Do I Claim Zero, One, Two W-4 Allowances?

The last thing you want to do is frantically run up to your boss asking “How many allowances do I claim on my W-4?”.

Being aware of the number of allowances you are claiming on a Form W-4 [Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate]  is important for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, the number of allowances you claim on a W-4 determines the following;

  1. how much tax will be taken from your income (aka the withholding amount)
  2. the size of your tax refund

Steps to filling out a W-4

You’ll need to follow four simple steps when filling out your W-4 Form:

  1. Fill out your personal information (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Marital Status)
  2. Know the number of personal and dependency exemptions you are claiming on your tax return.
  3. Based on the number from step 2, use that number to help determine your number of allowances.
  4. Don’t forget to sign the W-4 and turn it into your employer!

The allowances you claim while filling out a W-4 if you are single will differ from the allowances you claim if you are married or have kids. 

Claiming zero allowances

  • The maximum amount of tax is withheld. Meaning, when it comes time to file your tax return you will most likely receive a refund.
  • You’re being claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.

Claiming one allowance (ideal if you are single with one job)

  •  You’re single and have one job. Claiming one allowance will most likely result in a refund when you file your taxes.

Claiming two allowances

  • You are single. Claiming two allowances will get you close to your tax liability but may result in tax due when filing your taxes.
  • You’re single and work more than one job. Claim one allowance at each job or two allowances at one job and zero at the other.
  • You’re married.

Claiming three allowances

  •  You are married with one child.

Claiming additional allowances

  • File as head of household if you are eligible. You are able to claim additional allowances.
  • You had at least $2,000 of child or dependent care expenses that you plan on claiming credit
  • You’re eligible to claim the Child Tax Credit

Can I fill out a new W-4 form?

Yes, employees can submit a new W-4 form to their employee at any time during their employment. Have you recently started a second job, had a baby, or tied the knot? Life changes such as these should encourage you to update your W-4 withholding.

A great tool to help you while filling out a W-4 is the IRS Withholding Calculator,  located on the IRS website.

Claiming zero allowances means less take home pay, but a bigger tax refund during tax season.

The number you report on a W-4 will ultimately determine your take home pay and your tax refund. Don’t write down any number. Take the few extra minutes to really assess your situation and fill in the W-4 accordingly. By doing so you’re less likely find yourself in a difficult financial situation.

Then, when you’re ready to file your taxes, you’ll have a heads up on whether or not you’ll be receiving a tax refund!


Get Your Refund


Being aware of the number of allowances you are claiming on a Form W-4 is important to control your income.

1,551 Replies to “Do I Claim Zero, One, Two W-4 Allowances?”

  1. Hello, I’m single w/ no kids
    I have a full time job and about to start a part time job, what should I claim on both of them? I believe my full time is at 0 right now.

  2. My husband and I got married a while ago and we were told that because I make more that I should put married and two on my W4 and that he should be single and zero. He just got a job that pays more than me so should we change his to married and two and mine to single and zero?
    Also, I get bonuses/additional commission that may make my income about the same as his or more than what he makes. What is the best way to fill out our W4? I don’t care about tax return. I just want to maximize our paychecks now. Thanks in advance.

  3. Hello! Any advice you can give would be appreciated.

    I just started a new job and am at a loss as to how many allowances I should put down. I’m single, not a dependent, and only work one job at the moment. At my last job I apparently put down two allowances, can’t remember why, and as a result have owed the IRS money the past couple of years. The issue seemed to be that I ended up earning more money than I or the IRS anticipated and so they needed more taken out of my check. An accountant at H&R Block suggested I put my allowances to zero for my new job, but I forgot her reasoning. I’ll be working at a higher pay but much lower hours, so my income will be far less then my last couple of years. I don’t want my check to be bare boned, but I also don’t want to owe the IRS hundreds of dollars yet again come tax season. Can anyone help?

  4. I’m 18, I went exempt last year because I was confused how to fill out my w4, I’m currently at a new job, and not sure how to fill it out again and do not want to be exempt. My withholding info is done through ADP, so there aren’t multiple choices to choose from, so if I’m single, with no children and head of my household what number should I put for my amount or percentage because it only gives me those two options, and I would have to enter the right amount In numbers, again I do not have the options to choose from the lowest or highest numbers.

  5. Hello,

    I am single and currently have a full time job. I am a nonresident alien and from Canada. I was wondering about how many allowances I should claim.

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