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I'm changing my benefits provider during the year and need to update my W-4 form and, for California, my DE 4. I'm changing my filing status from Single to Head of Household, so I've been having too much withheld during the first half of the year and would like to reduce the amount for the second half.

I noticed that the DE 4 is worded as follows:

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So, you fill in either a number of allowances, or a dollar amount representing the total amount to be withheld per pay period - do I understand this correctly?

Similarly, on the W-4 form,

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there is a total number of allowances (line 5) and an 'additional amount' line 6. Can I fill out just line 6 instead of line 5, and have that be the amount withheld from each paycheck?

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    Given the instructions on the next page, "You should complete this form if: (1) You claim a different marital status, number of regular allowances, or different additional dollar amount to be withheld…" I'd guess if you only fill in 2, they'd use the allowances from (5) on the W-4. – Kevin Jun 11 '18 at 17:31
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No, you need to specify a number of allowances, and the additional amount. Line 6 is extra beyond what the amount from the allowances is.

The correct way to have a particular amount withheld from your paycheck is to determine what number of allowances will cause that amount to be withheld. It's rather silly, but...

For what it's worth, the IRS has realized this, particularly with reference to the new tax structure; the 2019 draft W-4 does not have "allowances" and has a much more detailed set of options.

They still don't simply say "how much to withhold", in large part because it's in their interest to withhold more, and they want to make sure that if you get a raise or bonus or whatever that you don't under-withhold from that.

  • Btw: anyone else as excited as I am over the new W-4? Not totally fixed, but so much better than the old one... – Joe Jun 11 '18 at 20:37
  • With the W-4, you can do a calculator that will compute a number of allowances that is actually larger than the number of dependents you support - in my case, it was 12. For the DE 4, however, I don't see any such option. Can I still fill out a higher number of allowances? – Kurt Peek Jun 14 '18 at 15:04
  • @KurtPeek You may want to ask that as a separate question. – Joe Jun 14 '18 at 15:05

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