How to Fill Out W-4 in 2022: Married and Both Work + FAQs

Lana Dolyna, EA, CTC
Lana Dolyna, EA, CTC

Senior Tax Advisor

Each time you start a job, you must fill out a W-4 to determine the amount of taxes the employer will withhold from each paycheck. Even if you haven’t changed jobs, you may want to fill one out again. Especially if you got married, had kids, or had other life and financial changes that could affect your tax liability.

The 2020 update to the W-4 helps reduce the form’s complexity and increases the transparency and accuracy of the payroll withholding system, but it can still be confusing. Learn more about the updated W-4 and find out how to fill out W4 if married and both work in 2022 to ensure you are withholding the correct amount for you and your family.

What is a W-4?

A W-4 is a document for your employer to determine how much they should withhold from each paycheck for taxes. By taking information such as income, number of jobs, marital status, and number of dependents, they can estimate the taxes you’ll pay for the entire year and split the withholding up by the number of paychecks you’ll receive. 

An accurately completed W-4 ensures you won’t have a tax bill to the IRS at the end of the year or receive too large of a refund, meaning the government was holding on to too much of your hard-earned money.

How to Approach Tax Allowances When Married and Both Work

If you are married and both work, you must decide if you will file together or separately. In most cases, filing together or jointly provides more benefits, such as lower tax brackets and higher deductions, and is recommended by the IRS. For many reasons, including a significant income disparity or if the lower-paid spouse is eligible for sizable itemized deductions, filing separately may be the best route. 

If filing jointly, you will both need to fill out a W-4 for each job, but you will only withhold taxes, claim dependents, and deductions from one job’s W-4. To ensure you are withholding the proper amount, use the Multiple Jobs Worksheet on page 3 of the W-4.

If filing separately, you complete the form similarly to a single person, using the form and worksheet to calculate deductions. If you and your spouse have children or other dependents, only one of you may claim them on your tax return.

And remember, if you get married any time during the year, even on December 31st, the IRS considers you married for the entire year. 

Example: Emma and Jack are married, filing jointly. They both work and have no children. Each person should claim one allowance, one for each of them.

Read: Form W-4: How Many Allowances Should I Claim?

How to Fill Out W-4 if Married and Both Work: Total Jobs

If you are married and filing jointly while both working, you will fill out the form with your name and information, including checking the box for “married filing jointly,” and then calculate the amount of tax to be withheld using one of two methods: use the IRS tax calculator or use the worksheet provided. The amount of federal income tax withholding for part-time jobs remains the same as for full-time employment. 

If you are filing separately, mark the box for “single or married filing separately.” There is also a “head of household” box. This is only completed if you are unmarried and pay more than half the costs to keep your home for yourself and a qualifying individual like a dependent.

2 Total Jobs

If you and your spouse are filing jointly and each work only one job, you will need to file as having two jobs. You will both do this for each of your individual W-4 Forms.

First, fill out your information in Step 1, including your name, address, and SSN. Choose “married filing jointly” for Step 1 (c), and check the box for Step 2 (c), indicating there are only two jobs. 

This box must be checked on both spouses’ W-4 forms. Standard deduction and tax brackets will be cut in half for each job to calculate withholding if the box is checked.

Example: Patrick and Kylie are married, filing jointly.

They mark Step 1(c) as “married filing jointly.”

On step 2, they check the box for (c) and use the multiple jobs worksheet to calculate how much extra they should withhold.

On step 3, they mark “0” as they have no dependents.

On step 4, they mark deductions and additional withholding determined by the multiple jobs worksheet.

Finally, for step 5, sign and date.

How to Fill Out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet if Married with 2 Jobs

  • For line 1: Use the “Married Filing Jointly” chart provided on the multiple jobs worksheet on page 4 of the W-4 Form. Calculate the base amount by finding the corresponding range of the higher paying of the two jobs on the left-hand column and the lower paying along the top. Enter the corresponding amount on line 1. 
  • Ignore line 2, as it only applies to those with three or more jobs. 
  • On line 3: Enter how frequently the higher paying job pays within the year (if paid weekly, enter 52, biweekly, enter 26, etc.).
  • For line 4: Divide the amount on line 1 by the number of pay periods on line 3 and enter the final amount on line 4. This is how much extra will need to be withheld. Enter this amount in Step 4(c) of the W-4 for the higher-paying job.


