Just Married: How to Fill Out Your W-4
Big life events often trigger tax changes, and getting married is one of them. Though often overlooked, one of the most important steps you should take after getting married is updating your Form W-4 with your employer.
Should I fill out a new W-4 when married?
Yes! Your W-4 tells your employer how much tax to withhold from your paychecks. If you continue to list “single” on your W-4, your employer will likely withhold more tax from your paychecks than they would if you checked “married.”
Updating Form W-4 will ensure you and your spouse have the right amount of taxes withheld, potentially giving you more money in your pocket throughout the year.
How do I fill out a W-4 when married?
When you get married, your financial situation may change, and you’ll need to account for this on your W-4.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind.
1. Update personal information
The name on your tax return must match your name on file with the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you plan on changing your name but haven’t filed for a name change with the SSA, make sure you use your pre-married name when filing your taxes.
If your address changed after marriage, you can file a change of address, Form 8822, with the IRS.
2. Determine your filing status
Will you be filing as married filing jointly, married filing separately, or head of household this tax season? If you’re not sure yet, check out I’m Married, What Filing Status Should I Choose?.
2: Account for multiple jobs
Do you and your spouse both work? If so, you need to note this on your W-4. This will ensure you don’t have too much income tax withheld and possibly give you bigger paychecks throughout the year.
- If you both work one job and make roughly the same amount, you should check box 2(c) on your W-4. Make sure both of you check this box on your respective W-4s.
- The spouse with the highest paying job should fill out steps 2 through 4 on the W-4 (the other spouse can keep those steps blank on their W-4).
- If you have a second job and your spouse also works (three or more jobs between you), you can account for this on page 3 of your W-4 — the Multiple Jobs Worksheet.
3: Claim any dependents
If you and your spouse have kids and your total joint income is less than $400,000 (or $200,000 if filing separately), you likely qualify for the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which can be worth up to $2,000 per child. To account for this, one of you will want to note your children as dependents on your W-4. The form will have you multiply the number of qualified children under age 17 by $2,000, and your employer will adjust your withholding accordingly.
Only one spouse is allowed to claim dependents — typically, the spouse with the higher income.
Can I claim my spouse as a dependent?
No, the IRS does not let you claim your spouse as a dependent. Some examples of dependents include children, stepchildren, siblings, or parents.
4: Change your withholdings (optional)
Step 4(c) allows you to record any additional tax you want to be withheld from your paychecks. If you are concerned about having too little withheld, this is your chance to accommodate for that.
The Multiple Jobs Worksheet can also help you determine how much extra you should withhold.
Get help filling out your W-4
If you’re still not sure how to fill out your W-4, don’t sweat it. By answering a few questions, our Refund Booster1 and W-4 calculator can help you fill out a new W-4 to get your desired results — whether that’s a bigger refund at tax time or more money in your paychecks throughout the year.