Found out the hard way about claiming 0 while married

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by puma1552, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. puma1552 macrumors 603

    Nov 20, 2008
    My wife and I are married, file taxes jointly, and both claim zero on our W-4. I assumed we were getting a nice refund this year.

    Well I found out the hard way that if you are married filing jointly and both of you claim 0, if you have a good income and little/no deductions, claiming 0 on your W-4 still results in not enough taxes being paid, and needing to pay in.

    Had to do the two earners worksheet on the W-4 to have them take even more out of my check so I don't have to pay in next year.

    Guess I can pretty much forget about ever getting a refund again unless I have some kids and buy a house and have massive deductions.

  2. MacDawg macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
  3. puma1552 thread starter macrumors 603

    Nov 20, 2008

    Curious, and I haven't looked into this, but would anything be different if we filed married but separate? I guess I don't really know why they give you two different options for filing if you are married, presumably there are specific situations where one way is more beneficial than the other.
  4. gsugolfer macrumors 6502a


    Jul 11, 2010
    Georgia, USA
    My wife and I are in a similar situation to you as far as comparable, relatively good incomes. Our first year together, I didn't tell her to withhold single/0. I did, because I knew the withholding tables are biased against equal high incomes. As for using the MFS status, it shouldn't really affect your total tax, because you can't have one spouse itemize and the other take the standard deduction. This is assuming your incomes are similar, of course - and you said they were.

    Unfortunately, we had to pay (what I consider) a decent amount for our 2011 return. We fixed that in the middle of 2012 by withholding an extra amount each paycheck through the end of the year, and got her switched over to single/0 for 2013.

    With both of us using s/0, we'll get about a $400 refund, which is about as close getting it "perfect" as you can with the amount of total tax we have to pay.
  5. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    If you can't itemize then yeah it can be painful :(

    I'm lucky that I have sufficient deductions to itemize
  6. Plutonius, Feb 2, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014

    Plutonius macrumors 604


    Feb 22, 2003
    New Hampshire, USA
    Even if you are single, if you earn a fair amount of investment income, you will still owe taxes if you claim 0. I myself would rather owe money then give the government money up front.

    If it really bothers you, have additional taxes taken out and that way you will get a refund.

    Everyone that I know who looked into this, found that it wasn't worth it to file separately. I would check with a tax preparer and see what they think.
  7. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6


    Aug 17, 2007
    Congratulations on making good money. Enjoy it!:D
  8. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    I had to pay about $1200 or so in two consecutive years not long ago. I changed my withholding to single/1 dependent (left my wife's withholding the same), and I've gotten pretty substantial refunds ever since.
  9. puma1552 thread starter macrumors 603

    Nov 20, 2008
    By that you mean married but withhold at the single rate?
  10. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    Yes, we still file "married filing jointly" on our return, but my withholding is at the single rate, plus one dependent (we have a child).
  11. Huntn macrumors P6


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    Be thankful you did not claim "2"? ;) Claiming "0" mean that more taxes are withheld, not less. So you learned the hard way what getting married does for two working spouses without deductions, not about claiming "0".
  12. puma1552 thread starter macrumors 603

    Nov 20, 2008
    How much of a difference does it make if you check the married box or the married but withhold at the single rate box on the W-4, assuming the same number of dependents in each case? I've been under the impression that it wasn't much of a difference, but maybe it is? Maybe I'll just have my wife and I both check that married but withhold at single rate box instead of withholding additional while checking the married box?
  13. gsugolfer macrumors 6502a


    Jul 11, 2010
    Georgia, USA
    Check here for the answer to that question:
  14. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    In my case, we went from owing about $1200 to getting a refund of close to $4000. We didn't change her withholding at all.

    Bear in mind, your pay checks are very noticeably smaller doing this.
  15. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    I tried comparing married filing jointly to married filing separately a few times after first getting married. Back then, jointly worked out better.

    Well, with that caveat, perhaps you're correct. Our state withholding rate is absurd. We claim extra exemptions, and still get a small refund. We have the federal set up to have to pay in. After subtracting the state refund, we pay between a few hundred to 1K or even higher on April 15th.