Example: Isaac and Eve are married, and each has a job. One of the jobs earns $65,000 a year and pays biweekly, while the other earns $44,000 a year and pays monthly.

Using the chart on page 4, They find the row “$60,000-69,999” in the left-hand column of the married filing jointly section and move across that row to the “$40,000-49,999” column to get $4,270.

They enter this number in line 1. Because the higher-paying job pays biweekly, they must put 26 on line 3. They then divide $4,270 by 26 to get $164.23 and enter that amount on line 4 and in Step (c) of the W-4.

3 Total Jobs

With three jobs, it will be similar to working two jobs but for steps 3 and 4, only do so for the highest-paying job. The way to calculate how much extra to withhold will require a few extra steps in the multiple job worksheet to account for the extra income.

Example: Eric and Sam work while Sam also has a part-time job. They will fill out their W-4s the same: putting personal information in Step 1 and Step 2. They will enter the withholding amount in Step 4(c), using the Multiple Jobs Worksheet to get the correct amount.

How to Fill Out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet if Married with 3 Jobs

If you are married filing jointly with three jobs and use the multiple jobs worksheet, you will skip line 1 move onto line 2.

  • On line 2(a), go to the chart for Married Filing Jointly. Find the corresponding row in the Higher Paying Job column using the annual income for the highest-paying job. Then, using the second highest paying job salary, find the column in the Lower Paying Job Annual Taxable Wage & Salary. Put the corresponding value in line 2a.
  • For line 2(b), add the two highest-paying jobs and use that as the higher-paying side. Then find where that number converges with the lowest-paying job on the chart and record that number.
  • Line 2(c) Enter the sum of numbers on lines 2(a) and 2(b).
  • On line 3, enter how frequently the highest paying job is paid (52 for weekly, 26 for biweekly, etc.).
  • On line 4, divide the amount on line 2(c) by the amount on line 3 and record the result on line 4. This is how much extra should be withheld. This number will be entered on Step 4(c) of the W-4.


Example: Amber and Jeff are filing jointly. Jeff works two jobs, paying $30,000 and $20,000. Amber’s job pays $50,000. Amber is paid weekly, while Jeff is paid biweekly and monthly. Using the multiple jobs worksheet, they skip line 1 and move to the “married filing jointly chart on page 4. They take their highest paying job: $50,000, and in the Higher Paying Job column, they find the row “$50,000-59,999. Using the second highest paying job, he finds row $30,000-39,999. The corresponding value would be $3,360, which they will add in line 2a.

For line 2b, they’ll add $50,000 and $30,000 to get $80,000. Using that value, they’ll find the row $80,000-99,999 in the Higher Paying Job column. Then they’ll move across to the $20,000-29,999 column to get $4,760. This will be entered in line 2b. 

The final result for line 2c is the sum of lines 2a and 2b, $3,360 + $4,760: $8,120. Because Amber is paid weekly and has the highest-paying job, they will put 52 in line 3. Dividing $8,120 by 52, they will enter $156.15 in line 4. That is how much tax will be withheld each week. Because she has the highest paying job, Amber will enter $156.15 in Step 4(c) of her W-4.

4+ Total Jobs

If you have four or more jobs, it is recommended to use the calculator on the IRS website to find out how much extra you should deduct on your W-4. If you do not wish to use the website, the IRS has instructions to follow on publication 505

