How to Fill Out a W4 When Filing Taxes Together as Married

How you fill out your W-4 affects the amount you have to pay when you file your return.

How you fill out your W-4 affects the amount you have to pay when you file your return.

After you get married, lots of things change, and the W-4 that you submit to your employer probably isn't high on your to-do list. However, not updating your W-4, or not correctly filling out a new one if you're starting a new job, can cost you money. If you claim too few allowances, or don't say to withhold at the married rate, you're basically making an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam. That's because your employer will take out too much from each paycheck and you won't get it back until you file your taxes. On the other hand, if you and your spouse both claim too many allowances, you could find yourself owing money -- including interest and penalties -- when you file your return because too little has been withheld during the year.

Figure the number of allowances to claim on your W-4 with the Personal Allowances Worksheet. If you are the only working spouse and you only work one job, that worksheet tells the maximum number of allowances to claim. If both you and your spouse work, or if you work multiple jobs, you'll need to also fill out the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet.

Report the number of allowances you're claiming based on the worksheet you filled out in box 5 of the W-4. If you're the only spouse working and you have only one job, you've got it easy: Just report the number of allowances you're claiming on your W-4. If you have multiple jobs or your spouse also works, the Internal Revenue Service recommends that you figure out which job pays the most, claim all of your exemptions on that form, and claim zero exemptions on the other forms. However, you and your spouse are free to allocate allowances however you want as long as each allowance is claimed by only one spouse.

Check the "Married" box for your filing status in box 3 of the W-4, unless you want more money withheld so that you get a higher tax return. If that's the case, check the "Married, but withhold at higher Single rate" box.


About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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