Question

If I do not claim dependents on my W4, can I claim the number of dependents that I actually have on my tax return?

Answer

On your W-4 Form you claim allowances, which your employer uses to calculate the tax withheld from your paycheck. The number of dependents you have factors into your overall W-4 allowances. Many people simply count their family members and put that number down as the number of allowances on W-4 Form!

Caveats to Claiming Dependents on W-4 Forms

The number of allowances you claim on your W-4 doesn’t have to match the actual number of dependents or family members you have on your tax return. There could be other reasons, such as side income, for you to reduce the number of allowances you claim.

Number of Allowances on W-4 Forms and Tax Withholdings

Claiming fewer allowances on Form w-4 will result in more tax being withheld from your paychecks and less take-home pay. This might result in a larger tax refund. On the other hand, claiming too many allowances could mean that not enough tax is withheld during the year. With the W-4 Form and dependents, the strategy will definitely vary based on individual tax circumstances, income and your filing status.

To summarize, the number of dependents you have and the number of allowances you claim on your W-4 Form do not have to exactly coincide, but they are definitely related.

Although it is late in the year, if you were disappointed in the size of your refund or you had an unexpected balance due when you filed your 2019 tax return, it is not too late to make changes for 2019. These changes may involve decreasing the number of allowances on Form W-4 or asking your employer to withhold an additional amount from your remaining paychecks.

For more help figuring out the number of dependents that you should claim on your 2019 W-4 form, use our W-4 withholding / paycheck tax calculator. Then, if you still have questions, find a tax office near you for personal guidance!

New in 2020

The IRS has revised the W-4 Form and instructions for 2020. The redesigned form will not use allowances. There are just a few required steps, such as entering your name and social security number. Then you have the option of completing more steps for better withholding accuracy. Employees with more complex situations, such as second jobs and family tax credits, may want to do the additional steps. If you have a W-4 on file with your current employer in 2019 you are not required to fill out the new W-4 in 2020, but it may be to your benefit to do so. Here is some additional information about the 2020 Form W-4.

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