IRS Form W-4P Instructions

If you’ve just started receiving a pension or annuity payments, your payer might ask you to complete IRS Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Periodic Pension or Annuity Payments.

In this article, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about this tax form, including:

  • How to understand and complete IRS Form W-4P
  • Adjustments you can make based upon your income, deductions, or tax credits
  • Frequently asked questions

Let’s start with a step by step review of IRS Form W-4P.

How do I complete IRS Form W-4P?

There are five steps to completing this W-4P form:

  • Step 1: Enter Personal Information
  • Step 2: Income From a Job and/or Multiple Pensions/Annuities (Including a Spouse’s Job/Pension/Annuity)
  • Step 3: Claim Dependent and Other Credits
  • Step 4: Other Adjustments
  • Step 5: Sign Here

Let’s walk through each step, one at a time.

Step 1: Enter Personal Information

In this first step, you’ll enter your personal information.

Step 1(a)

Enter the following information

  • First name & initial
  • Last name
  • Mailing address, including city, state, and zip code

Step 1(b)

Enter your Social Security number (SSN) as it appears on your Social Security card. If, for some reason, the name on your Social Security card doesn’t match your name, then you should check your earnings history with the Social Security Administration to make sure you’re receiving the appropriate credit for your Social Security withholding.

If you’re missing your Social Security card, you can request a new copy by filing Form SS-5, Application for Social Security Card.

irs form w-4p, step 1: Enter personal information

Step 1(c)

Check the correct marital status. You can choose between:

  • Single or married filing separately
  • Married filing jointly or qualifying surviving spouse
  • Head of household
    • Only available if you are unmarried and you pay more than 50% of the costs to maintain a home for yourself and a qualifying individual

According to the form instructions, your selected marital status will be used to determine:

  • Your standard deduction, and
  • Tax rates used to calculate your tax withholding

Standard deductions for tax year 2024 are listed below.

2024 Standard Deductions

According to the IRS, below are the 2024 standard deductions by tax filing status:

Filing statusStandard deduction amount
Single$14,600
Married filing separately$14,600
Married filing jointly$29,200
Head of household$21,900
2024 standard deduction amounts

Step 2: Income From a Job and/or Multiple Pensions/Annuities (Including a Spouse’s Job/Pension/Annuity)

The form instructions state that for Steps 2-4, you should only complete the ones that apply to your tax situation.

Specifically, this means that you should only complete Step 2 if:

  • You have income from a job
  • If you have more than one pension or annuity
  • You are married filing a joint tax return, and both spouses receive income, either from a job, pension, or annuity payments

In this situation, you have the choice between one of 2 federal income tax withholding methods:

  • Use the IRS tax withholding estimator to calculate your federal income tax withholding, or
  • Complete the steps outlined in Step 2

Let’s evaluate each option a little more closely, starting with the tax estimator tool.

Use The Tax Estimator On The IRS Website

You can use the online tax estimator, located on the IRS website, to help calculate your tax withholding, which will also help you with Steps 3 & 4, below.

The form instructions state that this is the most accurate withholding method of the options available to you, particularly if you have self-employment income.

Below is an instructional YouTube video on how to use the online tax withholding tool.

Bottom line: The IRS tax withholding estimator tool can help you calculate the correct tax payments.

Complete the steps outlined in Step 2

If the online withholding tool isn’t for you, then you might be able to simply complete the items in Step 2, then move on. Here’s how.

Step 2(b)(i)

If you and/or your spouse have one or more jobs, then you should enter the following information in Step 2(b)(i):

Otherwise, enter ‘0.’

Step 2(b)(ii)

If you and/or your spouse have other pensions or annuities that pay less than this one, then enter the total annual taxable payments from all lower-paying pensions & annuities.

Otherwise, enter ‘0.’

Step 2(b)(iii)

Add Steps 2(b)(i) and 2(b)(ii) and enter the total here.

Step 2: Income from a job and or multiple pensions/annuities (including spouse's job/pension/annuity)
Tax tip

Because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS has dramatically redesigned IRS Forms W-4 and Forms W-4P. The IRS has also created new withholding rules which have refined federal income tax withholding methods.

You may need to resubmit Form W-4 and/or Form W-4P for more accurate withholdings.