  • Go to the IRS Withholding Estimator App
  • Choose your filing status (married filing jointly, married filing separately, etc.).
  • Select yes or no if you have employment with periodic paychecks and federal withholding. If no, you will need to see IRS publication 505 to find the correct withholding amount. If you have a W-2 job, you will select Yes.
  • Select any of the following options that pop up: if you or your spouse will be over 65 on Jan. 1, if you or your spouse are blind, if you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return, or if you can claim dependents.
  • Select the number of total jobs you and your spouse have collectively (if filing jointly). This only includes W-2 jobs that require an employer to withhold taxes from each paycheck.
  • For each job, select: 
    • The source of income: hourly or salary.
    • The timeframe for the job: All year, will be leaving the job soon, had the job for part of the year, or will start the job later this year. 
      • If you are filling out a W2 for a new job, enter the dates you expect to work, the frequency of pay, how much you expect to earn per hour, and the average hours you will work per pay period.
      • Select yes or no for the projected annual income displayed on the screen.
    • For a job already held, choose the frequency of payment: weekly, every two weeks, twice monthly, or once a month.
    • The end date of the most recent pay period.
    • Whether or not the last paycheck was a good representation of a typical wage each pay period.
    • Enter wages per period.
    • Enter wages earned year-to-date.
    • Select yes or no to the projected annual income displayed.
    • Select if you or your spouse will contribute to a 401k (not counting Roth), if either will contribute to a health insurance plan, HSA, or FSA, if you or your spouse got a bonus, or none.
  • Choose if you or your spouse has any other sources of income such as scholarships, grants, unemployment insurance, self-employment net income or investments.
  • Select any adjustments to income such as student loan interest, moving expenses for members of the Armed Services, Alimony paid, or Traditional IRA contributions.
  • Enter the amount for any selected.
  • Choose a standard deduction ($25,900 for married filing jointly) or choose itemized deductions.
    • For itemized deductions, enter the amount paid for each. If your itemized deductions are less than your standard deduction, the tool will automatically choose the standard deduction.
  • Enter the age(s) of any children, based on their age on December 31.
  • Enter the number of qualifying children for Child and Dependent Care Credit.
  • Enter the amount of qualifying work-related childcare expenses.
  • Enter any children that qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (limit 3 children).
  • Enter the amount of Adoption Tax Credit you may be eligible for.
  • Choose additional credits for Foreign tax credit, educational, retirement savings, homeowner, elderly or disabled, business, alternative minimum credit, or energy-efficient vehicles.
  • Finally, you will see a breakdown with your expected tax withholding, your anticipated tax obligation, your projected refund, and breakdowns for all jobs listed to include the recommended withholding amount for each job and how to adjust your withholding on W-4s.


Example: Tammy and Louis both work as teachers. They also have part-time jobs during the summer, one working at a sports camp and one as a tutor. Tammy and Louis also have three children and make many itemized deductions, including child care tax credit, mortgage interest, health care payments, and energy-efficient vehicles.

Because they have four jobs between them and have specific deductions that the standard W-4 form does not account for, it is easier for them to use the IRS Withholding Tax Calculator to help them better estimate the amount of tax they should have each of their jobs withhold to ensure they don’t owe at the end of the year.

Fill Out W-4 if Married and One or Both Work as 1099 Contractors

If you or your spouse works a job as a 1099 contractor, including freelancing, gig work, and selling products on the side, you will fill out the W-4 form only for the W-2 job, excluding any 1099 income as that income will be subject to separate taxes, including an additional tax for self-employment and must make estimated quarterly taxes

Whether you are filing jointly or separately, you will fill out your form in the same way as if you only had one income or one job, with the only difference being if you choose the jointly or separately in Step 1(c).

While it is possible to withhold extra taxes on a working spouse’s W-4 to account for taxes of the 1099 job, for accurate accounting purposes, it’s best to pay them separately.

1 Employee, 1 Contractor

If one spouse is employed and one is a contractor, you will fill out the W-4 for the employee as if there were only one job. The contractor will need to pay their taxes separately with estimated quarterly tax payments.

Example: Ashley and Joe are married, filing jointly. Joe works as a teacher, while Ashley is a freelance graphic designer who receives a 1099 for her services. Joe fills out his W-4, marking that he is “filing jointly” in Step 1(c). He will skip step 2 because even though Ashley works, she will be responsible for accounting for and paying her estimated taxes and self-employment tax.

How to Fill Out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet if Married with 1 as Employee, 1 as Contractor

For one W-2 job and one 1099 job, you will not need to fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet. 

