The 2021 W4 Form and How To Fill Out A W4


2021 Update: Good news! Nothing significant changed for workers (you!) with regards to filling out the 2021 W4.

If you’re filling out a W4 form, it likely means you have a new job or have gone through changes to your financial situation.

If the reason you’re filling it out is a new job or an addition to the family, congratulations! Don’t forget to also sign up for your job’s 401K retirement plan AND open an IRA.

Regardless of the reason why you need to fill out a 2021 W4 Form, you’ll be happy to know that the W4 has been refreshed and redesigned to make it easier than ever to fill out.

The days of wondering whether you should be claiming ‘0’ or ‘1’ are over! The W4 no longer asks about allowances.

This article will explain what the 2021 W4 is and how to fill out the 2021 W4 Form. 

2020 W4 Form Instructions

What Is The W4 Form And Why Was It Redesigned

The 2021 W4 Form needs to be filled out by all new employees and existing employees who want to update their withholding. The form makes sure your employer can withhold the correct amount of federal income tax from your pay.

If you are happy with your withholding and you already submitted a W4 to your employer during a previous year, you do NOT need to update the form. Only do so, if your tax situation has changed.

Having too little withheld means you’ll likely owe tax when you file your tax return and may owe a penalty. Have too much withheld and you will generally be due a refund.

The redesign eliminates allowances. This change aligns with the changes from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The changes make the Form simpler to complete and easier for workers to accurately let their employer know how much tax to withhold.

Trust me, it’s a LOT easier now.

What Does the 2021 W4 Look Like & Where Can I Download It

The 2021 W4 Form consists of 4 pages, and you can download a 2021 W-4 Form Printable PDF copy here.

Page 1 consists of the actual Form itself. This is the only page that must be returned to your employer.

Page 2 includes instructions (see below).

Page 3 comprises the Multiple Jobs Worksheet and Deductions Worksheet.

Finally, Page 4 has a set of withholding tables to be used in conjunction with Page 3.

How To Fill Out A W4

Now that you have your W4 Form ready to be filled out, let’s go through each step so that you can get this over with and move on with more important things in your life, like watching reruns of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, or choosing a low-cost online financial advisor to help you save and invest your money like a pro.

The first thing that you need to know, is that the easiest way to fill out the form is to use the IRS’s withholding estimator. Their calculator works best on desktop (Mac or PC) so that you can export the completed form. I’ve had less success on mobile.

All you do is follow a sequence of steps and you can then download a pre-filled 2021 W4 Form. It’s that easy.

Now, let’s move on to the steps to filling out the form if you’d rather DIY.

Step 1: Enter your personal information.

2020 W4 FORM STEP 1

This step is self-explanatory. The only thing that might be less straightforward is step 1c, which is where you need to select your filing status.

Your tax filing status refers to how you will file your taxes at the end of the 2021 tax year. So if you are single and don’t expect to get married this year, you’ll file taxes Single.

If you are confused about this, check your taxes from last year and see what your previous filing status was. Assuming no significant life changes occurred or are expected, you’ll likely file taxes the same way!

Step 2: Multiple Jobs or Spouse Works

2020 W4 FORM STEP 2

The beautiful thing about steps 2 through 4 is that you ONLY need to fill them out IF they apply to you.

That means that if none of the steps apply to you, you can skip straight to Step 5 to sign and wrap things up.

Complete step 2 if you (1) hold more than one job at a time, or (2) are married filing jointly, and your spouse also works.

The easiest way to fill this step will be to use the IRS’s tax withholding estimator on a Mac or PC. Alternatively, if your household only holds two jobs in total, and both have similar pay, you can check the box for Step 2(c) and proceed to Step 3.

To use their estimator, you’ll need to make sure you have your and your spouse’s most recent pay statement and any info on other sources of income.

Once you’re done using the IRS’s estimator, you can head back here to see how to proceed.

