For the latest information about developments related to
Form W-4, such as legislation enacted after it was published,
go to www.irs.gov/FormW4.
Purpose of Form
Complete Form W-4 so that your employer can withhold the
correct federal income tax from your pay. If too little is
withheld, you will generally owe tax when you file your tax
return and may owe a penalty. If too much is withheld, you will
generally be due a refund. Complete a new Form W-4 when
changes to your personal or financial situation would change
the entries on the form. For more information on withholding
and when you must furnish a new Form W-4, see Pub. 505.
Exemption from withholding. You may claim exemption from
withholding for 2020 if you meet both of the following
conditions: you had no federal income tax liability in 2019 and
you expect to have no federal income tax liability in 2020. You
had no federal income tax liability in 2019 if (1) your total tax on
line 16 on your 2019 Form 1040 or 1040-SR is zero (or less
than the sum of lines 18a, 18b, and 18c), or (2) you were not
required to file a return because your income was below the
filing threshold for your correct filing status. If you claim
exemption, you will have no income tax withheld from your
paycheck and may owe taxes and penalties when you file your
2020 tax return. To claim exemption from withholding, certify
that you meet both of the conditions above by writing “Exempt”
on Form W-4 in the space below Step 4(c). Then, complete
Steps 1a, 1b, and 5. Do not complete any other steps. You will
need to submit a new Form W-4 by February 16, 2021.
Your privacy. If you prefer to limit information provided in
Steps 2 through 4, use the online estimator, which will also
As an alternative to the estimator: if you have concerns
with Step 2(c), you may choose Step 2(b); if you have
concerns with Step 4(a), you may enter an additional amount
you want withheld per pay period in Step 4(c). If this is the
only job in your household, you may instead check the box
in Step 2(c), which will increase your withholding and
significantly reduce your paycheck (often by thousands of
dollars over the year).
When to use the estimator. Consider using the estimator at
www.irs.gov/W4App if you:
Expect to work only part of the year;
Have dividend or capital gain income, or are subject to
additional taxes, such as the additional Medicare tax;
Have self-employment income (see below); or
Prefer the most accurate withholding for multiple job
Self-employment. Generally, you will owe both income and
self-employment taxes on any self-employment income you
receive separate from the wages you receive as an
employee. If you want to pay these taxes through
withholding from your wages, use the estimator at
www.irs.gov/W4App to figure the amount to have withheld.
Nonresident alien. If you’re a nonresident alien, see Notice
1392, Supplemental Form W-4 Instructions for Nonresident
Aliens, before completing this form.
Step 1(c). Check your anticipated filing status. This will
determine the standard deduction and tax rates used to
compute your withholding.
Step 2. Use this step if you (1) have more than one job at the
same time, or (2) are married filing jointly and you and your
spouse both work.
Option (a) most accurately calculates the additional tax
you need to have withheld, while option (b) does so with a
little less accuracy.
If you (and your spouse) have a total of only two jobs, you
may instead check the box in option (c). The box must also be
checked on the Form W-4 for the other job. If the box is
checked, the standard deduction and tax brackets will be cut
in half for each job to calculate withholding. This option is
roughly accurate for jobs with similar pay; otherwise, more tax
than necessary may be withheld, and this extra amount will be
larger the greater the difference in pay is between the two jobs.
Multiple jobs. Complete Steps 3 through 4(b) on only
one Form W-4. Withholding will be most accurate if
you do this on the Form W-4 for the highest paying job.
Step 3. Step 3 of Form W-4 provides instructions for
determining the amount of the child tax credit and the credit
for other dependents that you may be able to claim when
you file your tax return. To qualify for the child tax credit, the
child must be under age 17 as of December 31, must be
your dependent who generally lives with you for more than
half the year, and must have the required social security
number. You may be able to claim a credit for other
dependents for whom a child tax credit can’t be claimed,
such as an older child or a qualifying relative. For additional
eligibility requirements for these credits, see Pub. 972, Child
Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents. You can also
include other tax credits in this step, such as education tax
credits and the foreign tax credit. To do so, add an estimate
of the amount for the year to your credits for dependents
and enter the total amount in Step 3. Including these credits
will increase your paycheck and reduce the amount of any
refund you may receive when you file your tax return.
Step 4 (optional).
Step 4(a). Enter in this step the total of your other
estimated income for the year, if any. You shouldn’t include
income from any jobs or self-employment. If you complete
Step 4(a), you likely won’t have to make estimated tax
payments for that income. If you prefer to pay estimated tax
rather than having tax on other income withheld from your
paycheck, see Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals.
Step 4(b). Enter in this step the amount from the Deductions
Worksheet, line 5, if you expect to claim deductions other than
the basic standard deduction on your 2020 tax return and
want to reduce your withholding to account for these
deductions. This includes both itemized deductions and other
deductions such as for student loan interest and IRAs.
Step 4(c). Enter in this step any additional tax you want
withheld from your pay each pay period, including any
amounts from the Multiple Jobs Worksheet, line 4. Entering an
amount here will reduce your paycheck and will either increase
your refund or reduce any amount of tax that you owe.