Locking In Lock-In Letters in 2020

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced (in Notice 2020-03) that it is redesigning Withholding Compliance Lock-In Letters 2800C and 2808C to include new instructions as it relates to the redesigned Form W-4 for 2020.

The Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 (TCJA) changed withholding calculations by eliminating allowances, and in response, the IRS redesigned Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate for 2020. The Service is also redesigning the Withholding Compliance Lock-in Letters to reflect these changes. Effective January 1, 2020, TCJA mandated withholding calculations to consider credits, adjustments and deductions to factor a dollar value. The allowance withholding method and the TCJA withholding method use the same tax tables. For now, employers and payroll providers will use the allowance method as directed in the letters they receive to calculate employees’ withholding per pay period. After the lock-in letters redesign is complete, they should follow the new TCJA directions.

Withholding Compliance Lock-In Letters 2800C and 2808C are being redesigned to include the new lock-in rate instructions. Instead of providing the employer with the number of allowances by which withholding would be reduced, the letters will provide employers with the withholding status and withholding rate and any annual reductions to withholding or additional amount to withhold per pay period as a dollar value.

The format shown below is what the withholding instructions will look like on the redesigned 2800C lock-in letter:

  • Withholding Status (Filing Status): Single
  • Withholding rate: Form W-4, Step 2(C), Checkbox (higher withholding rate)
  • Annual reductions from withholding (Form W-4 line 3): $0.00
  • Other income (Form W-4 line 4(a)): $0.00
  • Deductions (Form W-4 line 4 (b)): $0.00

Additional amount to withhold per paycheck (Form W-4 line 4(c)): $0.00

The format shown below is what the withholding instructions will look like on the redesigned 2808C modification letter:

  • Withholding Status (Filing Status): Single (or Married or Head of Household)
  • Withholding rate: Standard withholding rate
  • Annual reductions from withholding (Form W-4 line 3): $0.00
  • Other income (Form W-4 line 4(a)): $0.00
  • Deductions (Form W-4 line 4 (b)): $0.00
  • Additional amount to withhold per paycheck (Form W-4 line 4(c)): $0.00

Until the redesigned Letters 2800C and 2808C are cleared for publishing, the IRS Withholding Compliance Unit will continue to issue the Withholding Compliance Lock-in Letters using the old allowance withholding method and employers should follow the letters as directed.

Employers who have already converted their payroll systems to the new 2020 withholding methods can input values to Step 4(a) and 4(b) as follows:

  • 4(a) – 12,900 for MFJ or 8,600 for all others; and
  • 4(b) – Number of allowances, as specified in the letter, multiplied by 4,300.

For additional guidance see the IRS webpage Updated Withholding Compliance Questions and Answers

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Lock In Letter Guidance Updated by IRS

The new Form W-4 just keeps on providing more and more info for us payroll professionals.  We now turn to handling lock-in letters.  The IRS has updated its FAQs to explain how to handle the lock-in letters using the new 2020 Form W-4.  As a quick review on the background of lock-in letters.

If the IRS determines that an employee does not have enough withholding, they will notify the employer to increase the amount of withholding tax by issuing a “lock-in” letter that specifies the withholding arrangement permitted for the employee. The employer will also receive a copy for the employee that identifies the withholding arrangement permitted and the process by which the employee can provide additional information to the IRS for purposes of determining the appropriate withholding arrangement. If the employee still works for for the employer, the employer must furnish the employee copy to the employee. If the employee NO LONGER WORKS for the employer, NO ACTION IS REQUIRED. However, if the employee should return to work within twelve (12) months, the employer should begin withholding income tax from the employee’s wages based on the withholding arrangement stated in this letter. The employee will be given a period of time before the lock-in rate is effective to submit for approval to the IRS a new Form W-4 and a statement supporting the claims made on the Form W-4 that would decrease federal income tax withholding. The employee must send the Form W-4 and statement directly to the IRS office designated on the lock-in letter. The employer must withhold tax in accordance with the lock-in letter as of the date specified in the lock-in letter, unless otherwise notified by the IRS. The employer will be required to take this action no sooner than 60 calendar days after the date of the lock-in letter. Once a lock-in rate is effective, an employer cannot decrease withholding unless approved by the IRS.

The new FAQs include:

  • how to handle revised W-4s after the lock-in letter is received
  • How to handle a modification letter
  • Handling employee self service portals and lock-in letter

The site still includes info on how to handle lock-in letters using the 2019 and prior forms.

 

Last Day for Discount Registration to Upcoming Webinar

Only one day left to register for our upcoming webinar Payroll Lecture Series #101: Handling IRS Forms in 2020 and receive your 10% discount as a subscriber to my blog.  You don’t want to miss this information-packed webinar on the IRS forms for 2020 including the new and improved (?) Form W-4.  Register today and use coupon code VVJECAXH at checkout to receive your discount.

IRS Issues Proposed Regs for Withholding

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service have issued proposed regulations updating the federal income tax withholding rules to reflect changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and other legislation.

In general, the proposed regulations, available now in the Federal Register, are designed to accommodate the redesigned Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, to be used starting in 2020, and the related tables and computational procedures in Publication 15-T, Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods. The proposed regulations and related guidance do not require employees to furnish a new Form W-4 solely because of the redesign of the Form W-4.