Step 2(b): Use the Multiple Jobs Worksheet

If you prefer not to use the estimator tool or you can’t get it to work, you can use the multiple jobs worksheet. Follow the instructions on the Form and input the final result in Step 4(c) as an extra withholding.

Step 3: Claim Dependents

2020 W4 FORM STEP 3

Like Step 1, Step 3 is also relatively simple. If your income will be $200,000 or less ($400,000 or less if married filing jointly), follow the steps listed in the Form.

As an example, let’s assume your household income will be $300,000, you will file married filing jointly, you have three kids under the age of 17, and you also support your elderly mother financially.

Under this example, your total for step 3 will be $6,500. This is because you have three qualifying children, so 3 x $2,000 = $6,000. You also have one other dependent, which gives you an additional $500. As a result, $6,000 + $500 = $6,500.

Simple enough.

Step 4: (Optional) Other Adjustments

2020 W4 FORM STEP 4

Follow the directions for Step 4(a) if you have non-job income for which you’d like to have tax withheld. 

Step 4(b)

Use the Deductions Worksheet on Page 3 if you are NOT expecting to claim the standard deduction. If you aren’t sure what this means, then you are likely going to claim the standard deduction (the vast majority of people claim the standard deduction). If you aren’t sure, you can use last year’s taxes as a guide or as your accountant.

Step 4(c) was already discussed above in Step 2(b) with regards to the Multiple Jobs Worksheet. Finally, let’s move to the final step!

Step 5: Sign Here

2020 W4 FORM STEP 5

Step 5 is required to complete and submit your 2021 W4 Form, and you simply need to sign and date the Form.

It’s important to realize that you must complete the Form honestly and accurately since this Form is a legal tax document, and you can face penalties of perjury if you do not complete it honestly.

Don’t cheat, kids.

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    90 thoughts on “The 2021 W4 Form and How To Fill Out A W4”

    1. I used to always file 1 allowance and just got a new job. It looks like the new form doesn’t ask for an allowance. Is that right?

            • This doesn’t answer the question. We want to know — how do you and your spouse fill out the form if you are having TOO much withheld and want to REDUCE it, which happens when one spouse makes much more than the other.

              The form only gives an option to INCREASE to extra withholding, which makes the over-withholding problem worse. How do you DECREASE it?

            • I used the online calculator and it tells me to add $75 in column 4c. Using the worksheet provided with w4 forms tell me to add $362 in 4c. What is wrong? Also it says on online calculator that you can download and submit but there is nothing filled out except 4c (which is $75 in my case) Is it suppose to fill out completely and why the difference between online and paper sheet numbers?

              • Actually the discrepancy is in the calculator itself and here is it. It tells me that I need to have $344 withheld every pay check and when I click on how to adjust your withholding, it tells to add $100. I just did a simulation based on my salary and fed data that I have contributed $0 dollars so far. Why it tells me I need $344 withheld and only asks me to add $100 in line 4c.

                To get your desired refund amount, you will need $344 withheld from each paycheck, $344 more than your current tax withholding.

                How to Adjust Your Withholding

                Step 1: Complete a new Form W-4 online or via paper as follows:
                •Check your personal information is correct (line 1(a) and (b) on Form W-4)
                •Select Married filing jointly (or Qualifying widow(er)) filing status (line 1(c) on Form W-4)
                •Enter $100 in additional withholding per pay period (Line 4 (c) on Form W-4 is already pre-filled in the Download button below)

          • I have a daughter that I claim on my taxes. I’m single so not married or joint anything but I always claim 0 how to I fill out to have the most taken out

              • How do you use the IRS calculator if you started a new job? The calculator wants to know what is on your check. I tried to get by with just giving them my annual income and it requests more info from a check I haven’t received yet. Also, on the old form I claimed 9 dependents. I did this to get the minimum taken out of my check as I don’t care about getting a huge chunk of money during tax season. I would rather get it on my biweekly checks. How do I achieve this on the new W4 forms?

