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The IRS has substantially redesigned the Form W-4 to be used beginning in 2020.
All new employees first paid wages during 2020 must use the new redesigned Form W-4. In addition, employees who worked for an employer before 2020 but are rehired during 2020 also must use the redesigned 2020 Form W-4.
Continuing employees who provided a Form W-4 before 2020 do not have to furnish the new Form W-4. However, if a continuing employee who wants to adjust his/her withholding must use the redesigned Form.
The IRS has issued the following FAQs for employers about the redesigned 2020 Form W-4:
Are all employees required to furnish a new Form W-4?
No, employees who have furnished Form W-4 in any year before 2020 do not have to furnish a new form merely because of the redesign. Employers will continue to compute withholding based on the information from the employee’s most recently furnished Form W-4.
Are new employees first paid after 2019 required to use the redesigned form?
Yes, all new employees first paid after 2019 must use the redesigned form. Similarly, any other employee who wishes to adjust their withholding must use the redesigned form.
How do I treat new employees first paid after 2019 who do not furnish a Form W-4?
New employees first paid after 2019 who fail to furnish a Form W-4 will be treated as a single filer with no other adjustments. This means that a single filer’s standard deduction with no other entries will be taken into account in determining withholding. This treatment also generally applies to employees who previously worked for you who were rehired in 2020 and did not furnish a new Form W-4.
What about employees paid before 2020 who want to adjust withholding from their pay dated January 1, 2020, or later?
Employees must use the redesigned 2020 form.
May I ask all of my employees paid before 2020 to furnish new Forms W-4 using the redesigned version of the form?
Yes, you may ask, but as part of the request you should explain:
» they do not have to furnish a new Form W-4, and
» if they do not furnish a new Form W-4, withholding will continue based on a valid form previously furnished.
For those employees who furnished forms before 2020 and who do not furnish a new one after 2019, you must continue to withhold based on the forms previously furnished. You may not treat employees as failing to furnish Forms W-4 if they don’t furnish a new Form W-4. Note that special rules apply to Forms W-4 claiming exemption from withholding.
Will there still be an adjustment for nonresident aliens?
Yes, the IRS will provide instructions in the 2020 Publication 15-T, Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods, on the additional amounts that should be added to wages to determine withholding for nonresident aliens. And nonresident alien employees should continue to follow the special instructions in Notice 1392 when completing their Forms W-4.
When can we start using the new 2020 Form W-4?
The new 2020 Form W-4 can be used with respect to wages to be paid in 2020.
On July 22, 2019, the IRS announced that the ACA affordability percentage for the 2020 calendar year will decrease to 9.78%. The current rate for the 2019 calendar year is 9.86%.
As a reminder, under the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, an applicable large employer is generally required to offer at least one health plan that provides affordable, minimum value coverage to its full-time employees (and minimum essential coverage to their dependents) or pay a penalty. For this purpose, “affordable” means the premium for self-only coverage cannot be greater than a specified percentage of the employee’s household income. Based on this recent guidance, that percentage will be 9.78% for the 2020 calendar year.
Employers now have the tools to evaluate the affordability of their plans for 2020. Unfortunately, for some employers, a reduction in the affordability percentage will mean that they will have to reduce what employees pay for employee only coverage, if they want their plans to be affordable in 2020.
For example, in 2019 an employer using the hourly rate of pay safe harbor to determine affordability can charge an employee earning $12 per hour up to $153.81 ($12 X 130= 1560 X 9.86%) per month for employee-only coverage. However in 2020, that same employer can only charge an employee earning $12 per hour $152.56 ($12 X 130= 1560 X 9.78%) per month for employee-only coverage, and still use that safe harbor. A reduction in the affordability percentage presents challenges especially for plans with non-calendar year renewals, as those employers that are subject to the ACA employer mandate may need to change their contribution percentage in the middle of their benefit plan year to meet the new affordability percentage. For this reason, we recommend that employers re-evaluate what changes, if any, they should make to their employee contributions to ensure their plans remain affordable under the ACA.
As we have written about previously, employers will sometimes use the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) safe harbor to determine affordability. While we won’t know the 2020 FPL until sometime in early 2020, employers are allowed to use the FPL in effect at least six months before the beginning of their plan year. This means employers can use the 2019 FPL number as a benchmark for determining affordability for 2020 now that they know what the affordability percentage is for 2020.