The New W-4 Form for 2020 Has Arrived!

    The IRS has recently released the final version of the 2020 Form W-4 – Employee’s Withholding Certificate (you can view and download the new W-4 form here) to, hopefully, properly reflect the changes enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

    Just in case you are not aware of the difference between a W-4 Form and a W-2 Form , a W-4 informs an employer of the appropriate tax withholding amount to be taken from an employee’s paycheck. The W-2, on the other hand, is a report generated by an employer that details an employee’s earnings and tax withholdings for the given tax year.

    The major change to the W-4 is that the concept of “withholding exemptions” no longer exists and, of course, it is now a full page instead of just coupon-sized.

    The form at one point is concerned that “more tax than necessary may be withheld”.  While for the financially prudent taxpayer owing Uncle Sam $1,000 or less at tax time is actually beneficial (because excess withholding is an interest-free loan to the government, and owing a small amount means that you had full use of your money during the year) most taxpayers are more concerned with having less tax than necessary withheld, and would prefer a cushion to avoid a balance due on their 1040.  For a peace of mind, if nothing else, being over-withheld is better than being under-withheld.  And many taxpayers have historically used a substantial tax refund as a form of “forced savings”. This is both an individual and a personal choice.

    In Step 1 (of the W-4) you enter your name, address, Social Security number, and filing status. There is no longer the option to claim “Married, but withhold at higher Single rate”. And the new W-4 includes the Head of Household status option, which was not on the old W-4.

    As a point of information – you should claim “Head of Household” status on your W-4 only if you file your tax return each year as a Head of Household.  So even though some people may consider themselves a “head of household”, the IRS may not.  For IRS purposes a “household” does not consist of one person.  There are very strict and specific rules for this filing status.  Perhaps the best (but not the only) example of what the IRS considers a true “Head of Household” is a single parent with a dependent child.

    Step 2 of the new W-4 finally recognizes the possibility that the job for which the W-4 is being submitted may not be the taxpayer’s only source of income, especially if he or she is married.  If you have more than one job, or you are married and your spouse also has a job, check the box at item (c) in Step 2.

    The complexity of the new W-4 lies in the “Multiple Jobs Worksheet” on Page 3 of the W-4 packet.  Be careful when using this worksheet – it can very likely have your head spinning.

    If you are using withholding as savings, do not make any entries in Step 3 for any dependents you are claiming.  If this is not an issue, as a safety matter claim only half the number of actual dependents – if you have two children under age 17 claim only $2,000 here for one dependent; if you have two children age 17 or older claim only $500.
    For a married couple only the spouse with the higher W-2 income
    should claim any amount for dependents.

    If you are married and both spouses work and one or both of the spouses has a second job neither of you should claim anything for dependents in Step 3.

    Most definitely include any taxable non-W-2 income on line 4(a) in Step 4.  This includes interest and dividends, capital gains, K-1 pass-through income, net self-employment income from Schedule C and any amounts that would be included on Line 8 of Form 1040 Schedule 1.
    You can use your 2018, or starting in January the 2019, tax return as a guide for completing this Section.  If you are receiving IRA, Pension or Social Security income you do not have to include this income here.  You can request a specific percentage be withheld for federal income tax for these sources – and you should have federal income tax withheld from each source.

    It is my recommendation that you do not include anything for “Deductions” on line 4(b) of Section 4 – even if you will be able to itemize or are entitled to any additional deductions.  Here is another opportunity to provide a cushion.

    As for entering any “Extra withholding” on line 4(c) – on the initial 2020 W-4 filing you can leave this blank.  If after a month of withholding under the new W-2 you think you may need more withheld you can submit another W-4 with the same entries you made on the original but adding an additional amount on 4(c).  After your 2019 return is filed (SolidTaxSolutions.com) you may want to submit a revised W-4.

    Note: It is very important that you keep a copy of every 2020 Form W-4 you give to an employer for your records.

    Looking at the form there is no place on the form for an employee to indicate “EXEMPT”, as there was on the old W-4.  Dependent children with summer and after-school jobs do not need to have any income tax withheld.  However, the instructions tell you to write ‘EXEMPT’ on Form W-4 in the space below Step 4(c).  Do not enter anything in Steps 2 and 3 or elsewhere in Step 4.

    While the 2020 Form W-4 is more involved, I believe it is actually better than the old method of calculating withholding, especially under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

    For those of you have NYS income tax withholding, NY’s equivalent to the IRS’ W-4 is the IT-2104-Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. You can view and download that NYS form IT-2104, for 2020, right ——> here. 

    Finally, if you are receiving a pension and would like to make a change to the amount of federal income tax that is being withheld (or to start having federal income tax withheld) from your pension there is a form for that too. The name of that form is W-4P – Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments. At the time this article was written, the IRS had not yet finalized the W-4P for 2020 and only has a draft of this form available. So, if you would like to use this form, just check back periodically with us through this blog post. When the IRS finalizes the 2020 W-4P form I will post a link (right here on this article) to that form for your convenience. But for now, if you would like to see the draft version of the 2020 W-4P form for your general reference, you can see that draft version —–> here.

    Bruce

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    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

    Our Firm’s Website: SolidTaxSolutions.com

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