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All You Need to Know About Form W-4

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Numerous critical financial issues and administrative processes might be tough to balance during your business journey, regardless of how much experience you have as an employee (or as an employer). You may be wondering, “What is a W-4?” 

Whether you train another individual to conduct tax preparation or need a refresher, This guide will review the 2024 W4 for businesses and employees. We’ll show you how to fill out a W-4 2024 form, and you’ll get step-by-step directions for finishing and submitting it. 

We’ll also cover where to find the form, how to utilize it to prepare payroll and tax information, and the ramifications of filing time.

what is the form w-4 withholding certificate for employees?

When you start a new job, you must fill out Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate. This form specifies how much tax your employer will deduct from your pay. 

The withheld amount is paid to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under your name and Social Security Number. When you file your annual tax return, the tax amount deducted from your paycheck throughout the year will be credited to you.

understanding form w-4 withholding certificate for employees

Because the IRS compels workers to pay taxes on their earnings throughout the year, you must accurately complete a W-4. If you do not withhold enough tax, you may owe the IRS a substantial sum, plus interest and penalties for underpayment of taxes, when you file your tax return.

Your monthly income will be cut. If you withhold too much tax during the year, you will not be refunded until you file your tax return and receive a refund.

why should anyone care about completing a w-4?

Taxpayers who use the 2024 W-4 form are less likely to get a significant tax bill or a substantial refund when they file their tax returns in 2024 money that could have been invested or spent on necessary expenses throughout the year.

Although updating your withholding amount is always voluntary, the IRS suggests that employees review their W-4 forms every year. 

what should you know about form w-4?

Employees who have not had big life events, such as marriage or having children, have most likely not completed a W-4 in a LONG time. 

As a result, we urge that you remind your team of the need to evaluate their withholdings at least once a year. In addition, any new employees must complete a W-4 form. 

If that isn’t incentive enough to reread Form W-4, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 significantly changed employee withholding. These modifications have a wide-ranging impact on many taxpayers. 

If you missed some of the changes during the last several years, here are a couple that are still in effect.

Let’s go into the specifics so you can complete the form.

a guide for employers to the 2024 w-4

This section highlights the most significant W-4 changes that employers should be aware of. 

1. the name or title

Form W-4 was previously known as the “Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.” Beginning in 2020, Form W-4 no longer calculated “allowances”; hence, the title was changed to “Employee’s Withholding Certificate.” 

2. personal allowances worksheet, bye-bye

That’s right: the Personal Allowance Worksheet from page three of the old Form W-4 vanished in 2020 and has not been seen since.

Why? The TCJA repealed personal exemptions. These exemptions permitted deductions from a taxpayer’s personal income, lowering their taxable income and, as a result, their federal income tax. 

These exemptions were linked to allowances, but since exemptions are no longer available, calculating the number of allowances is no longer necessary.

the five stages of the w-4 for 2023

Let’s take a closer look at each stage so you can adequately lead your staff through the W-4 form.

step 1: enter your personal data

All employees must fulfill this phase. If an employee fails to complete the form, you must compute their withholding as “Single” in order to withhold their taxes at the higher “Single” rate.

Step 2: Multiple Jobs or Spouse Employment

The message preceding step two instructs employees who may be exempt from withholding where to get guidance:

If your employee is unsure whether they are exempt, point them to the text on Page 2 under the heading Exemption from withholding.

Step 2 appears as follows:

  • The person completing the W-4 form is a) married, b) filing jointly, and c) working and has a spouse who also works.

If neither of those possibilities applies to your employees, they may go to the next phase.

If one of the scenarios listed above applies to your employee, they should proceed to Step 2 by executing one (but not all!) of the following:

  1. a) Using the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator, note that this form section is labeled “Reserved for Future Use.” This is because the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator for 2023 has not yet been updated. Typically, this tool makes it simple for taxpayers to calculate withholdings, but you should use it only when it has been updated.
  2. b) Navigate to Page 3 of the form to manually compute withholding and enter the result in Form Step 4(c).
  3. c) Ticking the box; if the taxpayer only has two jobs, or if the taxpayer and spouse (filing jointly) each have two jobs, this option may be checked.

Step 2 provides a description as well. This message also informs employees who do not need to complete steps 2-4 to step 5, which everyone must do.

Option (a) will provide employees with the most precision and privacy of the three because the Tax Withholding Estimator will compute all relevant entries for the form. Still, the Withholding Estimator must be updated for 2023 in order to be correct. 

explore more: what is payroll tax?

Option (b) likewise gives accuracy but involves human labor, whereas option (c) is the least accurate because it assumes the tasks pay the same, but it is the simplest to execute.

