What to Declare on a W-4 If You're Single

Whether you’re just starting a new job or want to change your tax situation, there’s one form that is inevitable for employees to fill out. The W-4. This is where you put down your tax withholding which states how much should be taken out of your check and this is what will determine if you get a refund or not. If you’re single and not filing jointly and don’t have kids to worry about, you might wonder what is the right thing to put down. Read on for more guidance. Please note we’re not tax specialists so this is general guidance and anything specific should be discussed with a tax specialist.

What to declare on a W4 if you're single

The W-4

The W-4 is the form you get every time you start a new job. It’s typically part of the new hire packet and can inform how much tax withholding there will be. It can feel stressful filling it out — how are you supposed to know what it all means? What should you declare? Maybe you want to be safe and pay more in taxes now and hope for a refund. Perhaps you want as much cash now and want to try and pay just the right amount of taxes and get the most bang out of your paycheck now. That’s where your allowances come in.


Your W-4 is an important tax form as you declare how many allowances you have. According to Investopedia a tax withholding allowance “refers to an exemption that reduces how much income tax an employer deducts from an employee's paycheck. In practice, employees in the United States use Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate to calculate and claim their withholding allowance. The employer then uses the W-4 information to determine how much of an employee’s pay to subtract from their paycheck to remit to the tax authorities.”

How it works is the increase in allowances you claim, the less taxes you will have taken out of your check. Fewer allowances will result in more taxes being taken out of your paycheck.

What you put down is based on your filing status. So if you’re single what do you do? Investopedia states “...if you are single with no children and will take the standard deduction, you can claim one withholding allowance for yourself and a second if you are single with only one job, for a total of two.”

The IRS also has a personal allowance worksheet on pg 3 of the W-4 that you can fill out to determine what’s right for you and your situation. On top of that, the IRS has a withholding calculator you can use to make sure you’re putting down the option that is right for your situation and you know what you’re getting into.

According to Liberty Tax declaring one as your tax withholding is a good bet if you’re single and you work just your 9 to 5. This allowance could get you a refund. If you claim zero, the most will be taken out of your paycheck and you will most likely get a refund. So putting down one might be a safe bet so you can get the most out of your paycheck while also playing it safe with taxes. Of course, talk to a tax specialist for individual advice based on your situation.

When to change it up

Your tax withholding is not a set it and forget it type of thing. If you change jobs or get married or have a child, you will want to change your tax withholding. If you’re unhappy come tax time that you did or didn’t get a refund, you’ll want to change your tax withholding. So be sure to stay on top of your W-4 and any tax withholdings if there are major changes in your life.

Bottom line

Let’s face it — tax time can be frustrating and filled with forms and numbers and ugh, it’s so overwhelming. But if you can focus on your tax withholding and put down the number that reflects your situation you’ll be in better shape all year.

Caitlin Lyttle