Getting married changes nearly everything about life. It brings unforeseen paperwork along with all that unimagined joy. Being newly hitched also changes the way you do your taxes. Although updating your tax Form W-4 may not be a top priority after tying the knot, it does need to be filled out and submitted to your employer. If you don’t fill out the W-4 form correctly, you may be leaving money on the table. Take your time and carefully fill out the W-4 in anticipation of filing taxes together as a married couple. Keep in mind that the IRS offers a W-4 calculator if you need help with your calculations while filling out the form.
Start With Basics
The top of the W-4 form will be easy to fill out. If you changed your name when you got married, you should put your new married name in the first section. There is then room for your Social Security number. If you moved once you were wed, enter your new home address in the correct field underneath your name. In the third section, choose the married option if you’re filing your taxes together as a married couple. If you legally changed your name when you got married but haven’t yet changed the way your name appears on your Social Security card, you will need to check box 4 and call 1-800-772-1213 for a replacement card. However, you can proceed with filling out the W-4 form before you have the new Social Security card in your hands.
Use a Personal Allowances Worksheet
Use the Personal Allowances Worksheet from the IRS to determine the number of withholding allowances you can claim on the W-4 form. Find this worksheet on the third page of the Form W-4 packet. On the Personal Allowances Worksheet, enter “1” for yourself in section A. When you are filing taxes together, enter another “1” as married filing jointly in section B. If you will file as the head of the household, enter “1” in section C. This is unlikely to apply to you if you are married filing jointly. The head of household status is generally for a person who is single and paying at least half the costs of keeping up a home for oneself and another individual.
For section D, enter “1” if you’re married filing jointly, have only one job and your spouse doesn’t work. You should also enter “1” in this section if your wages from holding down a second job are $1,500 or lower. Do the same if your new spouse’s earnings are $1,500 or lower.
If you have children or other dependents, carefully read through sections E and F on the Personal Allowances Worksheet to make the right choices for your allowances. Next, see IRS Publication 505 and look through worksheets 1 through 6 to see if you qualify for any other allowances. If so, enter that number on the blank line in section G.
To complete the Personal Allowances Worksheet, add sections A through G. Enter that total in section H. Take the total from section H in section 5 of the W-4 form. If you want to withhold any further amount of money from each paycheck, write that amount in section 6.
Using Other Worksheets
The Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet is also available in your tax Form W-4 packet. Formally named the Deductions, Adjustments and Additional Income Worksheet, it is only meant to be used if you plan to itemize your tax deductions, have a large amount of income beyond your wages or claim certain adjustments to your income. On this form, you’ll need to enter an estimate for your 2018 itemized deductions in the first section. That can include any mortgage interest that qualifies as a deduction, donations to charities, medical expenses and state and local taxes. The rest of the worksheet is fairly easy to fill out. You will be entering the amount from the Personal Allowances Worksheet in the ninth section.
The last worksheet in the W-4 packet is the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet. It should only be used if the instructions under line H on the Personal Allowances Worksheet indicate that you need to fill out this form. If you have more than one job at the same time, fill out this worksheet. Also, if you are married filing jointly and both you and your new spouse are employed with incomes that exceed $24,000 (the figure for married filing jointly), fill out the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet. Doing so can help you avoid having too little money withheld for taxes from your regular paycheck.
Possible Exemptions From Withholding
W-4 line 7 is rarely used. However, you will want to mark it if you are exempt from tax withholding. You are exempt from withholding and may not need to fully fill out the W-4 form if you are in one of two possible situations. If you had a right to a refund of all the federal income tax you paid last year because you had no tax liability, you may be exempt from withholding. The other possible scenario is if you expect a refund of all the federal income tax you paid this year because you anticipate having no tax liability. If one of those two situations applies to you, fill out only lines 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 on Form W-4. If you’re not sure whether you are exempt, speak to an experienced tax accountant or attorney. Also, see IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
Complete Your W-4 Form
Your W-4 is complete when you’ve come to the signature area of the form. Simple sign and date the form and then hand it to your employer. They will then use the form for your tax withholding, and you’ll see the results every payday and when doing your taxes for the year. If you have any doubts about whether you’ve filled out the form correctly, you can contact at attorney or even reach out to the IRS directly. Also, if you have any specific questions about your earnings, you may ask your employer for help.
Always Update Form W-4
The W-4 form is necessary for your employer to correctly withhold income tax from your earnings, and a new one should always be completed when your personal or financial situation changes. If you don’t fill out the form after getting married, thus letting your employer know that they should withhold taxes at the married rate, or if you don’t claim as many allowances as you’re entitled to claim, you will be loaning the government money without getting any interest. In such a situation, your employer will withhold too much money every time you get paid, and you won’t see the funds again until you file taxes the next year.
On the flip side of that, if you and your new spouse go too far in the other direction and claim too many allowances, you might have to pay money back to the government when you file taxes. On top of that, you may incur penalties and interest that you must pay on top of what you owe. If too little is withheld throughout the year, filing your taxes will bring unpleasant news.
Robin Raven is an experienced journalist and author. She has a BFA in writing from the School of Visual Arts and loves to write about personal finance. She has contributed to USAToday.com, The Huffington Post, The Nest, Grok Nation, and many other publications.