Think back to your last income tax return. Did you owe Uncle Sam a lot of money, or did he give you a big refund? Whatever your situation, you can influence next year's outcome by adjusting your payroll withholding.

Remember the IRS Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, your employer asked you to complete on your first day? "The number of personal allowances you designate on Form W-4 determines the amount of federal income tax withheld from each paycheck," explains TaxACT spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. "The total amount withheld for the year is credited against your income tax liability."

You can modify your withholding at any time of year by submitting a new Form W-4 to your employer. In order to minimize taxes owed at the time of filing, set your allowances to zero on your W-4. To increase take-home pay but potentially owe more money at tax time, increase your allowances.

Each of the following should be counted as one allowance:

  • Yourself (if no one can claim you as a dependent on a tax return)
  • Each dependent
  • You claim the child tax or child and dependent care credits on your tax return
  • Your tax return filing status is Head of Household

If you have income from multiple jobs or your spouse works, withholding is usually the most accurate when counting all allowances on the W-4 for the highest paying job. Then claim zero allowances on W-4s for all other jobs.

Fortunately, there are free and easy solutions to help you calculate the appropriate withholding. The IRS offers Publication 505 and a withholding calculator at www.irs.gov.

TaxACT also offers a free withholding calculator. "After registering for TaxACT Free Federal Edition, click on the 'Next Year' tab to answer simple questions about your allowances," says Dolmage. "TaxACT will also complete a new Form W-4 that you can print and give to your employer."

Self-employed individuals should calculate net income and estimated taxes owed each quarter. Submit your quarterly estimated taxes along with Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals.

To adjust withholding for unemployment or social security payments, give Form W-4V to the payer. Submit Form W-4P to payers of pension, annuity and other deferred compensation.

In addition to reviewing your withholding when you get a new job, it's important to review your withholding whenever experiencing a major life change, such as:

  • Marriage or divorce
  • Birth or adoption
  • Increase or decrease in income e.g., you get a part-time weekend job or spouse becomes stay-at-home parent
  • Buy a house
  • Retirement
  • Change in interest or dividend income
  • Change in itemized deductions

If you live in an income-taxing state and want to adjust your state withholding, you'll need to complete the appropriate withholding form for your state.

For more information about withholding and Form W-4, visit www.irs.gov. Learn more about TaxACT's free federal solution at www.taxact.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 2 Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2014 by February 2. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 2 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 2, file and pay your tax by April 15.

February 2 All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2014. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

February 2Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

February 2 Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

February 2 Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2014 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. If your undeposited tax is $500 r less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 2Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the fourth quarter of 2014.

February 2 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during December 2014.

February 2Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in December 2014.

February 10Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer - Details

February 11Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of January.

February 13Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of January.

February 17Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) - Details

February 17Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year - Details

February 17All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 17Publication 509 (2015)
All payments reported on Form 1099S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 14 of Form 1099MISC.

February 17Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 17Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 18All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2014, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 25Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of January.

February 27Regular method taxes.
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of February.

View More Tax Dates