            • Can you please elaborate on how we might get the same desired outcome as we previously has by selecting “0”? For instance, if married filing jointly with 1 qualifying child, and put down $0.00 on step 3, with all over steps blank, take out roughly the same amount as selecting “0” in previous years?

              • Hi Sean, unfortunately there’s not really a good conversion from the old “0”. When they got ride of the allowances in 2019, the idea is that you would now provide estimates on federal tax withholdings. I (Francisco) recently updated my W4 and also have a qualifying child. I followed the steps in the article using the IRS tax withholding estimator (linked in the article). Children/Dependent credits are entered under step 5.

                If by filing “0” you mean that you are trying to maximize your tax refund/make sure you do not owe any additional federal tax dollars at the end of the year, one could contribute additional dollars and/or not specify any credits/deductions. Any over-contributions beyond what you are liable for will get returned to you in the form a refund. It’s kind of like a loan that gets taken out each paycheck and then paid back in the form of a refund when you file your taxes if you have over paid throughout the year. Hope that helps and thanks for your engagement!

      • Hi my wife and me file jointly. She earn higher than me. our both W4 form should be put same info. like if i put 2 dependent( 2 under 17 child) so my wife should put same like me or not. on step 2 we should use estimator or table and select file jointly both w4 am i right.

    2. I have a question so how much percentage will be taken from paqychecks in 2020 with this new law if I claim 4500 my 2 minor kids and my mom? how is the math don?

    3. I have a question on the 2020 W4 can I claim head of household if I have a roommate and is that better than claiming single cause I have no dependents

      • You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements.
        1. You are unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year.
        2. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
        3. A “qualifying person” lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school). However, if the “qualifying person” is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you.
        More details here:

    4. Hi,

      My husband makes 130k a year, and I make 40k a year. We have no children.
      Question 1- do we both update our w4?
      Question 2- what amount should be included on the w4 since we both file jointly?
      I’m confused since I’m new to filing jointly. Thanks!

      • Hi Lili, if you are recently married or filing jointly for the first time then yes, you both should submit updated W4s at work. To fill out the form, just follow the steps above (or use the calculator). Good luck!

        • I used the multiple job earners table for myself and my spouse since we both have jobs and divided the figure from the table by the number of pay periods for the highest paying job and put the figure on line 4c. Does my spouse also need to file a new W4 since I included her income in my W4 and if so, does she mimic the same information from mine to hers? Or does she leave everything blank on her W4?

          Please advise!

    5. Hi,
      In my recent check I learned that not much of my federal taxes were taken out. I filled out the W4 as single and claiming one dependent. I don’t want to owe at the end of the year. I need help on what I need to put so I can get the right amount of federal taxes taken out.

      • Hi Marci, it sounds like you need to determine whether both of your children qualify as dependents. Here are the rules from the IRS website:
        In general, to be a taxpayer’s qualifying child, a person must satisfy four tests:

      • Relationship – the taxpayer’s child or stepchild (whether by blood or adoption), foster child, sibling or stepsibling, or a descendant of one of these.
      • Residence – has the same principal residence as the taxpayer for more than half the tax year. Exceptions apply, in certain cases, for children of divorced or separated parents, kidnapped children, temporary absences, and for children who were born or died during the year.
      • Age–must be under the age of 19 at the end of the tax year, or under the age of 24 if a full-time student for at least five months of the year, or be permanently and totally disabled at any time during the year.
      • Support – did not provide more than one-half of his/her own support for the year.
      • If a child is claimed as a qualifying child by two or more taxpayers in a given year, the child will be the qualifying child of:

      • the parent;
      • if more than one taxpayer is the child’s parent, the one with whom the child lived for the longest time during the year, or, if the time was equal, the parent with the highest AGI;
      • Reply
    6. I’m wanting to change my husband’s tax withholding and still don’t understand the new 2020 forms? I’ve even used the calculator and went to H&R Block they were even confused so I’m not sure how is it easier? My husband wants to change from married but holding a single rate with zero allowances too. Just married but 1 allowance. How?

