Question: If an employee is not in fact married, can they claim “married” on the federal Form W-4?
Answer: They should not. However, it is the employee’s responsibility to accurately fill out the Form-W-4, and it is not up to an employer to determine if the withholding is appropriate, or if an employee’s claim of marital status is valid.
Employees who willfully supply false or fraudulent information in their W-4 may be charged under 26 U.S.C. § 7205 (Fraudulent Withholding Exemption Certificate or Failure to Supply Information). Punishment for this offense includes a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
As an employer, you should withhold federal income tax based on the status and allowances claimed on the Form W-4. However, you should advise employees that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may review withholding to ensure it is adequate, and that the IRS may direct you, as the employer, to withhold income tax for an employee at a different rate if the review indicates an employee’s withholding is inadequate. If this occurs, the employee will not be allowed to decrease their withholding unless approved by the IRS.
Time for New W-4s?
Have you reminded your employees to check that they are having the right amount of tax withheld from their paychecks? It’s a good idea for everyone to check their payroll withholding every year, but it is particularly important this year due to the big changes Congress made to the federal tax rules for 2018. Get sample language to communicate this to employees and a link to the IRS’ tax withholding calculator.