Instructions for how to Fill Out w4 Form IRS

The 2019 W4 Form and How to Complete It

The new tax reform resulted in updates to IRS 2019 W4 Form, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to make any changes.

If you don’t know, the W4 form is the form everyone must fill out before starting a new job. It determines how much federal taxes will be taken out of your pay.

Today, we will explain exactly what the form is and how you should fill it out. Most people fill the form out without understanding it, but it can make a big impact on your finances if you do it incorrectly!

You wouldn’t give a complete stranger an interest-free loan, but that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you don’t fill out the 2019 W4 form properly.

Now that you’ll have more money, you’ll want to make sure you open a high interest savings account so that your money can earn interest for you!

Now let’s get started on filling out your W4!

Bonus tip: now that you are earning more money, learn how to make a detailed budget.

How to Fill Out the 2019 W4 Form When You Start a New Job

Growing up, our family didn’t have a whole lot of money. Yep, we grew up in poverty. Like many of you, we had to start working the day we turned 15 to be able to buy the things we wanted. 

One of us worked at a car dealership cleaning cars, at a local electronics store selling computers, and at a Sunglass Hut in the mall. Not exactly the typical start for someone who’d go onto graduate from two ivy league universities including Harvard. The other twin worked as a grocery store cashier and a pharmacy technician, which in retrospect makes sense since he’s now a physician.

Between the two of us, we’ve had 20+ different jobs over the years. But it wasn’t until recently that we realized we never actually understood what any of the tax forms we filled out were.

After getting slapped with a huge end of year tax bill, we realized that our W4 form hadn’t been filled out properly.

So if your tax bill or tax refund wasn’t what you expected it to be, this is the form that will make all the difference.

As soon as you have your form complete, make sure you read our guide on how to start investing, so your can put your money to work!

The 2019 W4 Form from the IRS Tells Your Employer How Much Federal Tax to Collect

The IRS 2019 W4 Form is also known as the ‘Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate’, and is the one form you’ve seen every time you start a new job, but probably never paid much attention to. 

All new employees need to fill out the 2019 W4 Form since it determines how much federal (National) tax will be withheld from your paycheck and sent to the government.

The IRS, or Internal Revenue Service, is the group within the government that collects federal taxes. The government uses the information from the 2019 W4 Form to determine how much federal tax should be withheld from you throughout the year, instead of waiting to send you big bill at the end of the year.

The government will try to collect the full amount unless you qualify for allowances. The 2019 w4 is the form that is used to calculate or specify whether you qualify for any withholding allowances.

The major factors that determine how much tax your employer withholds from your regular pay are:

    • The amount you earn;
    • Whether you are single or married;
    • The number of withholding allowances you claim on the 2019 W4 form. (Each allowance reduces the amount withheld.); and
    • Whether you want or need an additional amount withheld

Why Does the 2019 W4 Form Actually Matter?

This form is important because if not enough money is withheld from your paycheck, you’ll be on the hook for a large tax bill during tax season and potentially a fine. Tax Day is when the previous year’s taxes are due and it usually falls around April 15 of each year.

You may also have to pay a penalty or fine if not enough is withheld, so it is important to fill the 2019 w4 form out correctly. On the other hand, if too much money is withheld, you’ll receive smaller regular paychecks and receive a refund at the end of the year.

While receiving a larger tax refund at the end of the year is nice, it’s better to receive the money sooner because that money can be saved, invested, or used for something else.

Don’t forget that if you know you’ll owe taxes in April, it’s smart to learn how to budget, so that you can be ready for it.

What Does the 2019 W4 Form Even Look Like?

The 2019 W4 Form consists of 4 pages and says Form W4 in bold letters on the top left hand of the 1st page. The form was updated for the 2019 tax year, so you’ll want to be sure that you see the year at the top right hand corner of the form.

2019 W4 Form – Page 1

The top of the first page has a few definitions and includes the beginning of the instructions for the form. The bottom of Page 1 is the actual 2019 W4 form that you’ll need to give your employer once you’ve filled it out. This portion that you’ll have to hand in to your employer is called the Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.