Employees who have a Form W-4 on file with their employer from years prior to 2020 generally will continue to have their withholding determined based on that form.

To assist with computation of income tax withholding, the redesigned Form W-4 no longer uses an employee’s marital status and withholding allowances, which were tied to the value of the personal exemption. Due to TCJA changes, employees can no longer claim personal exemptions. Instead, income tax withholding using the redesigned Form W-4 will generally be based on the employee’s expected filing status and standard deduction for the year.

The Form W-4 is also redesigned to make it easier for employees with more than one job at the same time or married employees who file jointly with their working spouses to withhold the proper amount of tax.

In addition, employees can choose to have itemized deductions, the child tax credit, and other tax benefits reflected in their withholding for the year. As in the past, employees can choose to have an employer withhold a flat-dollar extra amount each pay period to cover, for example, income they receive from other sources that is not subject to withholding. Under the proposed regulations, employees now also have the option to request that employers withhold additional tax by reporting income from other sources not subject to withholding on the Form W-4.

The proposed regulations permit employees to use the new IRS Tax Withholding Estimator (discussed in our previous blog)  to help them accurately fill out Form W-4. As in the past, taxpayers may use the worksheets in the instructions to Form W-4 and in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, to assist them in filling out this form correctly.

The proposed regulations also address a variety of other income tax withholding issues. For example, the proposed regulations provide flexibility in how employees who fail to furnish Forms W-4 should be treated. Starting in 2020, employers must treat new employees who fail to furnish a properly completed Form W-4 as single and withhold using the standard deduction and no other adjustments. Before 2020, employers in this situation were required to withhold as if the employee was single and claiming zero allowances.

In addition, the proposed regulations provide rules on when employees must furnish a new Form W-4 for changed circumstances, update the regulations for the lock-in letter program, and eliminate the combined income tax and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) tax withholding tables.

Treasury and IRS welcome public comment on these proposed regulations. See the proposed regulations for details. Updates on TCJA implementation can be found on the Tax Reform page of IRS.gov.

Discount on Upcoming Webinar for Blog Subscribers

Our first lecture/webinar of 2020 will be held on February 28, 2020. The topic is Handling IRS Forms in 2020.  My blog subscribers will receive a 10% discount if you register before February 21, 2020.  The price of this webinar is $149.  The topics covered include:

  • Completely new and revamped 2020 Form W-4, step by step review
  • 2020 Form W-2, box by box review
  • 2020 Form 941, line by line review
  • How to correct the 941 using the 941X
  • Correcting the Form W-2 with Form W-2c

This lecture will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 10am Pacific to Noon Pacific.  It has been submitted to the APA for 2.0 RCHs.

As with all my lectures, my subscribers will receive a 10% discount by using the coupon code VVJECAXH at checkout.  But you must register before February 21, 2020 to receive the discount.

IRS Tax Estimator Gets Latest Update

The Internal Revenue Service has launched a new and improved Tax Withholding Estimator, designed to help workers target the refund they want by having the right amount of federal income tax taken out of their pay. The Tax Withholding Estimator, now available on IRS.gov, incorporates the changes from the redesigned Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, that employees can fill out and give to their employers this year. The IRS urges everyone to see if they need to adjust their withholding by using the Tax Withholding Estimator to perform a Paycheck Checkup. If an adjustment is needed, the Tax Withholding Estimator gives specific recommendations on how to fill out their employer’s online Form W-4 or provides the PDF form with key parts filled out.

To help workers more effectively adjust their withholding, the improved Tax Withholding Estimator features a customized refund slider that allows users to choose the refund amount they prefer from a range of different refund amounts. The exact refund range shown is customized based on the tax information entered by that user. Based on the refund amount selected, the Tax Withholding Estimator will give the worker specific recommendations on how to fill out their W-4. This new feature allows users who seek either larger refunds at the end of the year or more money on their paychecks throughout the year to have just the right amount withheld to meet their preference.

The new Tax Withholding Estimator also features several other enhancements, including one allowing anyone who expects to receive a bonus to indicate whether tax will be withheld. In addition, improvements added last summer continue to be available, including mobile-friendly design, handling of pension income, Social Security benefits and self-employment tax.

Starting in 2020, income tax withholding is no longer based on an employee’s marital status and withholding allowances, tied to the value of the personal exemption. Instead, income tax withholding is generally based on the worker’s expected filing status and standard deduction for the year. In addition, workers can choose to have itemized deductions, the Child Tax Credit and other tax benefits reflected in their withholding for the year. It is important for people with more than one job at a time (including families in which both spouses work) to adjust their withholding to avoid having too little withheld. Using the Tax Withholding Estimator is the most accurate way to do this.

As in the past, employees can also choose to have an employer withhold an additional flat-dollar amount each pay period to cover, for example, income they receive from the gig economy, self-employment, or other sources that is not subject to withholding. For more information about the updated Tax Withholding Estimator and the redesigned 2020 Form W-4, visit IRS.gov.

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Our new payroll lecture series for 2020 is here.  Our first lecture is on IRS forms for 2020, including Forms 941, W-2 and W-4.  It will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 10am Pacific to Noon Pacific.  Cost is only $149 for this 2-hour lecture, which has been submitted to the APA for 2 RCHs.  My blog subscribers receive a 10% discount if you register before February 21st. Use coupon code VVJECAXH at checkout to receive your discount.