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How to Help Clients Complete the New 2020 Form W-4

As you may know, in 2019, the IRS announced changes to its Form W-4. These changes will apply to all employee wages in 2020. The W-4 is the IRS form that new employees fill out to let their employers know how much money to withhold from their paychecks for federal taxes. Chances are you may have struggled to fill out this form for yourself in the past! The good news is that the new version of the W-4 is designed to be simpler to understand and easier to fill out.

If you are a caseworker, employment specialist, or job developer, make sure that you are aware of these changes and prepared to assist your clients with filling out this important form. Here are a few key takeaways and helpful resources that will get you up to speed.

The Biggest Difference: No More Allowances
The key difference to be aware of is that the new Form W-4 no longer uses withholding allowances. Instead of the “lines” used in the previous W-4, the new form has five “steps,” some of which are required and some of which are optional. You can walk your clients through the following five steps:

  • Step 1 (Required) Enter Personal Information: Here, enter your name, Social Security Number, address, and filing status (Single, Married filing separately, Married filing jointly, or Head of household).
  • Step 2 (Optional) Multiple Jobs or Spouse Works: You can complete this section if you have multiple jobs, or are married, filing jointly, and your spouse also works.
  • Step 3 (Optional) Claim Dependents: Complete this section if you have dependents.
  • Step 4 (Optional) Other Adjustments: Complete this section if you have other income, deductions, or any additional tax you want withheld.
  • Step 5 (Required) Signature: Sign and date here.

Current Employees
Current employees who have furnished Form W-4 in any year before 2020 are not required to provide their employer with a copy of the updated form.

Other Things to Note
Other changes include that employees are no longer directly asked to state marital status on the form, and that they can now enter in their predicted dollar amounts expected on their next tax return.

Some things have not changed. Employees can still enter a dollar amount to request additional withholding, or claim exemption from withholding. This form also does not change how much money is actually withheld. The new form’s withholding tables work with both the 2020 form and forms from prior years.

Where to Learn More
Here are some additional resources:

If you have other questions about completing pre-employment paperwork with clients, or would like to discuss other challenges you are experiencing in your work, Switchboard can help! Please submit a request for training or technical assistance.

In addition to your challenges, we’d love to highlight your successes. If you are interested in contributing a guest blog post in the area of employment or economic empowerment, please email Saba Imran, Program Coordinator for Economic Empowerment, at simran@lirs.org.

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