2019 W4 Page 1

2019 W4 Form – Page 2

Page 2 consists of the remainder of the instructions for filling out the form. This page is for reference and will not be submitted to your employer.

2019 W4 Form – Page 3

Page 3 contains two components. The first is the ‘Personal Allowances Worksheet’.

This worksheet determines the number of withholding allowances to claim. The second component of page 3 is comprised of the ‘Deductions, Adjustments, and Additional Income Worksheet’.

This page will tell you if you are able to reduce the tax withheld to account for itemized deductions to income. This page will NOT be submitted to your employer. You can think of it as scratch paper to help you with any calculations.

2019 W4 Form Page 3

2019 W4 Form – Page 4

Page 4 of the 2019 W4 Form is solely comprised of the ‘Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet’.

This sheet will only be filled out if you have more than one job at a time or are married filing jointly and have a working spouse. This page will also NOT be submitted to your employer.

2019 W4 Page 4

The 2019 W4 Form is Confusing to Fill Out, So Let’s Break it Down Into Simple Steps

Step 1: Congrats on the new job!

Take a second to reflect on that fact that your interviews are over and you finally got the job! Now you’ll want to sit down, relax, and fill out the W4 form.

Step 2: Complete lines 1 to 4 of the 2019 W4 Form

Lines 1 – 4 ask for your personal information like name, address, social security number, and marital status. Easy peasy.

If you have a more complicated tax situation, or prefer to use an online calculator, the IRS has a 2019 W4 form withholding calculator that you can use in lieu of the additional worksheets. Otherwise, continue to step 3.

Step 3: Skip lines 5 and 6 on the 2019 W4 Form and complete line 7.

To complete line 7 you need to figure out if you’re exempt from paying federal tax (most people are NOT exempt). If you are exempt, which means you do not need to pay federal taxes, you should write “Exempt” on Line 7, otherwise leave blank. See below for how to determine if you are exempt or not.

You can claim exemption from withholding for the current year only if BOTH the following situations apply.

    • For the prior year, you had a right to a refund of all federal income tax withheld because you had no tax liability.
    • For the current year, you expect a refund of all federal income tax withheld because you expect to have no tax liability.

This usually applies if you earn less than $12,000 if you are single (or less than $24,000 for a married couple). If you think you might qualify, the IRS has a calculator you can use to determine if you are exempt.

2019 W4 Form Exemptions

 

Step 4: Fill out the Personal Allowances Worksheet (Page 3)

The Personal Allowances section is located at the top of page 3. This section determines whether you will pay less taxes based on certain credits or circumstances, like having children. This section is more straightforward this year. Complete it in order from Line A to Line H.

Line G of the 2019 W4 form asks you to refer to Worksheet 1-6 of Pub. 505. We’ve included an image of that worksheet below so that you can see if it applies to you.

2018 W4 Form Worksheet 1-6

Step 5: Fill out the Deductions, Adjustments, and Additional Income Worksheet of the 2019 W4 Form

The Deductions, Adjustments, and Additional Income Worksheet is located on the bottom half of page 3, below the Personal Allowances Worksheet.

You should fill out this worksheet if:

  1. You plan to itemize your deductions when you file your taxes; or
  2. If you plan to take advantage of other tax credits that you might qualify for.

There are two ways you can take deductions on your federal income tax return:

  1. You can itemize deductions; or
  2. Use the standard deduction.

The new standard deduction for the 2019 tax year is $12,200 if single, $24,400 for married individuals filing a joint return, and $18,350 for head-of-household filers. The standard deduction for the 2018 tax year is $12,000 if single, $24,000 for married individuals filing a joint return, and $18,000 for head-of-household filers. Remember that deductions reduce the amount of your taxable income.

Who Should Itemize Deductions

One strategy to determine if you will itemize deductions is to base it off of what you did in the prior year. Another strategy is use a free tax program (TurboTax won’t charge you to use their software until you file so you can use the product for free to evaluate your situation) and see which deductions or credits you qualify for.

