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Everything You Need to Know About the New Form W-4

The 2020 W-4 form was released earlier this month with just a few weeks left in the year. As the year draws to a close, are you ready to handle the new W-4 form in 2020? If you’re struggling to figure out how this will affect you in the new year, below is a basic guide to get you started!

WHY is there a new W-4 form?

Most employees remember their first day starting a new job and filling out the W-4 form, but do you really understand the form when you fill it out? The form contains complicated jargon that is not used on a daily basis. Many people fill out the form without fully understanding it, which ends up costing them dearly. If you fill out the form incorrectly and end up withholding too much (and receiving a refund), you’re essentially offering an interest-free loan.

The new Form W-4 is meant to be simplified so that employees can more accurately describe the amount of federal income tax that must be withheld from their paychecks. The form uses the same underlying information as the old one, but eliminates some of the complex spreadsheets with simpler questions to increase accuracy.

WHO must submit the new W-4?

Employees who submitted Form W-4 in a year prior to 2020 NOT need to resubmit the form. Employers will continue to calculate withholding tax based on information from the latest W-4. From 2020, all employees starting a NEW employment will need to complete the new form. The form will also need to be completed for life-changing events, such as getting married or having a baby. Anyone simply wishing to adjust the amount of their deduction will also need to complete the form.

WHAT do COMPANIES need to do to prepare?

Since current employees will not be required to submit the new W-4, all employer payroll systems will need to be updated to reflect the existing retainer allowance calculation, as well as the new calculation. There will now be two federal tax tables. Employees with 2019 or earlier W-4 forms will be taxed using the “Standard Withholding Rate Schedules”. New W-4 employees will be taxed using the new tax table. In addition, step 2 of the form asks about multiple jobs. If the box is checked, the new table must be used, but if it is not checked, the standard table will be used.

WHAT is the biggest change?

The W-4 will no longer have a line to enter an allowance number, which was tied to personal exemptions in the personal allowances worksheet. This change stems from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017 which temporarily suspends personal and dependent exemptions until 2025. The new form is now titled “Employee Withholding Certificate” instead of “Employee Payroll Deduction Allowance Certificate”. The form is now divided into 5 steps.

In addition to the new W-4 form, the IRS has also issued a NEW Withholding Tax Estimator. This calculator walks you through the steps to help you estimate your deduction. It’s a great tool to use to make sure you’re deducting the right amount of tax from each of your paychecks.

Will the new W-4 form really simplify everything?

It remains to be debated whether or not the new form really simplifies the process as it is supposed to. Some fear that it will be more complicated for the employees because they will have to carry out the multiplication themselves (step 3) and this could cause errors. The tax exemption is also not on the form; however, this is still allowed. If you take a look at the fine print, it says that if the person is tax exempt, they should handwrite “Exempt” in the space below 4(c). This is something employees may not know they need to do. Also, the electronic PDF used for the OnBoarding e-sign does not include an entry for this.

What are the best next steps for employers?

Whether the form is simplified or even more complicated, employers have no choice but to prepare for the change in the little time we have left before the new year. The first steps would be to ensure that your payroll systems will be up to date and ready to go by January 1, 2020. Secondly, it is advisable to consult your accountant or local tax specialist on how to handle the gray areas of the new form. W-4.

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