      • Hi Jennifer, the W4 no longer allows you to include allowances. He will need to fill out the form step by step. For step 1 he will include he’s married. Step 2 he only needs to complete if he has 2 jobs or if his spouse (you) works. Step 3 he will list whether he has qualifying dependents and fill out the corresponding answers. For step 4, it sounds like he wants to keep things simple, so he can likely skip. And that’s it. Sorry to hear that H&R block was so unhelpful.

        As always, we must include a disclaimer that all info on this site is informational. We aren’t financial advisors or tax professionals. Please do your own research and consult a tax professional before making financial decisions and don’t rely on us or our responses.

    7. Hello! I have employees who like to claim 9 for a paycheck here and there to cover big expenses that randomly show up. I don’t advise doing this but it’s their prerogative. To do the same thing with the new 2020 W4 would they just claim $18,000 in the other deductions (4B) line?

    8. Hello–my daughter is 16 and is just starting her first job. She will be very part time (8 hours per month at minimum wage) and we obviously claim her as a dependent. How should she complete the new 2020 W4? Thanks so much!

    9. For Step4B should you enter the standard amount $18650? or Not. I left mine blank and no federal taxes were taken out of my paycheck. Help!

    10. I withhold 2 allowances. I am currently unemployed and working this little temporary job and that, hoping for a permanent job. I can’t answer the questions on the W4 calculator because it is asking dates of jobs and amounts earned and other information I cannot know; I don’t know what the future holds. I am clueless what 2 allowances equals in terms of $$$. How do I complete this form if I am not able to use the calculator??? I prefer allowances by the way. I find this much more complicated.

      • There isn’t a direct translation. I would just estimate for the new job and then update it once you start working and know what you’ll be making.

        • There will undoubtedly be several new jobs and it is not something I can estimate. I need the option to enter a % so that whenever a job changes, the percentage is put against the amount. We are talking working temporary, going from this job to that job, with changing pay rates and unknown date ranges. Monetary estimates do not work in this instance.

    11. I am wondering if my husband and I can choose to file jointly if one or both of us selects the “single or married filing separately” option.

      • What you select on your W4 doesn’t affect how you file taxes. It just determines whether the right amount will be withheld, so you want it to be accurate. You can always update your W4 to update the filing status if it changes.

    12. Hi there! I recently got a second job that will be extremely part time w/ commissions, so I truly have no idea what I will make. My husband and I each work full time and make close to the same amount, however, we ended up owing at the end of 2019. I need help on knowing how to update our W4’s for the new part-time job and other full time jobs so that the most will be taken out, to avoid owing, when we don’t necessarily know what we will make in order to use the with-holding calculator.

      Can you advise? What happens if step 2 isn’t completed, will there automatically be a higher with-holding?

      Thanks for the help!

      • Your best bet for withholding more would be to add extra withholding in step 4(c). However, I’d try to get clarity around how much the 3rd job will bring in. Also, remember that an updated w4 should probably be submitted at all 3 jobs.

    13. I printed out two W4 forms, to do a thought experiment.
      On the first form, I assumed I was a married person who earns $25,000 per year. With 3 kids and one other dependent, my dependents come to $6500.
      On the second form, I assumed I was a married person who earns $250,000 per year. With 3 kids and one other dependent, my dependents come to $6500.

      In other words, two people with vastly different situations get the same number. How is this helpful? I assume Person #1 would not be paying any tax, given his low income, but Person #2 needs to make sure that enough tax is being withheld per paycheck so he doesn’t get socked with a huge tax bill. Does he simply leave it to his employer to figure that out?

      I just started a new job. My first paystub shows four state exemptions and zero federal exemptions. I get this feeling I’m going to come up short in April. While it’s true I could insert some number into the Extra Withholding slot, it seems arbitrary to “guess” at what it may be.

    14. I don’t really understand the purpose of the estimator. Are we required to input the results on the W4 somewhere? After using the estimator at [] it listed 3 dollar amounts. Expected Tax Withholding, Anticipated Tax Obligation, & Estimated Over Payment. What do I do with this info?