Generally, it could make sense to itemize your deductions on your taxes if you:

    • Don’t qualify for the standard deduction, or amount you can claim is limited;
    • Had large uninsured medical and dental expenses during the year;
    • Paid interest and taxes on your home;
    • Had large unreimbursed employee business expenses or other miscellaneous deductions;
    • Had large uninsured casualty or theft losses of your home, household items and vehicles;
    • Made large contributions to qualified charities; or
    • Have total itemized deductions that are more than the standard deduction.

Bonus step: Make sure you learn the 5 best things you can use your tax refund for!

Step 6: Fill out the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet (Page 4)

If you are single and have more than one job and your earnings from all jobs total more than $52,000, or are married AND you and your spouse both work with combined earnings from all jobs totalling more $24,000, you should fill out this worksheet. This sheet is straightforward and the instructions on the form are easy to follow.

Pro Tip: If you have a working spouse and your incomes are similar, you can check the “Married, but withhold at higher Single rate” box instead of using this worksheet. If you choose this option, then each spouse should fill out the Personal Allowances Worksheet and check the “Married, but withhold at higher Single rate” box on the 2019 W4 Form, but only one spouse should claim any allowances for credits or fill out the Deductions, Adjustments, and Additional Income Worksheet.

Step 7: Complete Lines 5 and 6 on the 2019 W4 Form (Page 1)

Now that you’ve completed all of the forms, you have all the information you need to complete the 2019 W4 Form on Page 1.

Line 6 asks if you’d like to have an additional amount, if any, withheld. For the vast majority of people, they should put “$0” here unless they have a specific tax event during the year they’d like to offset, like a large bonus. In general however, most people will not opt for additional withholding here. If you really think this might apply to you, ask an accountant.

Once you’ve filled everything in and have signed and put the date on the bottom of the form where it says “Employee’s signature”, you can turn the form into your employer! Note that you only need to turn in the bottom third of Page 1 (the 2019 W4 Form). Just fold and tear below the dotted line, and can keep the rest for your records.

Your employer is responsible for filling in lines 8, 9, and 10.

Now that you’ve completed and handed in the form, you’re all set! However, don’t forget that you should request and fill out a new form if you get married, get a new job, have a child, or go through another event that changes your federal tax situation!

Your employer won’t ask you to update the form, so you have to be the one to request and submit a new one if you need to.

A new job is a perfect opportunity to get your financial life in order!

Read our post on emergency funds if you don’t have one! It’ll be one of the first things you should save for once you start working! This is extra money that you’ll have in case of an emergency. It’s extremely important so that you don’t have to go into (more) credit card debt if your car breaks down, miss work, etc.

Lastly, if you don’t have a monthly budget for yourself or your family, this is the secret sauce to start building wealth! Good luck!

Comment below if you have any questions, or to share your 2019 W4 Form experiences!

 

2019 w4 Form

Sources:
 https://www.irs.gov/individuals/employees/tax-withholding
https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc501
https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/deducting-casualty-disaster-and-theft-losses-at-a-glance

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Learn how to fill out a 2019 w4. The 2019 w4 form tells your employer how much federal tax to withhold. This important so you don\'t pay too little or too much tax. We\'ll walk you through it. #taxes #w4 #2019W4 #money #retirement #moremoney #makemoney #savemoney #tax #frugal #personalfinance #lifehacks #lifetips #lifelessons

Camilo Maldonado

Camilo is a personal finance expert who was raised in poverty by a single mother and had to learn everything about personal finance on his own. In addition to running The Finance Twins with his twin brother, he has been featured on ForbesBusiness InsiderCNBCUS NewsThe Simple Dollar and other top publications. Camilo began his career as an investment banking analyst on Wall Street at J.P. Morgan. He has a master of business administration (M.B.A.) degree from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in finance from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. You can contact Camilo here or via Instagram @thefinancetwins.

56 thoughts to “The 2019 W4 Form and How to Complete It”

  1. Thank you for breaking down the W-4. I wish there was a class in college or high school that taught me all these important life lessons. Thankfully the Finance Twins are here to break it down!!