Step 3: File a Dependent Claim

Single taxpayers with a total income of $200,000 or less ($400,000 if married and filing jointly) can get the child tax credit.

If employees want to claim the credit, they should carefully read IRS Publication 972, – Child Tax Credit.

Step 4: Other Modifications

This optional section contains a list of items that an employee may want to account for when calculating their withholding. These are some examples:

  • (a): Other income (not from employment). Additional income that is not subject to withholding, such as retirement or dividends.
  • (b): Tax deductions. This section contains deductions other than the standard deduction. This covers all itemized deductions minus the standard deduction, such as mortgage interest and charitable contributions. 

Remember that the standard deduction usually lowers a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, which is used to determine their taxable income. 

The higher of the basic deduction or itemized deductions reduces the amount of tax owed. In 2023 standard deduction for married taxpayers filing jointly is $27,700, $13,850 for single and married taxpayers filing separately, and $20,800 for those filing as head of household.

  • (c): Additional withholding. Any additional withholding that the employee wishes to make each pay period.

Step 5: Confirm That Your Employee has Signed the Form.

The form is invalid if your employee does not complete this final step.

advising employees on how to complete the 2023 w-4

All employees must complete steps 1 and 5 of the new W-4. Steps 2–4 are only executed if specific criteria are met. Each of these processes will be discussed in depth below.

Follow the actions outlined below with your workers.

step 1: enter your personal data

Fill out the following basic information:

  1. Your name
  2. Your Social Security number
  3. Your address
  4. Your city or town, state, and ZIP code
  5. Your filing status

Nothing too difficult.
This is how it appears:

Steps 2 through 4 are located behind the personal information boxes in Step 1. These stages are unlikely to apply to you if you are single and only work one job or if you are married, and your spouse does not work.

step 2: multiple jobs or spouse employment

This phase only applies to those who work multiple jobs simultaneously and 

  • Those who are a) married, b) filing jointly, and c) both spouses work.

You should only do one of the following if you complete this step:

  1. a) As you can see, this part is labeled “Reserved for Future Use.” This indicates that the IRS has yet to update this section. This will, however, most likely direct the taxpayer to the online IRS Tax Withholding Estimator, which has not yet been updated for 2023. Once updated, this is an excellent tool for performing calculations.
  2. b) Must be updated before use.
  3. b) Proceed to Page 3 of the form to manually compute withholding and input the result in Form Step 4(c).
  4. c) Check this box if you fit the description. Remember that ticking box 2(c) indicates to your employer that you have several jobs. 

Do not check the box if you do not want to reveal such information.
According to the form, individuals with numerous occupations should file Form W-4 using information from their highest-paying employment. This should yield the most precise withholding.
Steps 3 through 4b should only be completed on one W-4 form if you work more than one job.

step 3: file a dependent claim

This part determines whether you are eligible for the child tax credit. It’s a relatively straightforward procedure to follow:

The first box will contain the sum of your qualified children under 17 times $2,000. In the second box, enter the number of extra dependents multiplied by $500. Line 3 will have the sum of those two figures.

step 4: other modifications

This area is for your further consideration.
This is how it appears:

  • (a): Other income (not from employment). Dividends and retirement income are examples of additional income that may not be subject to withholding.
  • (b): Tax deductions. Itemized deductions, such as mortgage payments and charitable contributions, will be greater than your standard deduction. You can check this in worksheet for tax deductions at IRS. 
  • (c): Additional withholding. Any additional withholding you want to make each pay period.

step 5: sign the document

Isn’t it simple? Okay.
Remember that if you do not sign the form, it is invalid. This means that your employer will disregard your updated W-4 options and withholding and compute your withholding as “Single.”

where can i obtain a form w-4?

Your employer is the first place to look for a new Form W-4. Many employers include the Employee’s Withholding Certificate with the routine onboarding paperwork, either electronically or physically.

If you do not receive a new W-4 from your employer or need one for your income tax purposes at any point during the year, you can get the most recent form straight from the IRS website.

The most recent W-4 Form is accessible as a downloaded and print-ready PDF document; the form includes action steps, clarifying instructions, and withholding spreadsheets to assist you in calculating a specific deduction or withholding amount based on your personal tax and employment status.

what is the distinction between a w-2 and a w-4 form?

The W-2 and W-4 forms complement each other in the existing tax system. However, they do not serve the same purpose.

  • Form W-4 informs your employer of the income tax to withhold from your paycheck as well as any tax credits that affect your payment status.
  • A W-2 Form reveals how much money and tax were withheld from you during the tax year. A summary form must be completed to file your tax return, receive a tax refund (if eligible), and complete your state returns.

