Payroll Withholding

Today Sarah in Oregon is upset with her husband’s employer. “My husband’s work won’t change his payroll withholding to the amounts on his new W-4 until they hear from their attorney. So we are ending up with thousands of dollars taken out and sent in to the IRS and ODR that we need now. ”


Dear Sarah,

You’re right. That is bizarre. That’s a new twist to me.

In general, the company has no liability, once they receive an employee’s W-4, unless they have received a garnishment order from IRS, or IRS has sent them a notice instructing them to increase his withholding.

The only way the garnishment would happen is if your husband owed unpaid taxes and had ignored IRS collections attempts.

The primary reason IRS would write to an employer insisting that the withholding be increased is if you fill out a W-4 with more than 9 exemptions.

However, that comes AFTER the employer sends it in.

Here IS the employer’s obligation – your husband fills in a W-4 with 10 or more exemptions – the employer must send it to IRS. In the meantime, they must honor the request.

If IRS objects, they will send a letter to the employee and the employer. You will have time to respond to IRS and make your case. Meanwhile, the employer has no legal liability if they comply with the employee’s submission.

The employer should not be wasting your time or money by withholding more than the employee instructs. Unless you want to sue the company, be gracious and see if you can get their attorney to respond quickly.

Or have your employer Ask TaxMama.

You’ll find answers to all your questions about employment, taxes and all kinds of financial information, where? At TaxMama.com

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