IRS Form W-4 is filled out by employees to direct their employers on how much federal withholding to deduct from their paychecks.
Obtain a W-4 Form. Most employers will supply a new hire with a form. If they do not, download the form from the IRS website.
Fill in biographical information. The first part of the form (in the center of the page) simply asks for the employee's name, address, Social Security number and marital status. Married employees can designate their preference for the higher single withholding rate to be applied to their pay.
Complete the Personal Allowance Worksheet. The top half of the full W-4 Form contains lines A through H, on which the employee calculates his total number of allowances. The first several lines relate to whether the filer is a dependent, married, claiming dependents or the head of a household. Lines E and F relate to child-care tax credits.
Itemize deductions on Page 2, if necessary. If the employee intends to itemize his deductions, this is done on the Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet on the second page of Form W-4.
Combine income from multiple jobs on page 2, if necessary. A filer who has more than one job, or is married to someone who also works, and if the combined earnings from all jobs exceed $40,000, must complete the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet on page 2 to avoid having too little tax withheld.
Fill in lines 5 and 6. Line 5 will be the number from line 10 of the Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet, if that was used. If that Worksheet was not completed, line 5 will be the result (line H) of the Personal Allowance Worksheet. Use line 6 to have additional amounts of tax withheld from each paycheck. The entry on line 6 of Form W-4 will be the final result (line 9) of the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet if this area was filled out.
Complete the remainder of the form. Line 7 allows an employee to claim exemption from withholding if they meet the two qualifications. There are also spaces for the employee's signature and contact info to be filled out by the employer.
Tear and submit. Separate the bottom half of page 1, which is the only part of the form that needs to be filed. The completed W-4 should be submitted to the employer.
The more deductions an employee can claim, the less will be deducted from their pay. On the other hand, the more that is withheld, the more likely the chance the employee will receive a tax refund.
Fill out a new W-4 every year, or at least every time your personal information changes.
Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.