General Question

seekingwolf's avatar

How much tax should be taken out of my paycheck?

Asked by seekingwolf (10410points) July 25th, 2012

I work at a hospital. I work nights and get paid hourly wages. I don’t make much. Depending on how much I work, I’ll make around 20–22k a year, before taxes. I get paid once every 2 weeks.

My first couple paychecks have been kinda strange. I have a little bit of state tax taken out, and some social security and whatnot, but the last couple times have NO federal tax taken out. My first check was over $400 (I worked 40 for one week) and only $30 was taken out for state tax and other taxes. I went over my W-2 with someone and it was correct. I’m really confused.

Since I’m moved out in, I can file as “Head of Household” because I’m single (not married) and contribute at least 50% toward expenses of the household. This is also my only job. I have no dependents, no children. I live with my boyfriend. So that’s how my W-2 was filled out and thus far, NO federal taxes have been withheld.

I did the IRS tax calculator and they said I’d owe something between 1–2k a year given my information, so WHY is no tax being withheld? I can’t figure it out. I’ve called work and they don’t know, especially since my W-2 was filled out correctly.

What do I do? I’m tempted to just put down nothing so they take out more than they need so I’d get a huge refund, but I have to live on this, so I can’t afford them taking tons out month after month.

I really hate paying taxes but I’d rather this stuff get deducted from my paycheck than owe the IRS a hefty bill at the end of the year. Noooo thank you.

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27 Answers

josie's avatar

Why are so many people anxious to give the fucking IRS money for free before they are entitled to it? But if you want to do that, claim fewer deductions on your W-4

seekingwolf's avatar

So what do you think I should? Just continue on paying no fed tax and then owe the IRS 1–2k suddenly at the end of the year? I can’t afford that. My parents told me that that’s what would happen and the IRS would eat me alive if I don’t pay that lump sum asap. I’d rather have it deducted now little by little, which I can afford.

josie's avatar

@seekingwolf No. Put it someplace that earns interest, then pay the tax when it is due and keep what is left of the interest (after taxes) for yourself. It involves a little bit of self discipline. If you do not possess any of that, then smile and give the assholes your money.

seekingwolf's avatar

I have no issue with doing that. However, I’m very unsure how much I should save, should I do that. I wish the taxes would come out automatically so I didn’t have to guess. According to the IRS calculator, I owe “x” (WITH deductions, I put down Head of Household on the calculator) but then nothing comes out with the W-2 on my taxes, with my deductions…?

I did call Payroll at my work but sadly, they had no clue.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You’re being withheld as head of household, but you’re not elgible for that unless you have a dependent, such as a child. You need to change that ASAP. There are credits for kids that take care of your tax liability. You’re going to get hit with a bill when you file.

seekingwolf's avatar


Omigosh, really? I talked to Payroll before I filled out the W-2 and they told me that if I lived on my own and was single, I could file as Head of Household, and I told them several times that I had NO children (and none coming either).

I’m going to re-do my taxes then so I can file as “single” and “only have one job”.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I assume you are claiming all of your allowed exemptions on your W-4.

If you have poor money handling skills lower your exemptions on the W-4
True you will be giving the Federal government an interest free loan of some of your money over the year, but you will not be hit with a tax bill on April 15 that you have no money to cover. And you will get your money back.

If you are a good money manager it is better to keep your own money and pay the tax on April 15.

When I started working I claimed no exemptions and the IRS took a large chunk of my money. Now I am financially secure enough that I claim all but one of my exemptions and generally end up owing or being owed under $100 either way.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@seekingwolf Someone in HR doesn’t know their stuff. Plus if you walk through the instructions for the federal W-4 it will not withhold enough taxes so you end up owing at the end of the year.

seekingwolf's avatar

Bummer…Thank you for the advice though. Sounds like I got some bad advice. I plan to go down to Payroll tomorrow morning (after I get off my night shift tonight, heh) and get new forms and fill them out again and submit.

Well, I think perhaps, since I have 2 exemptions, I’ll just put down one so that way I’ll pay something and then can claim the other exemption later so maybe I’ll get a little bit of a refund. Cause I have no idea what I actually owe so I’d rather get a little refund later then have to pay up later.

Does this sound like a good idea? I’m a total newb at this.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@seekingwolf I’m guessing you have student loan interest and/or tuition expenses. Those will help. Plus if you haven’t owed taxes they let you slide on the estimated tax penalty the first year if you owe more than $1000.

seekingwolf's avatar


I have no student loan debt. I’m taking a couple part-time classes but I pay them out of an education fund and don’t use financial aid. So I can’t claim any student exemptions.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Okay, good thing you asked the question. Good luck.

seekingwolf's avatar

Thank you very much for the form. I will fill this out now and just print it out and turn it in. You have saved me a chunk of time. Very helpful. thanks.

