How to Fill out a Form W-4 for 2019

Disclaimer: this is not tax or financial advice. This is simply meant to aid you in filling out a form. Please seek help from a professional tax consultant when filling out your own W-4 form or any other tax form. Note that an official W-4 form for 2019 is not yet available! 

Starting a new job? Having a kid? You will likely be asked to fill out a 2018 or 2019 W-4 form upon starting.

This is the standard form employers use to report your income to the government—and unfortunately, take out your taxes and Social Security, too. But unlike most tax forms, filling out a W9 isn’t actually that hard. It’s a simple two-page form with limited fields, and most can do it on their own without the help of a tax professional.

However, the form gives you a little bit of control over how your taxes are collected, so a little guidance doesn’t hurt. And that’s why—in this article—we’ll show you step-by-step instructions for both the 2018 W-4 and 2019 W-4 forms.

We’ve split the article up into two parts: 2018 W-4 and 2019 W-4. Each section shows you the basics of how to fill out said tax forms, and ensure that you’re have the proper amount of money taken from your hard-earned paycheck every month.

See also: 

Where’s my IRS tax refund?

How to fill out a 1040x

How to make more money with a side hustle


W-4 Basics


Like discussed earlier, W-4 forms are generally collected when you first start a job, or if you need to change filing status. Some things that affect filing status include marriage, new child, or other major life changes. However, you’re legally allowed to submit a new W-4 tax form whenever you’d like.

Changes to this form may reflect on your tax withholding, either raising it or lowering it. On the other hand, if you don’t submit a W-4 form in the first place, you’ll have a surprise on Tax Day: you may be taxed as a single person with zero tax withholding allowances—the highest tax rate. Ouch.

Your boss must update your tax withholding to reflect your W-4 form changes within 30 days of receiving it, so you may want to update your form after reading through this article. Once this form is completed, your boss will submit it to the IRS and you’ll have taxes collected accordingly.

Think of the W-4 form as a worksheet of sorts. As you go through the list, you’re essentially finding tax deductions for yourself. Make sure to read each line fully and consider which deductions you’re eligible for.

When filled out properly, you’ll have less tax taken out of your paycheck. This also means a smaller tax return—but don’t worry, this is a good thing. Instead of giving the government a free loan, you’re now able to take money that would otherwise be tied up and invest it or pay down your debts. Nice, right?

So without further ado, let’s take a look at how to properly fill-out your W-4 tax form for the 2019 tax year, and do a bit of review on the 2018 W-4 tax form.


How To Fill Out Your 2019 W-4 Tax Form


W-4 Form 2019 Draft

W-4 Form 2019 Draft


Before we start, grab a copy of the W-4 tax from the IRS’ website—you’ll need this in order to, well, follow the guide below. Once you have a copy, start reading the guide. We’ll break the form down line-by-line and discuss how to minimize your taxes taken from each paycheck. 

Start by filling out your personal info in lines 1-4 and your employer’s info on lines 8 to 10. Then, immediately move to the third page of the form, the Personal Allowance worksheet. This is the section of the document where you can determine how many deductions you’re eligible for.

Note: The 2019 W-4 tax for is not yet finalized. The monetary amounts you see here are last year’s and are subject to change when the official 2019 W-4 tax form is published. Please only use this document for reference.

Here’s what each line stands for:


Line A: Enter “1” for yourself.


This line is pretty self-explanatory. Enter a one in the field, and you’re immediately eligible for at least one tax credit.


Line B: Enter “1” if you will file as married filing jointly.


Enter a “1” on line B if you and your spouse are filing jointly. Skip this line if you’re single, or fi you and your spouse are filing separate tax returns.


Line C: Enter “1” if you will file as head of household.


The IRS defines someone as “head of household” is an unmarried person that’s responsible for keeping up a home and supporting a “qualifying person.” A qualifying person is a child, dependent mother or father, or other dependent relatives.


Line D: Enter “1” if:


-Single, or married filing separately, and have only one job; or

-Married filing jointly, have only one job, and your spouse doesn’t work; or

-Your wages from a second job or your spouse’s wages (or the total of both) are $1,500 or less.

Enter a 1 on this line if you’re working one job, if your spouse doesn’t work, or if you have wages from a second job and they’re less than $1,500.


Line E: Child tax credit.


See Pub. 972, Child Tax Credit, for more information.

-If your total income will be less than $XX,XXX ($XX,XXX if married filing jointly), enter “4” for each eligible child.

-If your total income will be from $XX,XXX to $XX,XXX ($XX,XXX to $XX,XXX if married filing jointly), enter “2” for each eligible child.

-Total income will be from $XX,XXX to $XX,XXX ($XX,XXX to $XX,XXX if married filing jointly), enter “1” for each eligible child.

-If your total income will be higher than $ZZZ,XXX ($XXX,XXX if married filing jointly), enter “-0-” . . . . . . .

If you don’t have kids, you can skip this line and enter 0. But if you do, look through the chart and see how many tax allowances you’re eligible for. More kids and less income means more allowances, so make sure to take a look at your earned income and calculate appropriately.


Line F: Credit for other dependents.