Submit a new IRS Form W-4P if either of the following apply:

  • You have not updated your tax withholding since 2021, or
  • This is a new pension or annuity that pays less than the others

Submit a new Form W-4 for your job if you have not updated your tax withholding certificate since 2019.

Move on to Step 3 if:

  • Step 2(b)(i) is blank, and
  • This pension or annuity pays more than the others

Otherwise, skip down to Step 4c to determine any extra tax withholding you’d like to apply.

Step 3: Claim Dependent and Other Credits

The Internal Revenue Service suggests that you complete Steps 3-4(b) only if Step 2(b)(i) is blank and this is the highest periodic pension or annuity that you have.

You only need to complete Step 3 if you are eligible for the child tax credit or credit for other dependents on Schedule 8812.

irs form w-4p, step 3: Claim dependent and other credits

Child Tax Credit Or Credit For Other Dependents

To qualify for the child tax credit, your child must:

  • Be under age 17 as of December 31 of the current year
  • Be your dependent who generally lives with you for more than half the tax year
  • Have a Social Security number

You may be able to claim a tax credit for other dependents if you cannot claim the child tax credit. This could include an older child or a qualifying relative.

In Step 3, you’ll multiply the number of qualifying children by $2,000. Enter this amount in the top row.

Next, multiply the number of dependents that you can claim by $500. Enter the total in the next line.

Other tax credits

You can also enter other tax credits that you may be eligible for at the bottom of Step 3. Below is a partial list of tax credits that you may enter here, as well as the associated tax form:

You can find a more comprehensive list of available tax credits on Schedule 3, Additional Credits & Payments.

Finally, add the total amount of tax credits (including any other tax credits you may be eligible for) in Step 3.

Step 4: Other Adjustments

Step 4 is optional, depending on whether your have other sources of income or tax deductions to consider, or if you simply want to elect extra withholdings. Let’s start with other income.

Step 4(a): Other income

If you have other sources of income that are not subject to tax withholding, you can include them here. Accounting for these other income sources can help you ensure the correct amount of federal income tax is being withheld for all income.

Step 4: Other Adjustments

Examples of these other income sources can include:

Step 4(a) is not required, but can help you with more accurate tax withholding.

Step 4(b): Deductions

If you expect to itemize tax deductions on IRS Schedule A, and you would like to reduce your tax withholding, then you should complete the Deductions Worksheet, located in the form instructions.

Let’s walk through this worksheet, step by step.

Step 4(b) Deductions Worksheet
Line 1

Enter your estimated itemized deductions. You may consider using estimates based on your Schedule A from last year. Deductions can include:

  • Qualifying home mortgage interest
  • Charitable contributions
  • State and local taxes (up to a limit of $10,000 per year)
  • Medical expenses (in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income)

Certain taxpayers may also be able to include casualty and theft losses from IRS Form 4684.

Line 2

In Line 2, enter one of the following, based on your filing status:

  • Married filing jointly or qualifying surviving spouse: $29,200
  • Head of household: $21,900
  • Single or married filing separately: $14,600
Line 3

If Line 1 is greater than Line 2, then subtract Line 2 from Line 1 and enter the difference.

Otherwise, enter ‘0.’

Step 4(b): Deductions worksheet
Line 4

If Line 3 equals zero (your standard deduction is greater than your itemized deductions), and you or your spouse are 65 or order, then enter:

  • $1,950 if you are single or head of household
  • $1,550 if you are married filing separately
  • $1,550 if you are:
    • A qualifying surviving spouse, or
    • If you are married filing a joint return and one of you is under age 65
  • $3,100 if you are married filing a joint return and both spouses are age 65 or older
Line 5

Enter an estimate of any income adjustments from Schedule 1 on your tax return. Below is a partial list of example tax deductions on Part II of Schedule 1:

You may find additional information in IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.

Line 6

Add Lines 3 through 5. Enter the result in Step 4(b).

Step 4(c): Extra withholding

Enter the amount of federal income tax withholding that you calculated in Step 2 here. If you want to withhold additional federal taxes to avoid a big tax bill, you can increase this amount as you feel necessary.

Step 5: Sign Here

Sign in Step 5.

If you don’t sign this part of the form, then your employer cannot withhold the correct amount of federal income taxes.

irs form w-4p, step 5: signature

Do you have the correct withholding form?

