Your W-4 form helps your employer figure out the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your wages. The allowances you put on your W-4 -- which can include children whom you support -- give you an amount that reduces your taxable wages. Your filing status helps to determine the tax bracket on which your withholding is based. Depending on your situation, you can claim two allowances on your W-4 if you have no children and are single or unmarried.
Before you claim allowances on your W-4, go through lines A through G of the form and ensure that you understand what each allowance means. The “dependents” line of your W-4 (line “D”) does not mean only children who qualify as dependents; it also goes for qualifying relatives. Whereas a child must meet the IRS’ relationship, residence, age and support tests to qualify as a dependent, a relative must fulfill the following criteria: relationship or member of household, gross income, support and not qualify as a child. A qualifying relative can be of any age; however, depending on the situation, a qualifying child must be less than 19 or 24 years old or completely disabled. IRS Publication 501 can give you details on how to determine a qualifying dependent.
It is not unlawful to claim two allowances on your W-4 if you are not married and have no children and if you qualify for each allowance. For example, being single, you are entitled to claim one allowance for yourself on line A if no one else can claim you as a dependent. You can also claim an allowance for yourself on line B if you are single with only one job. These two situations alone make it legal for you to claim two allowances. Further, if you have qualifying dependents who are not your children, you can claim an allowance for each one on line D.
Head of Household
As a single or unmarried person, you can claim an allowance for head of household on line E of your W-4 if you will file as head of household on your tax return. You must meet the head-of-household criteria to claim the allowance. For example, in 2011, you can claim head of household if you are unmarried and contribute more than half of the cost to maintain a home for yourself and your qualifying dependents.
To know the amount of federal income tax that you will pay if you claim two allowances and are single, consult the IRS Circular E tax-withholding tables. For example, if you earn $450 weekly, according to page 38 of the 2011 Circular E, your weekly federal income-tax withholding is $33. If you had no allowances, your withholding would be $54.
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.