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.

Money in hand

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, 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 federal solution at www.TaxAct.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

April 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during March, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

April 10 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of March.

April 14 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of March.

April 18 — Individuals
File a 2016 income tax return (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6 month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For more information, see Form 4868. Then, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ by October 16.

April 18 — Corporations
File a 2016 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due. Details

April 18 — Individuals
If you are not paying your 2017 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2017 estimated tax. Use Form 1040ES.

April 18 — Household Employers
f you paid cash wages of $1,800 or more in 2016 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H Details

April 18 — Corporations
Deposit the first installment of estimated income tax for 2017 Details

April 18 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 18 — Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 18 — Household employers
If you paid cash wages of $1,900 or more in 2016 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H (Form 1040). If you are required to file a federal income tax return (Form 1040), file Schedule H (Form 1040) with the return and report any household employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H (Form 1040) if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2015 or 2016 to household employees. Also, report any income tax you withheld for your household employees.

April 27 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of March.

April 29 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of April.

View More Tax Dates