    15. I recently had a baby and would like to update my W4. However, I noticed that the form is different. I currently have 1 exemption and was looking to increase it to 2. Since this is no longer an option. For Step 3, if I put a total of $2,500. Would it be the same amount of taxes taken out of my check if I had 2 exemptions?

    16. I filled out the tax withholding estimator and it gave me the pre-filled W-4, but for Step 3 it just had “644”. Does that sound right? It doesn’t add up (# of dependents x 2000)…but, I’m guessing it’s right? I’m trying to adjust my withholding for next year.

    17. My husband and I did the IRS calculator. We have 2 children. The IRS calculator said he should pay an extra $140/pay period and I should pay an extra $85/pay period. However, do BOTH of us claim two children for a withholding of $4K each (2 x $2000), or only one of us, or do we each say just 1 child? This was NOT clear in the instructions. The pre-filled forms only showed the extra amount to be withheld.

      • If you file taxes jointly you’ll want the appropriate TOTAL overall tax withheld to be accurate between the two of you. This means that if you both claim 2 dependents then you may end up owning a tax bill at the end of the year.

    18. I don’t want or need the IRS to calculate anything, I fully understand my tax obligation.

      I used to claimed 99 exemptions and then pick the withholding amount that covered my annual taxes while giving myself enough of a refund to file my taxes without paying out of pocket.

      How do I specify what I want withheld on this new form?

    19. My marital status is single and I need to claim 2 federal and 2 CA. How do I complete the form? My last check didn’t take out enough Federal taxes.

    20. Hi Guys, I used to claim 4 exemptions to get more money per paycheck and owe at the end of the year. How do I do that now? I accidently cleared my form from last year and now I lost all of that.

    21. My husband has our daughter as a dependent in his W4 form that was 3 years ago now I’m starting a new job for the first time and my employer asked me to fill out 2020 w4 form do I need to put our daughter as a dependent in my w4 form too or just don’t put any dependent?

    22. I see some issue with the calculator. It tells me in summary that I need to have $344 withheld every pay check and when I click on how to adjust your withholding, it tells to add $100. I just did a simulation based on my salary and assuming that I have contributed $0 dollars in taxes so far. Why it tells me I need $344 withheld and only asks me to add $100 in line 4c. Below is the calculator results

      To get your desired refund amount, you will need $344 withheld from each paycheck, $344 more than your current tax withholding.

      How to Adjust Your Withholding

      Step 1: Complete a new Form W-4 online or via paper as follows:
      •Check your personal information is correct (line 1(a) and (b) on Form W-4)
      •Select Married filing jointly (or Qualifying widow(er)) filing status (line 1(c) on Form W-4)
      •Enter $100 in additional withholding per pay period (Line 4 (c) on Form W-4 is already pre-filled in the Download button below)

    23. If I owed 2,400 in 2019 and expect no other changes in income, will dividing that amount by the number of pay periods and entering that in Step 4c ( Extra Withholding ) get me “close” to not owing in 2020 ?

      • This is our situation as well. We owed $3400 to the feds in 2019. Logically, it sounds correct to just divide that dollar amount by the number of pay periods and enter that on 4c, which is $130. However, when I complete the worksheet on the IRS website, it says I need to put $344 on line 4c. I don’t understand why there is such a big discrepancy.

        • There is a hidden calculation based on your estimated income and deductions. This, baseline, amount is what your withhold will be changed to if you use a new w-4. Everything else either adds to, or deducts from, this baseline amount, but since you don’t know what it is you can’t make an informed decision. If you are single, your income is $100,000/year, you’re paid every two weeks, you’re only taking the standard deduction, no flexible spending account and no 401k your tax liability is:

          $100000-$12400 = $87600 taxable income
          first $9,875.00 (10%) $987.50
          from $9874 to $40,125.00 (12%) $3630.00
          from $40125 to $85,525.00 (22%) $10444.50

          $15,062 / 26 = $579.31 per paycheck

          You’d think somewhere I could tell them to not do their automatic calculations and I want an even $585 withheld so I have $148 left over to pay for tax prep and filing.