If you’re reading this section, perhaps you’re not sure if you have the correct withholding form. Before you leave, here is a brief overview of the other tax withholding forms and their purpose.

IRS Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate

Taxpayers complete Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, to give their employer instructions on the withholding of federal income tax from their earned income based on their available tax credits, deductions, and filing status.

Watch this instructional video to learn more about how IRS Form W-4 works.

If you haven’t updated IRS Form W-4 since 2019, you may want to re-evaluate your tax withholdings.

IRS Form W-4R, Withholding Certificate for Nonperiodic Payments and Eligible Rollovers

Taxpayers who wish to give instruction on nonrecurring payments, such as one-time IRA withdrawals, or eligible rollovers, can complete Form W-4R, Withholding Certificate for Nonperiodic Payments and Eligible Rollovers.

Watch this instructional video to learn more about how IRS Form W-4R works.

Taxpayers use IRS Form W-4R to withhold taxes from eligible rollovers and nonperiodic payments.

IRS Form W-4S, Request for Federal Income Tax Withholding from Sick Pay

Taxpayers who wish to have taxes withheld from sick pay issued by a third-party payer may complete IRS Form W-4S, Request for Federal Income Tax Withholding From Sick Pay.

For more detail on how IRS Form W-4S works, check out this video.

IRS Form W-4S helps withhold federal taxes from sick pay.

IRS Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request

IRS Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request, is the tax form that taxpayers may use to determine the amount of tax withheld from various government payments, such as:

  • Social Security payments
  • Tier 1 Railroad retirement benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Payments from certain federal government benefit programs

Watch this video to learn more about how IRS Form W-4V works.

Use IRS Form W-4V to specify tax amounts to be withheld from Social Security and certain other payments.

Video walkthrough

Watch this instructional video to walk through IRS Form W-4, step by step.

Frequently asked questions

What is IRS Form W-4P?

IRS Form W-4P is the tax form that taxpayers can complete to elect tax withholdings from periodic pension payments, annuity payments, or regular IRA distributions. For nonperiodic distributions, taxpayers may select IRS Form W-4R, instead.

What happens if I don’t file IRS Form W-4P?

If you don’t give Form W-4P to your payer, you don’t provide an SSN, or the IRS notifies the payer that you gave an incorrect SSN, then the payer will withhold tax from your pension or annuity payments as if your filing status is single.

Where can I find IRS Form W-4P?

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20 Comments

  1. Michael F. McGuire says:

    How do I request a fixed monthly amount of withholding on Form W-4P?

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      I would leave most of the form blank, except for Line 4c, where you can specify a dollar amount. Be aware that this is a specific dollar amount for each payment. If your payments are not on a monthly schedule, you might have to make some adjustments to reach your desired amount of tax withholding.

  2. Ilona Hirsch says:

    I don’t want to fill out form W-4P on line. I have filled out the paper form and I want to know what address I can mail it to. I have been unable to find this simple information. Can you help?

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      You shouldn’t have to complete the form online. But you should be able to contact your payer (whether it’s your pension fund, annuity company, or another payer), and get a mailing address. Don’t send this form to the IRS, because it’s not for them to process. Whoever is paying your pension or annuity needs this form to make the appropriate adjustments.

  3. Retiring this month (March 2024), my job income is already taxed. Why disclose on W-4P? If disclosing on tax form, would this cause my very small pension, starting April 2024, from a prior employer to be overtaxed? Income this year $30K from job. Pension this year $5,780 ($642.25 before tax/monthly).

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      If you’re retiring from your job, then you should complete the Form W-4P as if you don’t have that source of income.

  4. Elaine Archdeacon says:

    I have a W-4P form withholding certificate and want to increase my deductions from my pension from $200.00 a month to an extra $200.00 per month. could you please advise me how I do that on the form W-4P. I appreciate your help.

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      If you already have a Form W-4P on file, then you can simply file a new one that contains identical information except that you would enter a dollar amount in Line 4c (Extra Withholding), based on how much you want withheld from each payment.

      That dollar amount depends on whether your pension payment schedule. If you’re paid monthly, then you would enter $200. Semi-monthly (twice per month), then you would enter $100.

  5. Karen Marie Stone says:

    If I only want a specific amount taken out totally, where and how would I fill out the form please

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      To specify a certain dollar amount, you would complete Line 4(c). However, your payer will be using the form to follow withholding guidance located in IRS Publication 505: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p505.pdf.