  2. I recently had to fill out this new W-4 form for my new job. I followed all instructions and came up with the number 11 for my deductions. This seems outrageous! I have two children and am a single mom. I claim my kids on my taxes as they live with me and I am head of household. I got my first check and only 8% was taken out for taxes. This does not seem right. Can you offer some guidance?

    1. Hi Heather, this sounds reasonable. Let’s assume you earn less than $69K. Therefore, you get 4 allowances for each child for a total of 8. You also get 1 allowance for yourself (line A) and 1 allowance for being the head of household (line C), which brings us to 10 already.

      If you really think there is a problem with the withholding, speak to your HR person, and also look at your taxes last year to see what your effective tax rate was. Basically, look at how much tax you paid, add back a refund (if you got one) and see what % was roughly owed. If this is vastly different than what you are seeing now, then there’s more to look into. Also, remember we aren’t accountants or financial advisors so ask a trusted advisor if you need help with specifics. Good luck and thanks for reaching out!

    2. I am not a tax professional but I have three children (three dependents that I am claiming) I have always claimed me, myself and I (my three children) #3 it is a safe number. You still get a nice return and not too much taken from your checks. Hope this helps

  3. I just filled out my Two Earners worksheet on pg 4 of the 2019 W-4, the total I came out with on Line 9 is ($152.17). Please tell me that since this result is negative that I should not be having extra withheld from my paycheck. If an extra $152.17 is taken from each paycheck, that’s ridiculous. Any assistance on this would be great! Thanks!

    1. Hi Nichole, you shouldn’t be getting a negative number. The instructions say to ONLY complete lines 4-9 of the multiple earners sheet IF line 1 is less than line 2. This means you should only have a positive number, so you likely don’t need to proceed to line 4. Hope this helps and good luck!

      1. I had the same issue bc married, two kids equals 10 on line H on the work sheet. I’m looking at -194. I’m also very confused

        1. You definitely shouldn’t have a negative number. Read the instructions of the ‘2 earners worksheet’ carefully because it can be confusing. It says if you have a negative number to enter “0”.

  4. If I plan on contributing to my employer’s 401(k), can I claim an allowance for “Retirement contribution savings credit” on Worksheet 1-6 of Pub. 505 regardless of my income?

    1. You cannot take this credit if either of the following applies.
      • Your modified adjusted gross income is more than $31,500 ($47,250 if head of household; $63,000 if
      married filing jointly).
      • The person(s) who made the qualified contribution or elective deferral (a) was born after January 1, 2001; (b) is claimed as a
      dependent on someone else’s 2018 tax return; or (c) was a student.
      Source: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-savings-contributions-savers-credit

  5. Hi so we have 3 kids to claim on our w4 2019 but it says to add “4” for each child how does that work? Thank u

    1. Hi Richard, you simply have to multiply 4 by the number of children. So you’d get ’12’ for that question since 4 x 3 = 12. Thanks for asking!

      1. Sorry, so if my husband and i have 4 children we do 4×4=16 ?
        Is that correct?
        Thank you for your help!
        Maija

  6. With the new tax law, I owed alot more this year than usual. Mostly due to my w-2 wages not being withheld enough.

    Based on what I owed, I did a simple calculation and updated my w-4 form to deduct an additional $200 per check, in hopes of trying to even out next year.

    My question is: Assuming income is unchanged, is this necessary? Or is this year’s w-4 forms aware of the new tax laws and will better deduct what is needed automatically?

    1. The new 2019 W-4 is updated to reflect the new legislation. However, if you want to be conservative and would rather get a refund than owe money, then what you did should be fine.

    2. I paid about $400 in taxes for 2018. I start a new job tomorrow with a significantly higher salary. Of course I want to get this right so I don’t need to pay taxes next April. I don’t know the best way way to do this.

  7. My teenage son (17) just got his first job. He will probably make less than $6000. He is still our dependent. Does he write exempt? Does he still write 2 on line 5 because he is single? Thanks!!-KB

    1. He is likely to not owe any federal tax. If you are sure his income will be less than $6,000 then he’s fine as exempt. If there’s a chance he will earn more, we may recommend he claim zero or one withholding allowance instead, in case he ends up having enough earned income to owe some tax. Claiming fewer exemptions will make sure he isn’t shocked by a bill if there’s a chance it’d happen.