Blueroses's avatar

If your employer does direct deposit, you could open a savings/money market account and have 10–15% of your pay deposited into that before you even see it. Use that to pay your tax bill.

But, knowing how it is when you’re first starting out and new at budgeting and there never seems to be enough “pay” in your check; I know it’s too tempting to look at that savings account as “your money”.

Better to let the IRS hold it for you and get a no-interest refund, than to get a surprise hit at tax time.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@seekingwolf Here’s another suggestion. You will learn to live on what’s in your net pay each check. When you get a raise in pay, put part of it in an automatic deduction to some type of savings account. You won’t even notice it and it will accumulate for you. Just make sure it comes out automatically.

seekingwolf's avatar

I don’t know when I’ll get a raise (I just get pay differentials cause of my night hours) but yes, that’s a good idea. Right now, I’m doing okay and have been putting away a few hundreds into savings (I have some saved up for emergencies) but I get worried that tax will take that away. I can afford a 10–15% deduction into another account. I already take out $100 each month to give to my boyfriend, since he alone pays rent/utilities (always $625/month) while I cover groceries, internet, etc…I end up spending 100 less than he does on rent so I just give it to him to make it fair.

Right now, I’m thinking I’ll just claim one or no exemptions and deal with it. My boyfriend claims nothing and a good chunk gets taken out of his paycheck. He’s not happy about it but he should get a big refund.

seekingwolf's avatar

I mean, at the end of the day, I can always lower my personal expenses and live off of less. I like to cook a lot at home but still enjoy going out once in a while but I could forgo that if I needed to.

Right now, I’m planning on changing my hours so I can work one weekend night a week (not every other) and that pays BIG and everyone hates those shifts but I honestly don’t care. It’s money. That should help me out a little.

Blueroses's avatar

I work on differential too. It’s nice, isn’t it?

But I’ll tell you how I got out of debt and accumulated a nice savings in a short time. Got rid of credit and debit cards. Take out a set amount of cash (after bills and groceries) for incidentals for the week and live on that. Make choices about what you really want to spend it on. It’s a lot easier to do, looking at cash than it is to just whip out a card. You lose track with cards.

seekingwolf's avatar

I love working on a differential. I make 2.50 extra on all my nights, and 3.50 on the weekends. It’s ridiculous. I like working nights. I think I’d be hurting if I worked days, haha.

I have a debit card, no credit card (never had one). I like that cash idea a lot for “other” expenses, like going out. Maybe I can set aside a small amount each week and my boyfriend and I can decide to go out on that…either out to many cheap places or just one nicer place in a week. That is a great idea.

All i can say is thank goodness neither one of us goes to bars to drink. We like some alcohol but buy occasionally with leftover grocery money. So much cheaper.

bkcunningham's avatar

It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders, @seekingwolf. :-) Keep that fantastic attitude.

Rarebear's avatar

Enough so you don’t get a penalty at the end of the year.

jerv's avatar

I earn about the same, though I am married, so I can get away with having slightly less pulled out. For me, that is ~$110/pay period.

@josie Self-discipline goes out the window when utility disconnect notices come in while doctors bills go into collections. It’s easy to say that when you are rich and/or catastrophe-free, but for those of us who do not lead charmed lives with fairy tale endings aplenty, it’s best to never see that money than to have it someplace where it can be used as a short-term ass-saver. Unless you’ve ever called in sick simply because you couldn’t afford the gas to get to work despite not eating for 2–3 days to buy as much gas as you could earlier in the week, you’re just an ideologue with Romney-esque detachment from reality.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@seekingwolf Most businesses I know of don’t do their own payroll. They send it out to a company like ADP. There maybe a problem with the service. Check your pay-stub for a name other than the hospital. Call the service and ask for customer relations.

seekingwolf's avatar

I went in yesterday after my night shift and redid my tax paperwork (for federal only). I have 2 allowances on state taxes (not too worried about those) but now NONE for federal. I was told it will take effect on this upcoming pay period so I should see what happens next Friday. If it’s too much, I’ll put back ONE (but not two) exception and if it’s okay, then I’ll just leave it be. The payroll lady told me that I could always come back in and adjust it if I felt it was too much. I think I’ll do that.

@Tropical_Willie That’s a great idea. Unfortunately, I don’t see any other name on the paystub, I just looked. They may do their own payroll then. I’m not really sure.

seekingwolf's avatar


So I ended up removing all allowances from my federal and state taxes. For a $820 paycheck, I had a bit less than $200 taken out. Not bad and I know ill get a lot back when I file my taxes and show the government how poor I am because Im going to claim as much as I legally can. I plan to file for state tax refund too.

I bate paying taxes but I’d rather do this than risk with guesswork. I’m totally new at this.

kritiper's avatar

Assume 30%.

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