          So no you thinking the difference from last year ($130 per pay period) won’t matter. The IRS’s $344 handles the hidden.

    24. I receive “bonuses” on a regular basis. Those bonuses are taxed much higher. To avoid that tax I would temporarily max out my allowances. I don’t see how I can change that now. The government will take nearly half of my bonus that I work so hard to get.

    25. Hi! Question: So I am technically working two jobs, but one of them is an on-call position where I would work at most +/- 16 hours (or even just 8 hours) in a pay period (of two weeks), depending if I pick up one shift or two. My newer job is 0.8 FTE. Both jobs have pretttyyy similar hourly pay, but I am substantially working more hours at my new job. My dilemma is on my W4, should I check the box under Step 2 section C which states that both jobs are of similar pay, or should I use the calculator Step 2b) and input that amount in the amount box under that section? Even though both jobs pay similarly, I am getting paid more by only one due to the difference in hours worked. Will you please explain if checking the box under Step 2c) was correct on both my W4 forms?

      Does that make sense? I want to avoid having too much withheld on both paychecks, and I also do not want to pay the IRS come next year’s tax season! Thank you so much for your time.

    26. Excellent web site. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.
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    27. Between my husband and I we have 3 “main” jobs and I have a small sporadic job I for a few days once or twice a year. I have always claimed 0, and been fine with our refund. I just received the new W4 and don’t know what to do. The worksheet doesn’t help as we are not filling out forms for the other 3 jobs. I am happy with what has been taken out previously. If I do nothing, will withholding stay the same? The only place I can make a change is the line to add additional withholding. If I enter an amount, I assume that will be additional money withheld and not the total amount I would like taken monthly. I miss my 0.

    28. If we are married filed jointly and have two jobs between us, does only the higher paying job put any of the deductions (Section 4) on their W4? So that would be my husband. He puts the numbers on his W4 and signs it. What do I put on mine? Do I just put my info and sign the bottom?

      The above is what we did and now I get NOTHING taken out of my paycheck for federal taxes (It literally says $0 on my paycheck). Is that what it should look like or is this an error in my job’s HR department?? I’m so confused.

    29. Mr. Maldonado,
      My husband and I filed jointly last year 2019, and both had 2 jobs. We made total $130,000. We are both 65. We paid IRS back $9,000. We have no dependents. My husband was laid off in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 situation. This year I will be the only person working in the family. My pay will be a total of $65,000 or $70,000. In filling out the W4 form, can I claim my husband, should I file 2020 year as single married? I teach for a catholic school and they don’t take out much for SS.

      • Hi Yvonne, sorry to hear about your husband losing his job. Please speak to a tax professional about whether it makes sense for you to file jointly or separately.

    30. My daughter recently moved to NC and started working. she filled out the w4 as instructed but her employer is not taking out any federal tax on her pay checks. will she owe tax at the end of the year? just confused.

      • If her income will be high enough to be taxed then she probably will owe taxes at the end of year if none are being withheld.

    31. Problem with this transition is I already know exactly how much I have withheld with “0” Allowances and an additional fixed amount. I want to just change the additional fixed amount which required filling out the new W-4, but it appears that the new form will ALSO change the withholding BEFORE my additional without anyway to tell us what it is. Will have to change once , see next paycheck and then change AGAIN.

      • Hi Paul, you could also reach out to your HR department and see if they could take a look and see what that exact amount is as they should know exactly how much you are getting paid/taxed/etc. That might be easier than submitting the W4 multiple times. Good luck!

    32. I get ssdi and long term disability check and my husband works. How do we count this. As me with 2 jobs or just him and me as a dependent. I had to pay taxes on my long term disability and ssdi for 2019. Dont want to pay again. Who do I send my form to for ssdi


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