      1. I just started a job and put 4 but not sure if that is right I will file my taxes as head of household and I have 2 kids someone help on what I should do

  8. I am doing Camp America and will earn <$2000 in the 2 months I am in America – Can I write Exempt as last year I had No tax Liability – as I was not in America

  9. Will current employees be required to fill out new W-4s next year? The form requests a lot of information that I don’t want to release to my employer. (As a matter of general principle, my employer is great.)
    I’ve figured out my exemptions and extra with holdings so I don’t owe and, occasionally, get a small refund. (Once in a while we pay quarterly taxes.) I’d like to keep everything the same.
    If I’m required to do a new w-4, will there be a place to just select a flat dollar amount?

    1. Hi Diane, no you will not be required to update the W-4 if you don’t want to. You can always update it the following year if you want to make a change.

  10. I normally claim two allowances for my spouse and I with no kids. They claim one allowance. We file jointly and have always gotten a small refund.
    I was filling out the multiple workers form this year and table 1 is giving me a number larger than my allowances of 2. As such, it looks like I should change my allowances to zero and add in an additional amount to withhold (according to the note between lines 3 and 4). This is showing up as a huge amount to be withheld every check. I am not sure if that is correct. If it is, should my spouse stick to claiming one allowance?

    1. Hi Aaron, the fact that you typically get a small refund hints at the fact that your withholding is pretty accurate. If you don’t expect your income to meaningfully change from last year, there shouldn’t be a HUGE difference between years. Take a look at your last pay-stub (and your spouses) and see how much is being withheld from each check and compare that to your tax bracket. If more will be withheld this year than you’ll likely owe, then you can increase your allowances. You can also use the withholding calculator from the IRS to check your work: https://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/

  11. Hello! I’m a single mother to 3, all under 17. So, I will have to put 12 for the child tax credit. 1 for myself. 1 filing head of household. 1 single with one job. Total is 15 in section 5 on page 1. Does this mean a lot will be taken out of my pay? What is the percentage? The last time I filled this out I only had to put 3 for 3 kids and not 12 and I still got a nice check and a refund. Your help is greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

    1. Hi Tina, the larger number of allowances actually means that in all likelihood less money will be taken out of your check. That may or may not be a “good” thing. At the end of the day, the W4 form does not affect how much tax you pay. It just affects WHEN the tax is paid. So regardless, you will pay the tax man the same amount when it’s all said and done. More allowances mean less money is withheld for taxes but will be due during tax season. Less allowances means that more is collected, and a refund is more likely when you file taxes. Hope this helps!

  12. Hi. I am single with no dependents and have three jobs. One job is my primary full-time gig and the other two are part time. I’m really confused about how to fill out the W-4 for each job. I know I can’t claim the same number of allowances for all three. Here is what I get from doing the worksheet:

    Personal allowances:
    line A: 1 (for myself)
    line D: 1 (wages from other two jobs are less than $1,500)

    I now skip down to line H, adding lines A and D, and get 2.

    My questions: Does this mean I claim 2 on line 5 of the allowance certificate on the W-2 for the highest-paying job? If so, what am I supposed to claim on the other two jobs? Can I claim 0 on each? Or does it have to be 1 on one and 0 on another, since they can’t be the same? Or do I have it backward, and should claim 0 on the highest, since that means more taxes taken from the higher paying job? I want to ensure I have a refund, or at least come out even.

    (I don’t need to do the multiple jobs worksheet on page 4 because the combined total income for all three will NOT be $53,000 or more. See note on page 3, under “For accuracy, complete all…that apply,” where I follow the instructions under the third bullet: “If neither of the above…enter the number from line H on line 5…”).

    Thanks!

    1. Hi, this is pretty common so you aren’t alone.

      Most people either claim all of their allowances at one job and claim ‘0’ at the others, or split them between their jobs. It really comes down to personal preference.

      I’d probably just claim 2 at your highest paying job and zero at the others to keep things simple.

      I hope that helps!

