My wife and I got married late last year and we didn't change our W-4's to reflect that, only changed our marital status' through our companies. Both of our paychecks still state that we are single, she has her allowances set to 0 and mine is 2. Every tax return, we get anywhere from $3k to $5k back combined when we file. Last year we got around $3k by filing married and jointly (although both our pays stated we were both single).

We are now starting a very tight budget, getting additional jobs, etc and want to get the most out of our paychecks to help pay down our debt snowball faster.

I'm filling out my W-4 now, and am putting 1 for my allowance (and my wife is going to do the same) and we are changing our status to 'Married' in hopes that will get us more in our paycheck each week. But I'm confused when I fill out the 'Two Earners/Multiple Jobs' portion of the W-4 form.

I make just over the $65k limit, which makes me put '4' down for the lowest paying job that is my wife's. I then have to put $610 on the line because that is where my pay falls in between $0-$75000/yr. That dollar amount multiplied by the difference of her pay digit and my allowance is $1830; and divided by the amount of pays left results in $203.33/pay additional tax withheld.

Here is my question/concern...

Is an additional $203.33 going to be taken out of my current pay on top of what is taken out each pay already? This seems counter productive since we are trying to have less taken out due to the amount of refund we receive each year. I'm not understanding this.

Also, should we wait until next year to do this? I'm just worried that doing these changes now are just going to hinder us more than benefit us.

Appreciate all of your help in advance.

ETA: After submitting this question, I noticed the question: W-4 Worksheet for Spouses Filing Jointly: Who Files the W-4? I'll use my form to claim the allowances and instruct my wife to enter '0' for her allowances. My check will take the hit for the federal while hers will not. From my understanding, it should even out.

I apologize for not noticing this thread before.

However, will this change still hurt us this year and should we wait until next year to do this? And I plan on getting another side job, how should I fill out that W-4?

Sorry again and thanks!

1 Answer 1


Good job on doing the debt snowball and not wanting to give the government an interest-free loan.

Unfortunately, this is much more complicated than it should be. It requires a few repetitive calculations and will probably require adjustments throughout the year if you have a variable income side job(s).

The first step is to figure out the tax you will owe at the end of the year. This can be done by doing a simplified tax return or by using the form 1040-ES. I ended up creating a spreadsheet that makes this easier for me. There are also some online calculators but I have not used them. This is highly personalized as the deductions you have will be quite different than anyone else.

The next step is to calculate the amount of tax you will pay in using a standard deduction. I would recommend starting out at M-1 for each of you. For this, I use https://www.paycheckcity.com/calculator/salary/ Again this is highly personalized as you will likely have some "forced" deductions for things like health insurance and probably some voluntary ones like 401K. The goal is to be a bit short for withholding. For side jobs, I would recommend using S-0.

Then once you figure out how much you are short, add 10%-15% divide that up by the number of paychecks per year and put that in line 6 on the W-4 form.

That extra 10-15% is a buffer so you do not owe at the end of the year.

Creating a spreadsheet that speeds up these calculations are important because this is at least an hour's worth of work. You will need to recalculate if you receive a bonus or make extra from your side jobs.

For the record, the W-4 form does a really poor job of estimating the amount of taxes owed. Unless you are a single earner family, and that earner only works for one employer with a steady income, it will not withhold the correct amount.

To simplify our lives my wife pays all the additional withholding. We have a very integrated budget so it is not considered her or my money.

  • "For the record, the W-4 form does a really poor job of estimating the amount of taxes owed. " Amen, but to be fair it has to be applicable to 100 Million workers, so there's not much room for personalization.
    – D Stanley
    Aug 24, 2017 at 14:22
  • 1
    Appreciate your kind words and your link. I'll talk to my wife before submitting the updated W-4's. She has 3 side jobs at the moment and I believe for all of them (including her main job) she has it set to S 0. As I said, mine is currently S 2. I'll also do as you suggest and set my side job to S 0 as well. Any tips to create my own spreadsheet in place of the 1040-ES? Again, appreciate your input!
    – Pwrcdr87
    Aug 24, 2017 at 14:23
  • @Pwrcdr87 add up all income, project future income, add up all taxes withheld, project future withholding. Figure all deductions, then do the math on how much you will be short or long. While the math is fairly simple the volume of it makes it complicated.
    – Pete B.
    Aug 24, 2017 at 15:01
  • @PeteB. Thanks! I'll sit down with my wife tonight and try to get something put together!
    – Pwrcdr87
    Aug 24, 2017 at 15:05
  • A couple of suggestions: - I like the idea that you tweak the W-4 for only the highest income job, and leave the others set to some low exemption level -- probably 0. - Look up the idea of "Safe Harbor". If you have the cash when April 15 comes around, its not bad to owe the IRS money. The "Safe Harbor" provision allows you to reach a level of withholding where you won't owe penalties. If you can budget it, it might be worth under-withholding so that you owe as much as allowable (penalty-free) next year.
    – Michael
    Aug 25, 2017 at 5:24

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