Get ready to take the guesswork out of paycheck withholding

IRS Tax Tip 2019-169, December 3, 2019

The tax filing season is quickly approaching. With that in mind, taxpayers should remember there's still time to make an estimated or additional tax payment to ensure their tax withholding is still accurate.

Those who need to make an estimated tax payment for 2019 should remember that the fourth quarter payment is due Wednesday, January 15, 2020.

These taxpayers will want to check to see if their 2019 federal income tax withholding will unexpectedly fall short of their tax liability for the year. They can check this by using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov.

All taxpayers can use the results from the Tax Withholding Estimator to determine if they should:

This tool helps employees avoid having too much or too little tax withheld from their wages. It also helps those working for themselves make accurate estimated tax payments. Having too little withheld can result in an unexpected tax bill or even a penalty at tax time in 2020. Having too much withheld results in less money in their pocket.

The Tax Withholding Estimator asks taxpayers to estimate:

  • Their 2019 income.
  • The number of children to be claimed for the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Other items that will affect their 2019 taxes.

The IRS Withholding Estimator does not ask for personally-identifiable information, such as a name, Social Security number, address and bank account numbers. The IRS doesn't save or record the information entered in the Estimator.

Before using the Tax Withholding Estimator, taxpayers should gather their most recent pay stubs and income documents from all sources. They should gather documents related to pensions, annuities, Social Security benefits and self-employment income. They should also have a copy of their 2018 federal tax return. This will help estimate 2019 income and answer other questions asked during the process.

If a taxpayer follows the recommendations at the end of the Tax Withholding Estimator and changes their withholding for 2019, they should recheck their withholding at the start of 2020. A withholding change made in 2019 may have a different full-year impact in 2020. So, if a taxpayer does not file a new Form W-4 for 2020, their withholding might be higher or lower than they intend.

Taxpayers should remember that the Tax Withholding Estimator's results will only be as accurate as the information provided. People with more complex tax situations should use the instructions in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax (PDF). This includes taxpayers who owe alternative minimum tax or certain other taxes, and people with long-term capital gains or qualified dividends.

More information:

Subscribe to IRS Tax Tips