s much cheaper through your employer than paying that on your own.

    But do check out the withholding calculator. It will tell you if you can increase your exemptions (which would give you more take home pay.)

  129. Jan Roberg on Sat, 5th Jul 2014 3:49 pm
  130. Hi Mark,
    Generally I would say claim 3 exemptions. One for you, one for your wife and one for your child.

  131. Jan Roberg on Sun, 6th Jul 2014 9:09 am
  132. Hi Tasha,
    If you don’t want to pay a ton to the IRS later, don’t claim too many exemptions up front. If you have been claiming too many exemptions, use the IRS withholding calculator to help you adjust now so you don’t get stuck later.

    http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator

  133. Teresa on Tue, 8th Jul 2014 1:12 pm
  134. Our daughter, who is 23 and still in college, just got a part time job. We still pay for all her living expenses plus school 100% and claim her on our taxes. What does she put on her W4, and does she file a tax return when that time comes? Thanks.

  135. shar on Sat, 12th Jul 2014 1:20 pm
  136. Hi I’m a single mother of 3. I’m just trying to figure out what number I should enter on my w-4. I work about 30hrs a week so I don’t make very much money plus I go to school and live on my own.if that extra info is needed.

  137. Jan Roberg on Sun, 13th Jul 2014 7:00 am
  138. Hi Shar,
    My best guess is that since you’re a single mother with 3 kids and you’re on your own that you won’t have any tax liability at all. I’m thinking you can claim at least 5 exemptions and probably even 8 (one for each of your kids that’s under age 17.)

    If you’re making $15 an hour, at $30 hours a week and you claim 6 exemptions, you’ll have zero federal tax taken out.

    If you’re making over $15, (and your kids are under age 17) I’d go up to the 8 exemptions but I wouldn’t go over that.

    If you have 8 exemptions and they’re still taking out federal income tax, then you’re probably making too much to get EIC and may have taxes so you’ll want some withholding.

    (I never can tell want “don’t make very much” means to some people. I once had a fellow call me saying he “didn’t make too much” and his income was $200,000 a year. I’m assuming that’s not your income bracket but just in case, I want to make sure you don’t claim more than 8 exemptions to cover your behind.)

  139. Sandy on Sun, 13th Jul 2014 8:08 am
  140. Hi there,
    I am married and we file jointly. I do make more money than my spouse. We have one child together. Up until now, I have only been claiming “1″ on my taxes. Wouldn’t it be better, if I need more money in my paycheck, to change it to “2″ ? In that case, would it also be better for my husband to claim zero because he makes less money than me? Thanks so much for your time!

  141. Jan Roberg on Sun, 13th Jul 2014 8:26 am
  142. Hi Teresa,
    I would have your daughter claim zero exemptions. She probably will have to file a tax return in April.

    Now if she’s still under 24 on 12/31 then you’ll still be able to claim her as a dependent. That’s why I’m saying zero.

    If she’s over 24, you might not be able to claim her if her income is over the exemption threshold which is $3600 for 2013. In that case, I’d have her claim one exemption, she’ll have more take home pay that way.

  143. Jan Roberg on Sun, 13th Jul 2014 8:32 am
  144. Hi Sandy,
    You’re probably right, but I’m going to send you to the IRS withholding calculator to get you the best scenario.

    Bottom line, you need more money in your take home pay–not a big tax deduction later, right? Follow the instructions on the guideline and it will help you reset your withholding for a zero refund.

    Have your most recent paystubs handy and you last tax return. (If you don’t itemize, you probably don’t even need your tax return.)

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