Tax Return question....

A little background…

I’m very single, and very much childless. In the past I’ve submitted W-4s with my employers stating as much - having my paychecks taxed for “single - zero exemptions.” Every Spring, I file my taxes and get a nice little return.

Well, having received my W-2 in the mail, I went to fill out my return for this year. Having gotten results that made my head spin, I examined my W-2 and pay stubs only to discover that for the past 10 months or so, I was being taxed as “Married - three exemptions.” Basically, I got more money per paycheck all of last year and now have to pay the piper.

For the record, I don’t remember ever filling out a W-4 stating that I was married. Some co-workers seem to recall our having filled out new W-4s sometime last Spring. I vaguely remember doing so, but can all but assure you that I didn’t claim to be married. I can only assume that the change was made on accident.

My question? How do I go about filing my taxes this year? I now owe just under $1000, so I don’t plan on filing until the deadline. I’m just wondering what will happen if I list myself as single for the return, but submit my W-2 that lists me as being married.

I assume that I’m such a small fish that nobody will notice, and if they do, it won’t be a big deal. As long as I update my info at work, no harm done.

Anyone know how someone in this situation should procede? Should I include a note with the return explaining things? See if I can get a copy of the last W-4 I submitted to verify whose fault it was?


I am no tax professional, but I was always under the impression that as long as you had withheld an amount close enough to what you owed it did not matter what your W-4 form says. When you got changed to
“married-three kids” didn’t you notice that your take home pay went up?

You will file your 1040 as Single with no children.

What you fill out on the W-4 only determines the formula your employer uses to withhold tax. It in no way determines how you should fill out your 1040.

Should you ever get married, have rug-rats and wish for a larger return at the end of the year, fill out a W-4 using less children or as single. Your employer would then withhold more tax then you are legally responsible for (assuming wages only income, standard deduction, etc) and it would increase the size of your return when filing.

Of course, people are going to deride this since you are giving the government an interest free loan. Of course, if you are engaged in another activity that is resulting in revenue without tax being withheld (anyone using E-Trade?!?) this could be a good thing.

Of course, now you have to come up with $1000 to foot the tax bill. You are responsible for the tax you owe. Just because your employer did not withhold enough does not mean that you do not owe it.

Your Human Resource or Payroll department (or whatever they call themselves this week) should have a copy of your W-4 on file to see what you filled out. You should also be able to fill out a new W-4 to make sure enough tax is withheld that you will not owe as much (or return to getting a refund) next year.


Thanks for the info…

Just to clarify - I know that I’m going to have to pay the $1000. I’m just wondering if I should point out the mistake when I file? Of course I’m taking care to correct the mistake with my employer, I’m just wondering if the IRS will make an issue of the fact that they weren’t taking out enough tax over the course of the year. (“Why didn’t we get our usual tax free loan from you this year?”)


For the record, no, I never noticed that my pay increased at any point. If the change ocurred around the time I think it did, my wage was both increased an decreased (decreased for leaving the night crew, increased for hitting an employment milestone.) at around the same time. Too much confusion.

As long as you owe less than $1000 there is no penalty for owing the IRS. They shouldn’t give you any trouble and there is no need to point out the difference. This has happened to me in the past and has never been a problem. (The info about this is on page 49 on the instructions that come with the Form 1040A)

If you still don’t feel comfortable why don’t you call/email the IRS to confirm? At this time of year they’ll probably respond very promptly since few people are figuring out their taxes yet.

Well, I thought that it shouldn’t matter, but I checked the IRS site.

I suggest you get a copy of last year’s W-4 from your HR group. I’ve had payroll put the wrong number into the system, and this could be what happened.