What's a W-4 and Why Should I Pay Attention to It?
Every time you earn income, you’ll most likely owe taxes. How much you pay is determined by your Form W-4. Your employer deducts taxes based on the number of allowances you claim on your W-4. This system works well if you’re a “standard” taxpayer who files single, has one job, and claims a standard deduction. But if you don’t fit into this category — and many of us don’t — it’s likely that you have too much or too little tax withheld.
When you have too much money withheld from your paychecks, you end up giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan (and getting a tax refund). Ask yourself if there are better ways to use that money. Why not take home more money in your weekly paycheck? Or invest the proceeds and earn interest on it? On the other hand, having too little withheld from your paycheck could mean an unexpected tax bill or even a penalty for underpayment. Either way, there’s a better way to manage your hard-earned money.
The key to paying the right amount of tax is to update your W-4 regularly. Do this whenever you have a major personal life change. The goal is to reduce the potential for both a tax bill and a tax refund to zero, or close to it. But if you count on a big tax refund every year, you should also pay attention to your withholding, because how much you have withheld directly impacts your refund.