The employee creates and fills out the W-4, but the employer is responsible for compiling a W-2 by the deadline each year. You do not need a copy of Form W-4 to complete your tax return, but you may want to consult it if you have questions concerning deductions.

what is the distinction between a w-9 and a w-4 form?

When comparing a W-9 Form to a W-4 Form, the W-4 process is only available to employees. W-4 forms are directly related to federal taxes withheld by an employer and are often set up when you start a new job and receive your first paycheck.
Individuals who rely on the W-9 process, on the other hand, include: 

  • Independent contractors 
  • Freelancers 
  • Vendors 
  • Anyone getting non-employed money from a firm

You are expected to be responsible for paying your own state and federal taxes when you fill out a new W-4 or W-9.
However, without a W-4, the employer or firm is not required to deduct any tax amount from a person’s salary or invoice. Without a W-4, freelancers and contractors should be aware of their tax obligations.

where should i mail the form?

Employees should return a W-4 form to their employer as soon as possible. This is especially crucial when starting a new job, but it’s also necessary if you wish to notify your present employer of any changes to deductions or withholding allowances.

You are not required to return Form W-4 to the IRS, but you may keep it for your records if you need to cross-check your tax return paperwork.

what are the advantages of a w-4 form?

Submitting and revising your W-4 is advantageous for many reasons. 

  • Having accurate employer information to submit your annual tax return 
  • Paying the appropriate amount of federal income tax per paycheck
  • Ensuring that your tax refund is not unnecessarily inflated (i.e., you might have spent the money elsewhere or in other investments throughout the year).
  • Assisting you in avoiding significant tax penalties or fees at the end of the year as a result of paying insufficient state or federal income tax.
  • Avoiding mistakes in your personal information or filing status

what does the phrase ‘exempt from withholding’ mean?

In certain circumstances, employees may file a W-4 with the status “exempt from withholding.” This means that the employee pays no federal income tax on funds received from employers. 

Employers may experience this issue only infrequently, but it is still beneficial to understand what it is and why it occurs.

The questions below will help you assess whether you are exempt from withholding.

  • Did I not owe any federal income taxes the prior year?
  • Do I anticipate owing no tax this year?

tax consequences for business owners

Although each employee must provide appropriate tax information, employers should know their specific position in the W-4 process. An employer’s responsibilities may include the following:

  • Ensuring that all data is input appropriately into personnel systems
  • Being ready to answer employee inquiries (especially about withholdings, deductions, and compensation) and 
  • Knowing how to flag dubious W-4 forms
  • Contacting staff when a form is incorrect or invalid

Form W-4 responses do not affect the amount of tax an employer is liable for. This includes FICA taxes, which are deducted automatically from each paycheck and shared between the company and the employee.

different types of w-4 forms

The W-4 comes in a variety of variations, believe it or not. Although the goal is mostly the same, the distinct variances assist in calculating tax withholding in the various cases described below.

w-4 (sp) form

This is the same standard form as before, but it is explicitly written for Spanish speakers. Employees who speak Spanish should complete and return the form as usual.

form w-4p

If you have a pension or annuity and want to request that a specified amount of money be withheld, use this form version. A signed document instructs your plan administrator to deduct an amount based on expected income from these sources.

w-4s forms

Form W-4S can be used to seek a specific amount of sick pay withholding. If you are entitled to this money as part of your benefits package and wish to account for taxes, please submit this form along with your other tax paperwork.

form w-4v

Form W-4V is entirely voluntary and is used to receive government payments such as Social Security or unemployment compensation.
You can use this form to obtain a tax withholding on money earned from these sources to avoid fees or penalties at the end of the year. When claiming these allowances, you may be eligible for further tax breaks.

in conclusion

As discussed through this article, the W-4 procedure is critical for business, tax, and employment purposes. Not only does having an accurate W-4 ensure that each person receives the correct amount on each paycheck, but it also determines whether you get a tax refund or owe money to the IRS after filing an annual return.

Although a W-4 is relatively straightforward to complete, its impact can be enormous. If you have specific questions concerning the implications of your W-4 forms, please consult with a licensed accountant or tax specialist.


who is required to fill out a w-4 form?
Every employee is asked to complete a W-4 form on the first day of work. Failure to do so may result in you paying excessive or insufficient taxes.

do w-4 forms have to be completed every year?
No. The form is usually only required to be re-filed if the employee changes jobs or has experienced a change in circumstances that necessitates changing how much money is withheld from their paycheck for taxes.

why is my form 1040 total less than my refundable credits?
Filing as exempt is not unlawful or wrong, but you must always confirm that the correct scenarios and requirements apply. Otherwise, you may owe taxes on earnings from an employer. When in doubt, consult your prior tax returns to determine your most current exemptions.

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