Example: April and Carlos are married. April works as an Uber driver, and Carlos is a pilot. Carlos fills out his W-4 and does not need to fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet because there is only one W-2 job between him and his spouse.

1 Employee and Contractor, 1 Employee

For couples filing jointly with two W-2 jobs and one contractor, fill out the W-4 as if there were only two jobs. First, fill out your information in Step 1, including your name, address, and Social Security Number. Choose “married filing jointly” for Step 1(c), and check the box for Step 2(c), indicating there are only two jobs. 

This box must be checked on both spouses’ W-4 forms. Standard deduction and tax brackets will be cut in half for each job to calculate withholding if the box is checked. Follow the instructions provided on the multiple jobs worksheet to calculate how much extra to withhold.

Example: Jen and Steve are married, filing jointly. Steve and Jen both work as teachers, but Steve also freelances as a running coach. Steve and Jen fill out W-4s with their jobs, while Steve will make quarterly payments for his 1099 income.

How to Fill Out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet When Married and Both Are Employees, but One is Also a Contractor

  • For line 1: Use the “Married Filing Jointly” chart provided on the multiple jobs worksheet on page 4 of the W-4 Form. Calculate the base amount by finding the corresponding number range of the higher paying of the two jobs on the left-hand column and the lower paying along the top. Enter the corresponding amount on line 1. 
  • Ignore line 2, as it only applies to those with three or more jobs. 
  • On line 3: Enter how frequently the higher paying job pays within the year (if paid weekly, enter 52, biweekly, enter 26, etc.).
  • For line 4: Divide the amount on line 1 by the number of pay periods on line 3 and enter the final amount on line 4. This is how much extra will need to be withheld. Enter this amount in Step 4(c) of the W-4 for the higher-paying job.

 

Example: Tom and Erin are married, each has a job, and Erin also does freelance accounting, for which she receives a 1099. Tom earns $65,000 a year and pays biweekly, while Erin earns $44,000 a year and is paid monthly.

Ignoring Erin’s freelance work, they use the chart on page 4, find the row “$60,000- 69,999” in the left hand column, and move across that row to the “$40,000-49,999” column to get $4,270. They enter this number in line 1. Because the higher-paying job pays biweekly, they must put 26 on line 3. They then divide $4,270 by 26 to get $164.23 and enter that amount on line 4 and in Step(c) of the W-4.

For Erin’s 1099 job, she will need to pay estimated quarterly taxes and self-employment tax separately from her W-2 taxes.

Both 1099 Contractors

If both spouses are 1099 contractors, there is no W-4 to fill out. This is because a W-4 is for an employer to withhold taxes from each paycheck. 1099 contractors do not have the same benefits as W-2 employees and, therefore, must pay their own estimated quarterly and self-employment taxes.

Example: Robert and Chloe both work as 1099 contractors: one as a freelance writer and one as a freelance personal assistant, and they are not required to complete a W-4.

How to Fill Out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet if Married with Both as 1099 Contractors

Because 1099 contractors do not fill out a W-4, there is no need to fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet, which only tells your employer how much to withhold from each paycheck. As there is no employer, there is no need for a W-4. They will need to complete a W-9 for each client, so they can receive a 1099 at the end of the year to file their taxes.

Fill Out W-4 if Married and One or Both Work as Self-Employed

If you are married, filing jointly, and one of you is self-employed, make sure to mark the correct boxes and follow the directions listed on the multiple jobs worksheet just as you would if you ignored the Self-Employed income for the time being.

1 Employee, 1 Self-Employed

If filing jointly, have the employed spouse fill out the W-4 to withhold taxes for the one job.

Example: Xavier and Regan each have a job. One is employed, and the other is self-employed. They fill out a W-4 for the employed job. For Regan’s self-employed income, she will need to have her accounting records and pay her estimated quarterly taxes, along with the additional self-employment tax.

How to Fill Out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet if Married, 1 is an Employee, 1 is Self-Employed

If there is only one W-2 employee, they will only need to fill out one W-4. There is no need to fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet. Simply fill out the W-4 to withhold taxes from the one job. 

