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  5. How to Estimate Federal Withholding

How to Estimate Federal Withholding

Updated for Tax Year 2022 • May 15, 2023 03:23 PM


Adjusting your withholding will ensure that you don't have too much (or too little) federal income tax withheld from your paycheck. Use Form W-4 to let your employer know how much you want them to withhold.


Updating your withholding

Life events such as marriage, divorce, having a baby, or getting a promotion or bonus can have a big impact on your taxes. Filling out a new Form W-4 tells your employer how to calculate federal income tax withholding for your paycheck. That way, you won't wind up owing a big tax bill or having too much money withheld from your paycheck throughout the year.

  • If it's been a while since you filled out Form W-4, you should know that the form was entirely redesigned.
  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 significantly changed federal tax laws, so workers and their employers needed a more up-to-date form to calculate the amount of federal tax to withhold.

Here's what you need to do to complete this form.

Obtain a copy of IRS Form W-4

Your company's human resources or payroll department should be able to provide a copy of Form W-4. If not, you can always download Form W-4 from the IRS website.

Step 1: Enter your personal information

The first step to filling out Form W-4 is relatively easy to complete. Simply provide your name, Social Security number, and address. This section also asks you for your tax filing status.

If you're exempt from withholding — meaning you didn't pay any federal income taxes last year and don't expect to owe any this year — you can choose not to have any federal income tax withheld from your pay. In that case, just skip to Step 4 below. Otherwise, move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Calculate for multiple jobs or a working spouse

You might need help figuring out how to calculate federal withholding tax from your paycheck if

  • you have more than one job, or
  • you are married and your spouse also works.

The easiest way to do that is to use TurboTax's W-4 Withholding Calculator. It will walk you through a series of questions about your income, tax deductions, and credits, and it provides instructions for completing Step 3 and 4 of the form.

Just remember, while you need to fill out a W-4 for each employer you work for, you should only complete Steps 2 through 4 for your highest paying job. For other jobs, leave those steps blank.

Step 3: Claim any dependents

If you claim any dependents on your tax return, use the results from the W-4 Withholding Calculator to complete this section.

Otherwise, move on to Step 4.

Step 4: Factor other adjustments

This section is a catchall for other income, deductions, and adjustments to your withholding. Use the results from the W-4 Withholding Calculator to complete this section.

Note: If you determined that you're exempt from withholding in Step 2, simply write "EXEMPT" in the space under box 4(c) and move on to Step 5.

Step 5: Sign

The final section of Form W-4 requires you to sign and date the form. Then, simply return the completed form to your payroll department.

If you've been at your job for a while, your employer should already have a W-4 on file. You don't need to fill out a new W-4 if you're happy with your withholding. However, if you change jobs, you'll need to complete the updated version of Form W-4. You can also fill one out any time you want to adjust your withholding.

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