      There’s not really an easy way of determining what this will look like without filing it, reviewing the withholdings, then making adjustments as necessary.

  6. Hello – thank you for your video on the W-4P. I am unclear about whether I need to submit a W-4P to each payer. We file Married Filing Jointly. Between us we receive 2 pensions, 2 social security payments, plus dividends, interest and RMDs, some of which will not withhold taxes. Should each payer receive a W-4P?

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      You can do this, or you can have all of your withholdings done through one payer. You may consider filing one Form W-4P at a time, seeing the withholding impact, then making adjustments. You can make future adjustments on the same Form W-4P, or by filing a second with the other payer.

  7. Mike Bronkar says:

    Hi, reading through this narrative regarding how to complete the W4-P,,, I do not see anywhere that an employer providing the pension is required to deduct any income tax arbitrarily as they chose. Also I believe a person can write on the form above the signature area to not withhold anything – is that correct?
    Mike

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      When you complete IRS Form W-4P, the payer must withhold taxes, based upon your direction, in accordance with IRS Publication 15-T and the applicable worksheets therein. A taxpayer may write “No withholding” in the space below Line 4C. The payer is obliged to follow that guidance, unless the payments are being directed to an overseas account, even if the payee is a U.S. citizen living overseas.

  8. I’m recently retired. My wife and I both receive a pension. Hers pays more than mine. I’m filling out a W4P to submit to my payer, but I’m confused. Should I add both of our pension amounts together in step 2, do I leave mine out since it’s lower and just add hers? Do I just add hers? So many questions. I’ve been reading and watching videos but I can’t wrap my head around it. The language is confusing.

    Additionally, I will have modest income from two part-time jobs. She will not receive anything but her pension income. Mine are both on-call positions. One I have already started and the other I hope to start next month. I have no way of knowing how many hours or how frequently I’ll work. Am I to enter income estimates on the W4-P as well as individual W-4 forms for each of those employers? I hope I explained this clearly enough, and I truly appreciate any help I can get right now. Thanks!

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      Ron,

      Thank you for writing. Because of your multiple sources of income (for you and your wife), it might be worthwhile to use the IRS withholding estimator. But if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, I’ll outline my thoughts here.

      You should submit one Form W-4P to your pension payer, and one for your wife’s pension. Your wife would enter your pension information in Step 2(b)(ii), since your pension amount is lower than hers.

      Once you know what your jobs will pay, then you can recalculate your Form W-4P to include the calculations in Step 2(b)(i), but you can probably enter zero for that right now.

      With your jobs, you should complete Form W-4 for each job, plus your Forms W-4P for you and your wife (or a total of 4 sources of withholding). You’ll need to keep track of this, and I highly encourage you to use the worksheet in IRS Form 1040-ES to determine if you need to make estimated tax payments this year as you adjust to your retirement. I’ve included links to videos and articles on both Form W-4 (for your job–it’s been revised in the past few years, so you might want to take a look), as well as Form 1040-ES.

      Good luck!

      IRS Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax Voucher
      Article: https://www.teachmepersonalfinance.com/irs-form-1040-es-instructions/
      Video: https://youtu.be/MqA_0OX9kxI

      IRS Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate
      Article: https://www.teachmepersonalfinance.com/irs-form-w-4-instructions/
      Video: https://youtu.be/a7qxsGYLtkU

  9. There is a serious problem with the W4-P form. It will not allow withholding to be calculated by a percentage; instead it insists on a fixed dollar amount. Given that pension payments typically rise each year, the fixed dollar amount one year will not be sufficient to cover the taxes owed in the next year. A percentage withholding amount — as used to be permitted — addresses this problem.

    I cannot fathom why the IRS would have made it impossible to specify withholding via percentages.

  10. Sara Marie says:

    I plan to file this W-4P form with my payer and leave most of the form blank, except for Line 4c. I have had this pension for the past 6 years and they withhold approximately $100 from my monthly payment. I want them to withhold $225 from the monthly payment. Do I write $225 (total) or $125 (in addition to the $100) in 4c?

    Thank you very much in advance

    1. Forrest Baumhover says:

      I would first try to make the $125 adjustment in Line 4c. Then, I would double check that the withholding is where you would like it to be.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Thank you so much for your response.. 🙂 Sara