Example: Tina and Albert are married, filing jointly. Tina works as a chef, and Albert is self-employed as a mechanic. Tina fills out her W-4, skipping step 2 because her spouse is self-employed. She will not need to do the Multiple Jobs Worksheet because she only has one W-2 job.

Both Self-Employed

Just as 1099 employees do not fill out a W-4, self-employed workers are not required to fill one out either. Self-employed workers have no employer. Therefore, they cannot have an employer withhold taxes for them. Instead, they will need to estimate their taxes, pay them quarterly, and pay the additional self-employment tax.

Example: Alice and Sam are both self-employed. Alice sells knit products online and at trade shows. Sam owns a lawn care business. Neither of them has an employer, so they do not need to fill out a W-4.

How to Fill Out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet if Married with Both Self-Employed

Because there is no employer and no W-4, there is no need to fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet, which only helps the employer withhold the correct amount of taxes. Instead, estimate taxes, pay them quarterly, and pay the self-employment tax.

How to Fill Out W-4 if Married and Both Work: With Dependent(s)

You are entitled to a child tax credit if you are married with children. The way to claim dependents is the same whether you file jointly or separately. Only one person is allowed to claim dependents. Otherwise, you risk receiving a duplicate deduction.

Typically, the higher-paying spouse will claim the dependents on their W-4 simply because that spouse is also taking on the tax withholding. Though when tax time rolls around, filing jointly means both spouses share the withholding and the deductions.

But, technically, either spouse can claim the dependents as long as they are legally that spouse’s dependent. 

Dependents can be children under 17 or older children under 24 who are students. Their age on December 31 will determine their age for the entire year. They can also be adults “permanently and totally disabled” or meet the qualifying relative test, which could include parents.

No Dependents

If you have no dependents, fill out the W-4 as normal and claim “0” for step 3.

1 Dependent

If you are married and work with one child, complete steps 1 and 2 as stated above. On Step 3, multiply the number of children, in this case, 1, by $2,000 for children under 17 or $500 for those over 18.

Example: John and Lynda both work and have one child, aged 5. Lynda writes $2,000 in Step 3 for the one child.

2 Dependents

Those claiming two children as dependents should multiply the $2,000 or $500, depending on age, on step 3 by two.

Example: Tyler and Olivia both work and have two children, ages 6 and 10. In Step 3, Tyler claims two dependents, writing $4,000.

3+ Dependents

If you are claiming three or more dependents, you will multiply the number of dependents by either $2,000 for children under 17 or $500 for those over 18. 

Example: Lance and Faith have two children, ages 14 and 16. They also care for Faith’s elderly mother. Faith will claim three dependents: $4,000 for the two children and $500 for her mother for a total of $4,500 that she’ll enter on Step 4. for a $6,000 deduction.

How to Fill Out the W-4 Deductions Worksheet if Married and Both Work

Standard deductions are a flat rate based on your filing status, such as married or single. You may also include deductions other than the standard deductions to lower your tax bill and increase your return.

If you are married, filing separately, and both work, only the spouse that pays for the items, may deduct them. If you are filing jointly, make all of the deductions on only one W-4. Typically this will be on the W-4 of the spouse paying for and using the items being deducted. Because returns are filed jointly, the IRS sees the spouses as one individual, so it does not matter whose return the deductions are listed.

For simplicity, most couples keep all withholdings, dependent claims, and deductions on one W-4. The easiest way to calculate deductions is to use the Deductions Worksheet on page 3 of the W-4.

Line 1

On line 1 of the deductions worksheet, enter an estimate of your yearly itemized deductions (from Schedule A on Form 1040. Deductions include qualifying home mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes (up to $10,000), and medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of your income.

  • Example 1: Bill and Avery are married, both work, and own their home. They file their taxes jointly.  On Bill’s W-4, he claims $4,200 for mortgage interest and $3,000 for state and local taxes for a total of $7,200, which he’ll put in line 1.
  • Example 2: Tiffany and James are married, both work, and have high medical expenses due to James’ cancer treatment. They file their taxes separately. On James’ W-4, he claims $15,000 in medical expenses because it is higher than 7.5% of his income.