  13. I claim married filing separate cuz my husband has identity theft and so its always a big deal to do his income taxes. I earn 21,000 and claim 2 kids… i have been in the same job for over 12 years do i still have to fill out this new w-4 form and claim 12?

    1. No, if you haven’t gone through any major life changes you will likely be fine with whatever you have on file. This assumes your current withholding makes sense.

  14. Hi, I”m retired and started working a part time job. filled out W4, married, zero allowances and federal taxes are not being deducted from my check, only FICA and Medicare. Emolyer said to fill out another form. Any suggestions?

    1. Something sounds off if you filed ‘0’ and still aren’t getting anything withheld. Definitely fill out another form or use the IRS’s withholding calculator to check.

  15. Easy question, I believe… Married filing jointly with 2 children and spouse is not employed. W4 Allowance worksheet brings me to 11 but at the beginning of the year I had 4 and it was not raised for a few months. So I have met my Tax Liability already and the IRS website is now advising to have 13 allowances, which erases my withholding completely.
    Is this alright since I’ve met my Liability for the year already or is there something else to worry about? I cannot see why there would be a problem with covering the liability early in the year but I cannot find anything on this topic.

    Thanks

    1. As long as you pay close to the total amount you’ll owe over the course of the year you should be fine. It’s when you underpay by a lot that you run into trouble (fines, etc.). If you are very concerned about this, you should contact an accountant to get their advice.

  16. I’m very confused!
    I ‘m married filing jointly having 6 kids living together. my kids are all under 17 years old. My wife doesn’t work. At the end of the year, i want to receive a decent tax return too. what number do i need to put on allowance?
    Thank you so much in Advance

    1. Hey Naik, no need to be confused, although we aren’t sure why the form is complicated. At the end of the day, if you want a larger refund, you should claim fewer allowances since that means more tax will be collected from your check. From a financial standpoint, it’s not optimal to get a big refund because it means you paid too much tax during the year so you lost time to save and invest that money. However, if you have a hard time saving or investing, I could see why getting that refund check can be appealing.

  17. Hi. I am a Registered nurse and single with no dependents and have one jobs. I claim zero allowances for myself on W4. I pay so much as high as $1360 to $2000 per pay period for taxes and get low pay check after all deductions. yet at the end of the year when i file my tax, I don’t get enough back. Last year i got $1475 for my tax refund for an annual pay of 109080. Thinking about making some changes to my W4 so I Did the IRS withholding Calculator, and it projected that i write 16 for allowances on line 5. My question is, is it okay for me to file a new W4 and use 16 on line 5 or Can I write Exempt on line 7, Or do both. Also will I get more back per pay check with less tax deduction and not pay back any taxes to IRS.
    Thanks

    1. Hey Sandra, on line 7, do NOT write exempt. Based on your comment you are not exempt from paying federal tax. If you filled out the calculator correctly and it says 16 allowances then you can do it, but make sure it’s not being skewed by the fact that half the year has already passed. All the W4 does is determine the timing of when your taxes are paid. It doesn’t effect how much tax you pay, just when it gets paid. So you’ll still pay the same total tax for a tax year.

  18. Hello Finance Twins.

    We are a family of 5. I am the only one working as my spouse looks after the kids. We just arrived in the country last May 2019 and started working on June 23. I put 15 in the allowance based on the worksheet. My questions are: Did I put the right number of allowance? I am projected to earn $30,000 until Dec. 31. Will I still qualify for a tax refund or tax owing regardless of the fact that I just started work? And with the 3 children I have and 30k earnings, do I expect child credit for each? Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Imono, because of your income, the size of your family, and when you started working, there is a chance you’ll be exempt. This means that you’ll definitely get a refund if that is the case. Either way, you should carefully review the W-4 form to determine whether you will be exempt or not. The form has details about whether your children qualify for a tax credit. Without further information, my guess is yes.

  19. Hi I just did my W-4 and I put 8 on my allowances because I was told going over 10 would not be correct? I do want to claim my 3 kids only thing is one is biologically mine and the other 2 are from my girlfriends first boyfriend who isn’t in the picture anymore what would be the best way to fill my form out?

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