IRS Form W-4

Your employer has just handed you a new tax form called a Form W-4 and you don’t know where to start. Tax forms can be complicated, but knowing which exemptions you can claim is crucial to making it easy to pay income tax to the federal government.

How many exemptions should you claim on your IRS Form W-4? This depends entirely on your own tax situation and what is considered to be your tax liability. How much of an allowance you qualify for can also change over time. While the process of figuring out how many allowances you should claim can be overwhelming, we are here to help

What is Form W-4 and how much allowance should I claim?

When you start work or after a major life event, you will be asked to fill in a form detailing certain financial aspects to inform your employer how much money to withhold from your wages. When you are completing your W-4 form, you will need to know the number of allowances to be claimed.

It is vital to find the correct number of allowances for your particular financial situation. Otherwise, you risk owing the IRS more money at the end of the year or facing a penalty for your mistake. The number of allowances you can claim depends on your filing status, the amount of work you do, and whether you have any dependents.

Exemptions for W-4 allowances

You must find the correct number of allowances to claim. If you are in any doubt, you will want to consult with a tax professional. However, this outline can help guide you.

Claiming a zero allowance

You should claim a zero allowance on your W-4 2022 tax form if someone has claimed you as a dependent on their own tax form. For example, it is common for work-study students to claim a 0 allowance because their parents will claim it on their form. You are most likely to receive a tax refund when tax time comes around.

Claiming 1 allowance

If you are single and have only one job, claiming 1 allowance is usually a good idea. If you are married and filing jointly, you should claim 1 allowance. If you are filing as head of household, then you will also claim 1 allowance. You will most likely get a refund when tax time comes around.

Claiming 2 allowances

Claiming 2 allowances is also an option for single people who only have one job. This can help you get closer to the break-even point, but may also result in tax being paid. Claiming 2 benefits is also possible for those who have more than one job and are single, if you are married and want to split the benefit between spouses.

Claiming 3 allowances or more

If you are married and have a child, you should claim 3 allowances. If you are married with more than one child, you should also claim 3 allowances.

W-4 Exemptions by Filing Status

  • You’ve just started a new job, you’ve got your W-4, but you don’t know which allowances you can claim based on your situation. This outline will provide you with guidance based on your filing status.


  • If you are single, do not have any children and no one is claiming you as a dependent, then you should claim a maximum of 1 allowance. If you are single and someone is claiming you as a dependent, such as your parents, then you can claim 0 allowances.

Single, 1 child

  • If you are single and have a child, then you should claim 2 allowances. This child must be a dependent.

Single, 2 children

  • If you are single and have two children, you can claim more than 2 allowances as long as you only have one job. You can claim one allowance for each of your children.


  • Married couples with one source of income should claim 2 allowances on their joint return. If you have children, you can claim more allowances by claiming them as dependants.

Married with one child

  • If you are married and have a child, you should claim 3 allowances. This is the case as long as the child is under 19 years of age.

Married with 2 children

  • If you are married and have two or more children, then you will be able to claim 3 or more allowances. This depends on how many dependants you have.

Head of Household

  • If you are claiming as the head of household then you should claim 1 allowance. You must have at least one dependent, be unmarried and pay more than half of the household’s expenses in order to claim as head of household.

Head of household, 1 child

  • If you are claiming as head of household, and you have one child, you should claim 2 benefits.

Head of household, 2 children

  • If you are the head of household and have two children, you should claim 3 allowances. Depending on how many dependants you have, this number of allowances may increase.

Allowances for two earners or multiple jobs

For two earners and multiple jobs, you need to make sure you calculate the total amount of benefits you are entitled to correctly. For multiple jobs, this can sometimes be tricky. If you are filling out more than one W-4 form, then you should not claim the maximum amount of allowance you are entitled to on each form.

This is because if you do this, then your withholding figure will not be accurate. Instead, you want to claim your allowance for one job. Generally, you will want to choose the highest paying job to do this for. However, you may still need to fill out a W-4 form for your other job. To help determine how much allowance you are eligible for, we encourage taxpayers to complete the Personal Allowance Worksheet on Form W-4.

