Single Withholding vs. Married Withholding: What’s the Difference?

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Single Withholding vs. Married Withholding: What’s the Difference?

When you begin a new employment, you will most likely be requested to complete a W-4 form, also known as an Employee’s Withholding Certificate. Your employer will determine how much money to withhold from your paychecks based on the information you provide to cover your federal income taxes when they become due.

The first part of the W-4 asks whether you are a “single or married filing separately,” a “married filing jointly or qualified widow(er),” or a “head of household.” This article covers the consequences of selecting single or married tax withholding.

Key Takeaways

  • The IRS Form W-4, which you complete with your employer when you start working, determines how much money will be withheld from your paycheck to satisfy taxes.
  • The form inquires as to whether you are single or married, as well as if you have any dependents.
  • In general, married couples who file jointly will have less deducted from their wages than singles.

Single Withholding vs. Married Withholding

The three boxes on the W-4 form (single or married filing separately, married filing jointly or qualified widow(er), and head of household) correspond to the five filing statuses available to taxpayers when completing their yearly Form 1040 tax returns.

Single taxpayers typically have two options: file as a single filer or as a head of household if they are unmarried and support an eligible individual (HOH).Meanwhile, those who lose their spouse during the tax year may tick the qualified widow(er) box.

Taxpayers who are married, on the other hand, have an option. They may file jointly on the same tax return or individually on separate tax returns, whichever is most beneficial in their case. Filing a combined tax return will usually result in a lesser tax bill.

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The W-4 box you tick determines your standard deduction and the tax rates used to calculate your withholding. If all else is equal, married taxpayers who intend to file jointly will have less withheld in percentage terms than singles or those with other statuses.

If your marital status changes, you must submit a new W-4 form to your employer so that your tax withholding may be adjusted.

2021 and 2022 Standard Deductions and Tax Rates

For the 2021 tax year, the share of income not subject to tax for single taxpayers and married persons filing separately is $12,550, and for the 2022 tax year, it is $12,950. Married couples filing jointly are entitled to double that amount, with a standard deduction of $25,100 in 2021 and $25,900 in 2022.

Similarly, individuals pay 10% tax on their first $9,950 in income in 2021 (rising to $10,275 in 2022), while married couples filing jointly pay 10% tax on their first $19,900 in income (increasing to $20,550 in 2022). Married taxpayers continue to benefit from higher marginal tax rates.

How Dependents Fit In

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) altered the W-4 form significantly as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s repeal of the personal exemption. So, if you haven’t completed a W-4 in a few years, it will appear substantially different today.

Notably, the form no longer requests that you calculate (or estimate) your number of withholding allowances. Instead, taxpayers with incomes less than $400,000 (married couples filing jointly) or $200,000 (other filing statuses) are required to multiply the number of eligible children under the age of 17 by $2,000 and any additional dependents by $500 and put those dollar numbers on the form.

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Your employer will compute how much to withhold from your pay based on that information and your filing status.

Other Considerations

Remember that if you have more money withheld from your paycheck than is required, you should receive it back as a tax return later. If you withhold too little, you may face a large tax bill as well as an underpayment penalty.

It is occasionally necessary to submit a fresh W-4 with your employer to ensure that the correct amount is withheld. A change in situation, such as going from “single” to “married,” affects the amount of taxes you owe. You may avoid the inconvenience of possibly paying too much or too little if you notify the IRS of these changes promptly by submitting a new W-4.

Taxpayers may use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to see whether they are overpaying or underpaying. If this is the case, they should modify their withholding.

Can I Withhold as Single If I’m Married?

Yes, you can, however it may not be advantageous. Though there are a few instances when filing separately makes more financial sense, such as when one spouse is entitled for significant itemizable deductions, combined filings normally result in larger tax benefits. Run some calculations on the IRS worksheets and maybe consult with a tax consultant to see which option is best for you.

Is Filing Single the Same as Filing as Head of Household?

No, filing as a single person is not the same as filing as the head of a household. According to the IRS, the head of household must be unmarried, pay at least 50% of household expenditures, and have a qualified dependent. If you fulfill these requirements, you should file as a head of household since these persons get favorable tax treatment.

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Do I Get a Bigger Tax Refund If I File as Married Jointly?

In most circumstances, filing jointly with your spouse will result in a larger return or a smaller tax payment. However, there are a few instances when filing separately may be more beneficial, such as when one spouse has considerable miscellaneous deductions or medical costs.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the correct filing status is critical to prevent underpayment or overpayment of taxes and perhaps getting into trouble with the IRS. Before clicking the box, make sure you thoroughly study which status applies to you and, if two of them apply, look into which one may save you the most money.

Tax paperwork may be difficult, so if you get lost, don’t be afraid to approach your employer or a tax expert for assistance.

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