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How to Update Your W-4 After Major Life Events in Arizona


Content provided for general information. Talk to your advisor to learn about recent updates or other rules that may apply to your situation.

Life is full of significant changes, and it's essential to keep your financial affairs in order, especially when it comes to your income tax withholding. A question recently came in from someone who had a whirlwind year, with a marriage, a new home, and the birth of a daughter. They wanted to know how to update their W-4 form with their employer and make sure they're ready for tax season. In this blog post, we'll discuss the steps you should take when updating your W-4 in Arizona after experiencing these life-changing events.

1. Understand the W-4 Form:

The W-4 form is a critical document used by your employer to determine the amount of federal and state income tax to withhold from your paychecks. By updating your W-4, you can ensure that the right amount of tax is withheld, preventing you from facing a large tax bill when you file your return or receiving an excessively large refund.

2. Marriage and Withholding:

When you get married, you have the option to choose between two filing statuses for your W-4: "Married Filing Jointly" or "Married Filing Separately." Married couples often choose "Married Filing Jointly" because it generally results in a lower overall tax liability. However, the choice of filing status can depend on your individual circumstances, and it's a good idea to consult with a tax professional to determine the best choice for you.

3. Claiming Dependents:

If you've had a child, as in this case, you may be eligible to claim an additional withholding allowance on your W-4 for each dependent. Claiming your child on your W-4 can reduce the amount of tax withheld from your paychecks.

4. When to Update Your W-4:

It's never too late to update your W-4, but it's best to do it as soon as possible when major life events occur. In this case, the individual's daughter was born in May, and they got married the previous year. Updating your W-4 promptly will help you avoid any unnecessary under-withholding or over-withholding, ensuring you're financially prepared for tax season.

5. Coordinating with Your Spouse:

The person asking the question also wondered if both spouses should claim their child. Generally, you should coordinate with your spouse to avoid over-claiming your child, as only one of you can claim the child as a dependent. Most couples choose the higher earner to claim the child to maximize the tax benefit.

6. Federal and State Withholding:

When updating your W-4, it's important to consider both federal and state withholding. Arizona has its own state income tax, so you'll need to adjust your state withholding accordingly. Remember that state tax rules may differ from federal rules, so it's essential to consult a tax advisor who is familiar with Arizona tax laws.

7. Seek Professional Guidance:

Throughout this process, it's essential to consult with a qualified tax advisor or professional who can provide personalized guidance based on your unique financial situation. They can help you determine the optimal filing status, withholding allowances, and any state-specific considerations.

In conclusion, when you experience significant life events like getting married, buying a home, and having a child, it's essential to update your W-4 with your employer to ensure that your tax withholding aligns with your new circumstances. Don't forget to consider both federal and state withholding. While it's not too late to make these updates, the sooner you do it, the better prepared you'll be for tax season. And most importantly, don't hesitate to consult with a tax professional who can offer expert guidance tailored to your specific situation.