Changing your W-4 allowance

You should check your W-4 and your tax situation regularly, especially at the beginning of the year, when tax laws have recently changed, or when there are changes in your life.

You are free to change your W-4 form and tax allowances at any time of the year. Changes made later in the year usually do not have much of an impact on tax time. You may want to pay estimated tax to the IRS, or you may want to complete a new Form W-4, depending on your circumstances. The adjusted form should be sent to your employer as soon as possible.

Choosing not to adjust your W-4 allowance or doing so incorrectly may result in unwanted consequences. You may find that you take a hit due to how much money is taken out of your paycheck, or you may be surprised at how little you get back at the end of the year. This can all affect how well you claim the allowances to which you are entitled.

Claiming exemption from withholding tax

You, the employee, may be eligible for exemption from withholding. This means that you can use Form W-4 and not have any tax deducted from your wages. You can claim exemption from withholding if you are entitled to a refund of all income tax due to no tax liability in the previous year.

You also need to expect a refund of all federal income tax withheld due to a lack of tax liability in the current year. Exemptions from withholding are only valid for the calendar year in which they are claimed. It is important to remember that most employees will not qualify for an exemption from withholding as this is considered a special circumstance. Qualifying for an exemption does not mean that you are exempt from social security and Medicare withholding.

Claiming exemption from federal tax withholding without knowing your eligibility can lead to serious consequences. If you claim exemption on your tax form, but you don’t qualify, you are likely to receive a large tax bill and other penalties at the end of the year. For more personalized help, talking to a qualified tax professional can help assess your own unique tax situation.

Fine-tuning your withholding tax

Your tax liability may change over time, depending on your life circumstances and how much you earn annually. Your tax liability may change as a result of getting a new job, getting married or having children. You will want to reassess your financial situation and tax obligations regularly to ensure you are claiming the benefits you are entitled to.

If you don’t update your W-4 regularly, too much can be withheld from your paycheck and you may even face the possibility of underpayment penalties. When there are changes in your personal life that could result in you facing more tax or give you the opportunity to take credits and deductions, it’s time to reassess. You are able to adjust your W-4 at any time during the year.

Remember that adjustments made later in the year may have less of an impact on that calendar year. If your circumstances change, you can apply to your employer for a new W-4.

What is a tax allowance?

The IRS Form W-4 is used by employers to determine how much federal income tax is withheld from each of your wages. The personal exemption amount will affect how much of your paycheck is given to the IRS.

On this form, you can claim anywhere from 0 to 3 exemptions. In general, the more exemptions you claim, the less tax will be withheld from your paycheck. The fewer tax allowances you claim, the larger the tax refund you may be eligible for.

What is tax withholding?

The amount of federal income tax withheld from your wages by your employer is called withholding. This amount depends on your income and the information you provide to your employer on your W-4 form. This amount is deducted from your gross pay and sent directly to the government. In the United States, most employees are subject to tax withholding.

If too much money is withheld from an employee’s paycheck, that employee will receive a refund at the end of the year. If not enough money is withheld from their paycheck, then more tax will be due. In some cases, employees may also face penalties. The amount withheld from each of your wages is determined by your total annual income and your filing status.

Form W-4


How big is the tax allowance?

  • In 2021, taxpayers will reduce their taxable income by $4,300 for each personal allowance claimed.

Is it better to claim 1 or 0 tax allowance on my tax return?

  • Whether you claim 1 or 0 tax allowance depends on your personal circumstances. If you are single and have no dependants, filing 1 may be a more favourable option.

If I am single, how much allowance should I claim?

  • If you are single and have a job, then you can claim 1 allowance.

How many allowances should I claim for my pension?

  • When you start receiving your pension, it is important to know how much tax you will have withheld. How much tax you withhold depends on your source of income.

What happens if you don’t file a W-4?

  • You do not need to complete or submit a W-4 for your current job on a regular basis. if you have a new job, then you will need to complete a W-4 form for your new employer.

When do I need to fill out a new W-4?

  • You will need to fill out a new W-4 when you start a new job or when you change the amount you want to have withheld from your income.
Updated date

Article publidhed on June 20, 2023 by Josh Smith

Last Update June 20, 2023 by Josh Smith

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IRS Form W-4
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Jun 20, 2023
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