-If your total income will be less than $XX,XXX ($XX,XXX if married filing jointly), enter “1” for each eligible dependent.

-Total income will be from $XX,XXX to $XX,XXX ($XX,XXX to $XX,XXX if married filing jointly), enter “1” for every two dependents (for example, “-0-” for one dependent, “1” if you have two or three dependents, and “2” if you have four dependents).

-If your total income will be higher than $XX,XXX ($XX,XXX if married filing jointly), enter “-0-” . . . . . . .

This line is almost always reserved for Heads of Household. Calculate your earned income, and look at how many people are dependant on you. If your income is above $175,550 ($339,000 jointly), you’re not eligible regardless of your dependants, though. But remember: these numbers may change for the 2019 tax year.

Now, let’s move over to Worksheet 1-6 of Pub. 505 for a second. This is a supplementary document from the IRS that lets you find additional tax allowances for the elderly, disabled, child adoption, foreign tax credit, and more.

Go through this list and find if there are any allowances applicable to your financial situation. This form can be an article on its own (stay tuned), so we won’t cover the whole thing in this article.


Line G: Other allowances.


If you have other allowances, see Worksheet 1-6 of Pub. 505 and enter the amount from that worksheet here . .

Once you’ve maneuvered through the Pub. 505 worksheets, go back to your W-4 and add your number of additional allowances here. Then, continue working through the document.


Line H: Add lines A through G and enter the total here . . . . .


Now, simply add all the lines above and voila: you have your total number of tax allowances. Unfortunately, though, the process isn’t done quite yet, though. We have to go through two more sections: the Deductions, Adjustments, and Additional Income Worksheet and the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet.

These worksheets are pretty self-explanatory: the former is for additional income reporting, and the ladder is to be filled out if you have a second job or—more likely—if you and your husband or wife are filing jointly, and you both work.

Let’s start with the Deductions, Adjustments, and Additional Income Worksheet. You only have to fill out this worksheet if you plan to itemize deductions, claim certain adjustments to income, or have a large amount of nonwage income not subject to withholding.

Some examples of this include business deductions, home mortgage interest, charitable donations and more. Estimate these, and put them on line one of this worksheet. Then, work through the rest of the worksheet and see if anything is applicable to your financial situation.

Only fill out the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet if you have more than one job at a time or are married filing jointly and you and your spouse both work, and the combined earnings from all jobs exceed $XX,XXX ($XX,XXX if filing jointly).

Have your spouse’s income ready, and fill out the second job and spousal employment worksheet. This one’s pretty straightforward, so work through the list and find which income bracket meets your situation. This should only take a few minutes to complete.


Bringing it all together


So, now we’re in pretty good shape! We can go back to the first page of the document and input the results from all the worksheets we just completed. Since we’ve already filled out our personal information from lines 1 to 4 and 8 to 10, we can move onto completing lines 5 to 7.

Let’s work through it line-by-line:


Line 5: Total number of allowances you’re claiming (from the applicable worksheet on the following pages)


This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Here, add and record the total of all your allowances found on the preceding worksheets.


Line 6: Additional amount, if any, you want withheld from each paycheck


If you feel like you need to withhold any additional income, you can do so here. We don’t recommend doing this unless you have freelance or other income, and would like to prepay taxes so you’re not stuck with them on Tax Day.

However, it’s usually a better option to stick that cash in a savings account and pay it when your return is due or quarterly.


Line 7:


I claim exemption from withholding for 2018, and I certify that I meet both of the following conditions for exemption.

Last year I had a right to a refund of all federal income tax withheld because I had no tax liability, and

This year I expect a refund of all federal income tax withheld because I expect to have no tax liability. If you meet both conditions, write “Exempt” here.

Most reading this article will not be tax exempt. There are very few specialized situations where this applies. If you for some reason feel like you’re tax exempt, make sure to run this by a tax professional so you don’t run into any troubles when Tax Day rolls around.

Now, just sign your document and you’re done! You’ve successfully completed your W-4, and if all was properly filled out, you won’t have any extra (or too little) money withheld from your paycheck.


Filling Out Your 2018 W-4


We’ll keep it simple: filling out the 2018 W-4 is largely the same as filling out the 2019 W-4. However, an official copy of the 2018 W-4 is readily available, and it’s ready to file before the end of the year.

Like the 2019 W-4, make sure to go through your 2018 W-4 line-by-line to ensure accuracy. And if you have any questions, ask a tax professional to ensure your W-4 is accurate.


Bottom Line


And that’s all there is to it! You’ve successfully filled out your 2019 W-4 form, and are in good shape for the next tax year. If all was filled out properly, you’ll have the proper amount of tax taken out of each paycheck.

Remember, though, always ask a tax professional if you have questions on your W-4 form or any other tax document. A small fee upfront is better than owing the IRS fees or back-taxes years down the road.


Grant Sabatier

Creator of Millennial Money and Author of Financial Freedom (Penguin Random House). Dubbed "The Millennial Millionaire" by CNBC, Grant went from $2.26 to over $1 million in 5 years, reaching financial independence at age 30. Grant has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, NPR, Money Magazine and many others. He uses Personal Capital to manage his money in 10 minutes a month.

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