26 CFR § 31.3402(f)(5)-1 - Form and contents of withholding allowance certificates.
(a) In general -
(1) Form W-4. Form W-4, “Employee's Withholding Certificate,” previously called “Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate,” is the form prescribed for the withholding allowance certificate required to be furnished under section 3402(f)(2). A withholding allowance certificate must be prepared in accordance with the instructions applicable thereto and must set forth fully and clearly the information that is called for therein. In lieu of the prescribed form, an employer may prepare and provide to employees a form the provisions of which are identical to those of the prescribed form, but only if the employer also provides employees with all the tables, instructions, and worksheets set forth in the Form W-4 in effect at that time, and only if the employer complies with all revenue procedures and other guidance prescribed by the Commissioner relating to substitute forms in effect at that time.
(2) Employee substitute forms. Employers are prohibited from accepting a substitute form developed by an employee, and an employee furnishing such form will be treated as failing to furnish a withholding allowance certificate. For further guidance regarding the employer's obligations when an employee is treated as failing to furnish a withholding allowance certificate, see § 31.3402(f)(2)-1.
(3) Current year revision. Only the Form W-4 revision in effect for a calendar year may be furnished by an employee in that calendar year and given legal effect by the employer, unless provided otherwise in forms, instructions, publications, or other guidance, except that an employee may furnish the Form W-4 revision for the following calendar year in the current calendar year to take effect for the following calendar year.
(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rule in paragraph (a)(3) of this section.
(i) Example 1. Employee A furnishes a 2019 Form W-4 to Employer X in calendar year 2020. The 2019 Form W-4 furnished by Employee A in 2020 has no legal effect. Employer X must disregard this 2019 Form W-4 furnished in 2020 and continue to withhold based on a previously furnished Form W-4 that has been in effect for Employee A, if any. If Employee A has no Form W-4 in effect, she is treated as having no valid withholding allowance certificate in effect.
(ii) Example 2. Employee A furnishes a 2021 Form W-4 to Employer X in calendar year 2020 to take effect in calendar year 2021. The 2021 Form W-4 is valid, and the employer must put this form into effect in 2021 in accordance with the timing rules in § 31.3402(f)(3)-1.
(b) Invalid Form W-4. A Form W-4 does not meet the requirements of section 3402(f)(5) or this section and is invalid if it includes an alteration or unauthorized addition. For purposes of § 31.3402(f)(2)-1(f)(3) and this paragraph (b) -
(1) An alteration of a withholding allowance certificate is any deletion of the language of the jurat or other similar provision of such certificate by which the employee certifies or affirms the correctness of the completed certificate, or any material defacing of such certificate; and
(2) An unauthorized addition to a withholding allowance certificate is any writing on such certificate other than the entries requested on the Form W-4 (e.g., name, address, and filing status) or permitted by instructions or other guidance. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(2), an entry claiming exemption from withholding that is accompanied by other entries on the Form W-4 (other than the employee's filing status) that could potentially affect the amount of income tax deducted and withheld from the employee's pay is an unauthorized addition; consequently, the employer must treat the Form W-4 as an invalid Form W-4.
(c) Electronic Form W-4 -
(1) In general. An employer may establish a system for its employees to furnish withholding allowance certificates electronically.
(2) Requirements -
(i) In general. The electronic system must ensure that the information received is the information sent and must document all occasions of employee access that result in the furnishing of a Form W-4. In addition, the design and operation of the electronic system, including access procedures, must make it reasonably certain that the person accessing the system and furnishing the Form W-4 is the employee identified in the form.
(ii) Information to employer. The electronic furnishing must provide the employer with exactly the same information as the current version of the official Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form W-4 available on irs.gov.
(iii) Information to employee. The electronic Form W-4 system must provide the employee with the same information as the current version of the official IRS Form W-4 available on irs.gov and must satisfy any requirements specified by the IRS in forms, publications, and other guidance. The electronic Form W-4 system must provide employees the ability to claim exemption from withholding under section 3402(n) and must include the two certifications described in § 31.3402(n)-1(a).
(iv) Jurat and signature requirements. The electronic furnishing must be signed by the employee under penalties of perjury.
(A) Jurat. The jurat (perjury statement) must contain the language that appears on the paper Form W-4. The electronic program must inform the employee that he or she must make the declaration set forth in the jurat and that the declaration is made by signing the Form W-4. The instructions and the language of the jurat must immediately follow the employee's income tax withholding selections and immediately precede the employee's electronic signature.
(B) Electronic signature. The electronic signature must identify the employee furnishing the electronic Form W-4 and authenticate and verify the furnishing. For purposes of this paragraph (c)(2)(iv)(B), the terms “authenticate” and “verify” have the same meanings as they do when applied to a written signature on a paper Form W-4. An electronic signature can be in any form that satisfies the foregoing requirements. The electronic signature must be the final entry in the employee's Form W-4 furnished electronically.
(v) Copies of electronic Forms W-4. Upon request by the Internal Revenue Service, the employer must supply a hard copy of the electronic Form W-4 and a statement that, to the best of the employer's knowledge, the electronic Form W-4 was furnished by the named employee. The hardcopy of the electronic Form W-4 must provide exactly the same information as, but need not be a facsimile of, the paper Form W-4.
(d) Applicability date. The provisions of paragraphs (a)(3) and (4) of this section apply on and after March 16, 2020. Taxpayers may choose to apply the provisions of paragraphs (a)(3) and (4) of this section on or after January 1, 2020 and before March 16, 2020. For the provision of paragraph (a)(3) of this section that applies before March 16, 2020, see 26 CFR part 31, revised as of April 1, 2020. The provisions of paragraphs (a)(1) and (2), (b), and (c) of this section apply on and after October 6, 2020. Taxpayers may choose to apply paragraphs (a)(1) and (2), (b), and (c) of this section on or after January 1, 2020 and before October 6, 2020. For rules that apply before October 6, 2020, see 26 CFR part 31, revised as of April 1, 2020.