The hallmark of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) was supposed to be its simplicity. By eliminating the personal exemption amounts and doubling the standard deduction, the theory was that taxpayers would have a tax return that was so simple that it could fit onto a postcard. In the weeks and months following the TCJA, that postcard got a little bit bigger (you can see more on the postcard here). At the same time, the form W-4 got a little bit smaller. But, tax practitioners warn, smaller doesn’t mean easier. Simple, it turns out, is still hard.
Here's what you need to know. In February, the Internal Revenue Service released an updated form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate (downloads as a pdf). At the time, the IRS cautioned that if you need to make changes to your withholding for 2018, you complete the form W-4 and submit to your employer as soon as possible: You do not send the form W-4 to the IRS.
At the same time, the IRS advised taxpayers to take advantage of the new Withholding Calculator which reflects changes under the new tax law. (You can find the new withholding calculator on the IRS website here.) "Withholding issues can be complicated, and the calculator is designed to help employees make changes based on their personal financial situation," Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said. "Taking a few minutes can help taxpayers ensure they don’t have too little – or too much – withheld from their paycheck."
In June, the IRS released a draft version of an updated form W-4 - this one for 2019 - on its website (downloads as a pdf). The draft has been met with criticism from tax professionals who suggest that the new “simple” form may not protect taxpayers from claiming the wrong withholding.