Can my teenage son (soon to turn 17) claim "exempt" on his W4? When looking at the FAQ from the IRS, it seems like the answer to this question is a fairly straightforward "yes" (he didn't work last year, and I doubt he'll earn more than $10k this year). However, something is nagging in my head telling me it's not that simple. Am I worrying about nothing, or is there some factor I'm overlooking?

  • The net effect of selecting the wrong amount on a w4 is that you may owe taxes when filing. At that level you are correct that exempt would be applicable. There is no need to worry about the IRS coming after you for selecting the wrong thing. BUT, there are possible penalties if you end up having a large enough tax liability at the end of the year. – Eric May 1 '16 at 16:29
  • Even if he didn't claim "exempt", there would probably be almost no withholding anyway, for such a low income. – user102008 May 1 '16 at 17:16
  • But, how much can he reasonably expect to earn this year? Is this a summer only job or full year? – JTP - Apologise to Monica May 1 '16 at 22:03
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    FWIW, I did this when I was that age with no issues, but i didn't make more than the exempt limit. – Andy May 3 '16 at 23:39

Follow the guidelines from the IRS. It is very straight forward.

The purpose of exempt is to make it more likely that somebody who in not going to have to pay doesn't have to file to get their withheld money back.

If the situation changes because they work more hours, or they get a big raise just submit a new W-4. The biggest risk is that they go over the limit, but the safe harbor rules will protect them. The general rule is that if you have withheld 100% of the previous years tax you are protected. 100% of $0 is still $0.

Employers are supposed to re-verify each year that a person is still exempt.

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