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KJ94
Level 1

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

I share custody of my son with his mother. We each claim him every other year - I claim him in odd years and she claims him in even years. When I claim him my filing status is head of household but when she claims him, my filing status is single. When I did my 2020 taxes (not claiming my son), I noticed my employer did not take any federal taxes out which resulted in me having to pay. I asked my employer about this and they gave me a new W4 to fill out. I am questioning which filing status to choose - single or head of household? I was going to choose head of household since that will be my filing status for 2021 taxes (claiming my son) but then I wondered if I would have to fill out a new W4 next year and change it to single since I won't be claiming my son for 2022. I just want to make sure I have enough taxes withheld so I am not paying again next year. Please help!

2 Best answer

Accepted Solutions
JohnB5677
Employee Tax Expert
Intuit Approved!

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

If you leave your W-4 status as not claiming your son you will have a higher tax withdrawn and not owe at the end of the year.

 

TurboTax also gives you a calculator to prepare a W-4.  You can alternate and submit it to your employer each year. 

 

If you are trying to calculate W-4 for the year:

  • Start at Other Tax Situations
  • Scroll down to Other Tax Forms
  • Choose Form W-4 and Estimated Taxes
  • Continue through the interview
**Say "Thanks" by clicking the thumb icon in a post
**Mark the post that answers your question by clicking on "Mark as Best Answer"

View solution in original post

Opus 17
Level 15

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

If you list the child as living in your home more than half the year when the child does not live in your home more than half the year you are breaking the law.

If the child lives in your home more than half the nights of the year, you are always allowed to file as head of household. The difference is whether you are filing head of household with a $2000 child tax credit or head of household without a $2000 child tax credit.


If the child does not live in your home more than half the nights of the year, you must always file as single. The difference is whether you file single with a $2000 child tax credit or single without a $2000 child tax credit.

 

Either one of those situations certainly might call for the need to adjust your W-4.  If you only filed one W-4 and indicated that you had no dependents, then you would break even on the years you don’t claim your child and get a very large refund on the years you do claim your child. If you want to more or less break even every year and get the extra money in your paycheck during the year instead of as a refund, then you would need to file a new W-4 each January to account for the situation that you expect on the tax return at the end of that year.

 

*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*

View solution in original post

6 Replies
macuser_22
Level 15

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

You can only claim HOH if the child physically lived with you more then half the year.

 


There is no such thing in the Federal tax law as 50/50, split, or joint custody. The IRS only recognizes physical custody (which parent the child lived with the greater part, but over half, of the tax year. That parent is the custodial parent; the other parent is the noncustodial parent.)

Who can claim the exemption and credits depends on who is the custodial parent. (By the IRS definition of custodial parent for tax purposes - this is not the same as the legal custody that a court might grant.).

The test that the IRS uses to determine the custodial parent is where the child lived for more than 1/2 (or greater part) of the year. The IRS will go so far as to require counting the nights spend in each household - that person is the custodial parent for tax purposes (if exactly equal and more than 183 days - The custodial parent is the parent with the highest AGI, if less than 183 days then neither parent has custody so the child cannot be claimed by either parent). And yes they are that picky.

See Custodial parent and noncustodial parent  in Pub 501

https://www.irs.gov/publications/p501#en_US_2018_publink1000220906

Only the Custodial parent can claim: (Child would be listed as non-dependent EIC & CC only)
-Head of Household
-The Earned Income Credit
-The Child and Dependent Care Credit
-The Health Coverage Tax Credit

The non custodial parent can only claim: (Child would be listed as dependent)
- The child as a dependent
- The Child Tax Credit or credit for other dependents

But only if specifically specified in a pre-2009 divorce decree, separation agreement or the custodial spouse releases the exemption with a signed 8332 form - after 2009 the IRS only accepts a signed 8332 form that must be attached to the non-custodial parents tax return.


**Disclaimer: This post is for discussion purposes only and is NOT tax advice. The author takes no responsibility for the accuracy of any information in this post.**
AmeliesUncle
Level 12

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

But assuming that you have the same filing status every year (as macuser pointed out), you still may want to adjust your W-4 each year to include (or remove) the dependent.   If the dependent is under age 17, keeping the dependent on the W-4 during a year that you do not claim the dependent would result in about a $2000 difference in taxes.

KJ94
Level 1

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

@macuser_22 Thank you for your response but I think you misunderstood what I was asking. I understand how the IRS determines who is the custodial parent each year. I claim him in odd years, per our parenting contract, so I list him as living with me 7+ months out of the year. In those odd years (such as 2019), I use the HOH filing status. But when his mother claims him (for 2020), I use the single filing status. That is not the problem. My question has to do with the W4. The new W4 only asks you what your anticipated filing status will be. Where I will be claiming his for the 2021 tax season, I am thinking I should select HOH. My question is do I need to fill out a new W4 at the beginning of 2022 and select the single filing status since I will not be claiming my son for that tax year?

 

@AmeliesUncle I was wondering how each filing status would affect my tax withholdings each year. To be honest, I can't remember what I chose on my last W4 and I ended up not having any federal tax withheld for 2020 which resulted in me having to pay taxes this year. I am trying to get this straightened out with my employer to see if a mistake was made.

 

Thank you both for your responses. I am just trying to make sure I am getting the correct amount withheld to avoid paying again. (FYI - the W4 no longer asks you how many exemptions/allowances you would be claiming. Something I didn't know until now.)

JohnB5677
Employee Tax Expert
Intuit Approved!

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

If you leave your W-4 status as not claiming your son you will have a higher tax withdrawn and not owe at the end of the year.

 

TurboTax also gives you a calculator to prepare a W-4.  You can alternate and submit it to your employer each year. 

 

If you are trying to calculate W-4 for the year:

  • Start at Other Tax Situations
  • Scroll down to Other Tax Forms
  • Choose Form W-4 and Estimated Taxes
  • Continue through the interview
**Say "Thanks" by clicking the thumb icon in a post
**Mark the post that answers your question by clicking on "Mark as Best Answer"

View solution in original post

Opus 17
Level 15

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

If you list the child as living in your home more than half the year when the child does not live in your home more than half the year you are breaking the law.

If the child lives in your home more than half the nights of the year, you are always allowed to file as head of household. The difference is whether you are filing head of household with a $2000 child tax credit or head of household without a $2000 child tax credit.


If the child does not live in your home more than half the nights of the year, you must always file as single. The difference is whether you file single with a $2000 child tax credit or single without a $2000 child tax credit.

 

Either one of those situations certainly might call for the need to adjust your W-4.  If you only filed one W-4 and indicated that you had no dependents, then you would break even on the years you don’t claim your child and get a very large refund on the years you do claim your child. If you want to more or less break even every year and get the extra money in your paycheck during the year instead of as a refund, then you would need to file a new W-4 each January to account for the situation that you expect on the tax return at the end of that year.

 

*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*

View solution in original post

Opus 17
Level 15

I claim my son every other year so my filing status changes every year. Do I need to change my W4 every year to match my filing status?

The only way your situation as you described is legal, is if you and the other parent actually adjust the child‘s living schedule so that it physically lives in one parent’s home more than half the nights of the year, and the next year it physically lives in the other parent‘s home help more than half the nights of the year.

 

In that case you would switch from filing head of household with one dependent, to single with no dependents, and that will cause a very large swing in your tax bill and it would be a very good idea for you to file a new W-4 each January.

*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*
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