On Dec. 5, the IRS released the long-awaited final version of the 2020 Form W-4, retitled Employee’s Withholding Certificate, with major revisions designed to make accurate income tax withholding easier for employees starting next year.
All new employees hired as of Jan. 1, 2020, must complete the new form. Current employees are not required to complete a new form but can choose to adjust their withholding based on the new form.
Any adjustments made after Jan. 1, 2020, must be made using the new form. Employers can still compute withholding based on information from employees’ most recently submitted Form W-4 if employees choose not to adjust their withholding using the revised form.
Employers may ask employees hired before 2020 to use the new form, but [employees] are not required to do so. Employers should, however, explain that withholding will continue based on the form they previously submitted and may not be as accurate as using the new W-4. If a new employee doesn’t submit a W-4 after 2019, companies must treat them as a single filer with no other adjustments.
Form W-4 is presented on a single, full page, followed by instructions, worksheets and tables. In place of withholding allowances, the new W-4 includes a process with five possible steps for declaring additional income, so employees can adjust their withholding with varying levels of accuracy, privacy and ease of use.
The five steps are:
1. Enter personal information.
2. Indicate multiple jobs or if spouse works (if applicable)
3. Claim dependents. (if applicable)
4. Make other adjustments (for income not from jobs, deductions claimed and extra withholding per pay period if applicable).
5. Sign the form.
An Updated IRS Tax Estimator
Employees can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to help them complete the new Form W‑4.
The calculator, updated in August with several new functions, is designed to help employees estimate any additional withholding.
Sample Letter Explaining the 2020 Form W-4 to Employees
To: (all employees or individually named employees)
From: (your name here)Date: (fill in as appropriate)
Re: 2020 Form W-4
The 2020 Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, is very different from previous versions. This is due to the federal tax law changes that took place in 2018. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not requiring all employees to complete the revised form and has designed the withholding tables so that they will work with both the new and prior year forms. However, certain employees will be required to use the new form: those hired in 2020 and anyone who makes withholding changes during 2020.
Even though the IRS does not require all employees to complete the revised form and even if your tax situation has not changed, we recommend you perform a “paycheck checkup” to see if you need to make adjustments to your current withholding. To conduct the checkup, you can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator (www.irs.gov/W4App). To effectively use the estimator, it is helpful to have a copy of your most recent pay stub and tax return. It is likely that the estimator will be updated to account for the 2020 tax tables in early January. Please note: if you do not submit a new form, withholding will continue based on your previously submitted form.
Before completing the 2020 Form W-4, please read the instructions that are included with the form. You must complete Steps 1 and 5. Steps 2, 3, and 4 are optional, but completing them will help ensure that your federal income tax withholding will more accurately match your tax liability. Step 1 is for your personal information; Step 2 is for households with multiple jobs; Step 3 is used to claim tax credits for dependents; Step 4 is for other adjustments (additional income such as interest and dividends, itemized deductions that exceed the standard deduction, and extra tax you want withheld); and Step 5 is where you sign the form.
The IRS takes your privacy seriously and suggests that, if you are worried about reporting income from multiple jobs in Step 2 or other income in Step 4(a), you check the box in Step 2(c) or enter an additional withholding amount in Step 4(c). To determine the additional withholding amount, you can use the withholding estimator.
The IRS has also published Frequently Asked Questions that you may find helpful as you complete the form