    That is, you've given the government an interest free loan. Some people like that for peace of mind. To each his own. If you like it, that's what counts.
  16. senseless macrumors 68000


    Apr 23, 2008
    Pennsylvania, USA
    High income and no home mortgage interest and property tax deductions? That's a good place to start. And, you can invest in tax managed mutual funds or tax frees. If you had children at home, you could make a case for a one income household.
  17. angelicad macrumors newbie


    Feb 19, 2018
    I’m sorry but I’m in the same situation. What really sucks about making “good money” is that after my bills, there’s hardly anything left and I promise I don’t live in a lavish mansion And drive a Bugatti. My best friend who has the same job as me (& her husband makes roughly what my husband does) always gets a refund. And usually over $1000 but I have to pay in!! Neither of us have kids and I actually bought a home this year and it still asks me to pay in about $800 total. Both my husband and I claim zero. I don’t understand and no, I don’t think it’s fair based on our tax bracket. Together we still make less than 50,000 a year.
  18. ejb190 macrumors 65816


    If two families have similar incomes and deductions, but one gets a refund and the other doesn't, than one of two things is happening: 1) One family is having more taxes withheld from income or 2) The two families are not as similar as you think.
  19. AlliFlowers Contributor


    Jan 1, 2011
    L.A. (Lower Alabama)

    Or maybe the money is not as "good" as you think. I don't believe my husband and I could make it on $50k between us. He's always had a substantial amount taken out of his paycheck and we usually get a decent refund.
  20. yaxomoxay macrumors 68030


    Mar 3, 2010
    Kinda in a similar situation, up to the point that I want to triple check. Usually we got a nice refund. :(
  21. BasicGreatGuy Contributor


    Sep 21, 2012
    In the middle of several books.
    As a general rule, don't be complaining you didn't get a big refund. The less money you get back the better. Otherwise, you have given the feds an interest free loan of your money.
  22. sk1ppyv, Feb 6, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019

    sk1ppyv macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2019
    I find your narrative a little confusing and very misleading.

    For a married couple, with regards to W4 withholding status, to get the most refund at the end of the year, claim (on the w4) withholding at S-0; to receive the least (or even to have to pay for not withholding enough) claim (on the w4) withholding of M-any number above 0.

    The W4 is filled out prior to the end of the year for that year. It tells the employer (paying establishment) what YOU DESIRE WITHHELD during the year.

    Your filing of income taxes and amount of total taxes you should be liable for are determined at the end of the year - when you file your income tax return.

    How much tax liability you have is NOT determined by the W4.

    How much of a refund you have relies upon:
    YOU OWE a TAX LIABILITY based upon your income and various deductions.
    YOU SET ASIDE monies for this burden each month throughout the year.

    Your TAX LIABILITY less Your SET ASIDE = what will be REFUNDed to you.

    YOU decided how much money to set aside each month when you filled out your W4.

    IF you want to ensure you can get a maximum refund always use S0.

    IF you want to chance it and get more take-home pay each month and still have enough withheld each month use a withholding rate of S-1,2,3,4 etc or M-0,1,2,3,4 etc.

    Just for info:
    M-0 withholds much less than S-0 because the logic is that the Married situation is needy of more money during the month to take care of responsibilities AND will get substantially more tax breaks applied at the end of the year. The more tax breaks, the lesser your tax liability.

    The numbers should be standing for how many dependents you have and will be claiming at the end of the year. They do mean something. If you have 5 children and a wife you could LEGALLY have your W4 withhold M-7 (the 5 children, the wife, and yourself). If you only have a wife and really want to get most if not all of your money (as opposed to having federal tax withheld) and think claiming on your W4 M-4 would be a good idea - WRONG!

    IF you fail to withhold sufficient monies each month and it happens that your failure was due to you claiming too many dependents on your W4, the government will not be happy. They could, and probably would fine you, AND the IRS could make you pay quarterly taxes next year (rather than just filing once per year) with sufficient amounts so that you would not again owe taxes at the end of the year.

    Bottom line:
    The W4 is the tool for you to have Federal Income Tax funds withheld from every paycheck.
    Never claim more (the number after the S- or M-) than the dependents you legally can claim at the yearend.
    If you do not make tons of money, and if you can (financially afford to), always claim 0 as your number and try to claim withholding as S (as opposed to M) to ensure you have a decent refund (monies over withheld compared to your Tax liability) coming at the end of the year Income Tax Refund time.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 6, 2019 ---
    If you don't care to read all that:

    If you do not make a bunch of money and do NOT have lots of investments, the best option to receive the biggest Refund Check at the beginning of next year

    CLAIM on your W4 S-0
  23. Gutwrench Contributor


    Jan 2, 2011
  24. Euroamerican macrumors regular


    May 27, 2010
    Honestly, I don't remember how many I claimed. I think it was probably just 1, even though I am married with no children.

    I'd rather have them take out a bit more, rather than a bit less, than what I will owe on tax day.
  25. Dodgeman macrumors 65816

    Nov 30, 2016
    Older thread for sure, but I wouldn't call 50k between two ppl necessarily good money but then again I could be wrong.

Share This Page