2020 Tax Withholding: the new Form W-4
Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Certificate, has been redesigned for 2020. Previously, income tax withholding was based on an employee's marital status and withholding allowances or tied to the value of the personal exemption. With the revised Form W-4, however, income tax withholding is generally based on the worker's expected filing status and standard deduction for the year. Furthermore, workers can also choose to have itemized deductions, the Child Tax Credit, and other tax benefits reflected in their withholding for the year.
The redesigned Form W-4 makes it easier for withholding to match tax liability. While it uses the same underlying information as the old design, it replaces complicated worksheets with more straightforward questions that make accurate withholding easier for employees.
Here's what taxpayers should know about the new Form W-4 for 2020:
The form is divided into 5 steps. The only two steps required for all employees are Step 1, where you enter personal information such as your name and filing status, and Step 5, where you sign the form. The form is not valid unless it is signed and dated by the employee. Taxpayers should only complete Steps 2 - 4 only if they apply to your tax situation because doing so will make your withholding more accurately match your liability.
All new employees starting employment in 2020 are required to fill out the new Form W-4; however, employees who have furnished Form W-4 in any year before 2020 are not required to furnish a new form merely because of the redesign. Employers will simply continue to compute withholding based on the information from the employee's most recently furnished Form W-4.
Employees with a change in life events such as marriage, buying a house, or the birth of a child, however, may want to fill out the form, however.
More than One Job
It is important for people with more than one job at a time (including families in which both spouses work) to adjust their withholding to avoid having too little withheld. For most taxpayers, using the Tax Withholding Estimator located on the IRS website is the most accurate way to do this, although they may fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet found in the instructions instead.
If a spouse works both should check the box on their respective Forms W-4; however, only one spouse should fill out the rest of the form (i.e., Steps 3 and 4). If not, and both spouses claim the child tax credit, for example, it is possible that not enough will be withheld and they will owe money at tax time.
Withholding will be most accurate if the highest paid spouse completes Steps 3 - 4(b) on the Form W-4.
As in the past, employees can also choose to have an employer withhold an additional flat-dollar amount each pay period to cover, for example, income they receive from the gig economy, self-employment, or other sources that are not subject to withholding.