What Will Changing My Federal Withholding Do to My Paycheck?

Change your paycheck amount by changing your federal tax withholding.

Federal withholdings are deductions taken from your paycheck for taxes. Paying too much over the course of the year results in a refund when you file taxes, while paying too little results in you owing additional money to the IRS. You can increase or decrease your federal tax withholdings throughout the year.

How to Change Your Withholding

People change their federal tax withholding for a variety of reasons: marriage, divorce, new kids, or just needing to adjust their paycheck amount. To change your federal tax withholdings, you must complete and submit a new W-4 form to your employer. Some employers allow you to do this online; you can change your marital status or number of exemptions to increase or decrease the amount of money withheld from each paycheck for taxes.


Changing your exemptions is a common way to affect the amount you receive each paycheck. Changing exemptions does not affect how much you owe in taxes over the year; it only changes how much is deducted and paid from each check. The more exemptions you take, the less the government takes from each check, and vice-versa.

Increase Paycheck Amount

To increase your paycheck amount, increase the number of exemptions you claim. If you claim five, increase that to seven or 10. The advantage is your paychecks will be larger, but you may have to pay the money back to the government during tax season. If you typically get a refund each year, you can increase your exemptions and still might not owe money during tax season, though your refund will be lower or nonexistent. Changing your marital status to "married" also increases your paycheck, though you can only do that if you are married but listed as "single" on your taxes.

Decrease Paycheck Amount

To decrease your paycheck amount and pay more in federal withholding each pay period, decrease the number of exemptions you claim on your taxes. This is helpful for people who typically owe money to the government each year in taxes; while your paychecks are smaller, you pay off your tax debt over the course of the year, so you owe less, nothing or possibly may get a refund when tax season comes. Changing your marital status to "single" also decreases your paycheck total because you'll be paying at a higher federal tax withholding rate.