How to Fill out a W4 in 6 Easy Steps

April 4, 2019 • Rehack Team


Filling out forms is the best! Right? Ah, well, it turns out you’re not alone if you disagree, but they haven’t yet developed an app for it in 2019. Say, that’s a good idea… Instead, learn how to fill out a W4 the old-fashioned way.

Until the app arrives, you need to understand how to correctly complete one of the most important tax documents out there — your W4 withholdings form. And with the new tax code implemented for this season, there have been some changes. Follow the steps below to make sure when tax time comes, you’re in the black rather than paying Uncle Sam back.

1. Provide Basic Information

When you receive your W4, you’ll notice that there’s a lot more material there than you actually hand in. The form is intended to be self-explanatory, but it tends to overwhelm people. For the sake of this article, we’ll be very procedural and jump to the first page, where you’ll enter your basic information.

This step is exactly what it sounds like. Have your social security number handy if you don’t know it. Otherwise, it’s just your name, address and marital status. The marital status will come into play later when you declare withholdings.

2. Determine Your Exemption Status

Leave lines 5 and 6 blank for now and then determine your exemption status. Some people are not required to submit taxes. Before you get too excited, you’ll need to make less than $12,000/year or $24,000 as a household to get a free pass, so use this moment as an opportunity to take pride in your well-paying job if you don’t fall into this bucket. If you do qualify, you can skip to line seven of the W4 and write “Exempt.”

3. Do the Allowances Worksheet

The 2019 W4 has been updated to make this section, located at the top of page 3, simpler. The form presents you with a worksheet, which you can fill out to determine whether you’re allowed to pay less taxes due to conditions like having children or other dependents.

You can work through the sheet filling in the blanks of lines A through H. Line G will direct you to worksheet 1-6 of Pub. 505, which is just another part of the form located further down. For each of the allowances, you can find expanded instructions and information on the IRS website that can assist you in entering the correct numbers.

4. Remember Deductions, Adjustments and Additional Income

The “Standard Deduction” is a government-determined refund that will be appropriate for some individuals but not all. If you don’t qualify for the standard deduction or if you’ve spent large amounts for tax-deductible reasons like medical expenses, interest and taxes on a home that you own, uninsured casualties, theft and loss or large contributions to charities, it will suit your situation best to take itemized deductions. You can use helpful software such as TaxAct and TurboTax to complete your itemized deductions when the time comes.

5. Complete the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet If You’re Married

On page four, you’ll find a fairly simple worksheet that you can skip if you’re single and have one job. Note that if you and your working spouse make about the same money, you can check the box next to “Married, but withhold at higher Single rate.” Have your spouse do the same, however only one of you should file for any allowances or credits, and only one of you should fill out the Deductions, Adjustments and Additional income worksheet.

6. Go Back and Complete Page 1

When you skipped lines 5 and 6 earlier, it was so that you could come back to them after completing the worksheets you just did. Line 5 you determined in Step 2. Most people can put a $0 in line 6 unless there’s a specific income event, such as a gift from family or a bonus from your employer that’s very large that you want to offset.

Congratulations — your W4 is now complete! You can sign and date the bottom of the form and hand it in to your employer. You may notice that there are still some lines you haven’t filled out.

Don’t get nervous — those are going to be completed by the HR department in your business. You won’t have to fill out another W4 as long as you work at that company unless you experience a major life event like the birth of a child, a marriage or something else the changes your federal tax situation.