Line 2

On line 2, if you are married filing jointly, enter $25,900. If you are filing separately, enter $12,950.

  • Example 1: Bill and Avery file jointly and are calculating deductions on Bill’s W-4, so they enter $25,900 on Bill’s Form
  • Example 2: Tiffany and James file separately, so they each fill out $12,950 on their separate W-4s.

Line 3

If line 1 is greater than line 2, subtract line 1 from line 2 and enter the result on line 3. Otherwise, enter “0.”

  • Example 1: Bill and Avery’s deductions for line 1 ($7,200) are less than their joint filing deduction ($25,900), so they will enter 0 in line 3.
  • Example 2: For Tiffany, because she entered 0 deductions on line 1, which is less than her $12,950 “married filing separately” deduction, she will enter 0 on her form. James had a line 1 deduction of $15,000, which is more than his single filing deduction of $12,950. On his form, he will subtract line 2 ($12,950) from line 1 ($15,000) to get $2,050. He will enter that in line 3.

Line 4

Enter contributions to student loans, deductible IRA contributions, and other adjustments based on part II or schedule 1 form 1040 on line 4.

  • Example 1: Bill and Avery paid a combined total of $800 in student loan interest payments as well as $4,000 in IRA contributions. On Bill’s W-4, he will enter $4,800 in line 4.
  • Example 2: Tiffany paid $600 in student loan interest payments. She will enter that amount on line 3 of her deductions worksheet. James made no student loan payments, so he will put 0 on his.

Line 5

Add lines 3 and 4 and enter the result on line 5.

  • Example 1: Bill adds lines 3 and 4 (0 + $4,800) to enter $4,800 in line 5 of his worksheet. Bill will enter this into Step 4(b) of his Form W-4.
  • Example 2: Tiffany adds lines 3 and 4 (0+ $600). She will enter $600 on line 5. She will enter $600 into Step 4(b) of her W-4. James adds $2,050 from line 3 to 0 from line 4. He will enter $2,050 on line 5 of his worksheet. He will add $2,050 to Step 4(b) of his W-4.

How to Fill Out W-4 if Married, Both Work, but Also College Student(s)

Being a college student does not exempt you or your spouse from the federal income tax. As college students, the W-4 must be filled out just as it would if you were not college students unless your parents are claiming you as a dependent.

How to Fill Out W-4 if Married, Both Work, and Want a Maximum Refund

If you are married and both work but want the maximum refund, you should withhold more from your income using step 4(c). The more you withhold, the larger your refund will be.

How to Fill Out W-4 if Married, Both Work, and Want the Least Taxes Withheld

If you want to withhold the least amount of taxes possible, you should claim as many deductions as you are capable of, including children, adult dependents, student loan interest payments, mortgage interest payments, and other deductions listed on the deduction worksheet on page 3 of the W-4.

Be careful not to claim deductions you are not entitled to, as this will cause you to owe more money to the IRS later on and possibly a $500 penalty.

How to Fill Out W-4 if Married, Both Work, and Pregnant

If you are pregnant, you can only claim the child as a dependent after it is born. If a parent is pregnant during 2021 but is not born until 2022, the child can only be claimed as a dependent in 2022, not 2021.

Even if your child was not born until December 31, you can claim the baby as a dependent for the whole year.

FAQs

Here are the answers to some common questions about completing a W-4 when married and you both work.

No, you would still enter the total number of pay periods during the year.

Yes, you can file another W-4 at any time during the year.

If married, file jointly and claim 2 allowances at a minimum, one for each person. You can claim additional allowances for each dependent.

You may be required to withhold less from your paycheck if you change from single to married filing jointly.

One is neither better nor worse than the other. If you are married, you must claim to be married. If you are married, you can choose to file jointly or separately. Jointly often offers a higher tax refund and receives more tax benefits from the IRS.

If you are legally married, then you cannot file as single.

Only one parent can claim a child on their return, whether you are filing jointly or separately. Either parent may claim the child, but typically the spouse with the higher income will claim them.

You will use gross pay to calculate for the W-4.