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How to Use the Wage Bracket Withholding Tables With Pre-2020 Forms W-4

Author: Alice Gilman

An employer must withhold federal income taxes from an employee's pay every pay period. The IRS provides several methods an employer can use to fulfill this duty. The wage bracket method may be used by an employer that does not use an automated payroll system and chooses not to use the manual percentage method tables. The wage bracket tables are issued before a calendar year ends, to be used by an employer in the following year. The IRS publishes the wage bracket tables in IRS Publication 15-T, Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods.

Due to the new version of IRS Form W-4, as of January 1, 2020, there are two different sets of wage bracket tables and worksheets:

  • Worksheet 3, Employer's Withholding Worksheet for Wage Bracket Method Tables for Manual Payroll Systems With Forms W-4 From 2019 or Earlier; and
  • Worksheet 2, Employer's Withholding Worksheet for Wage Bracket Method Tables for Manual Payroll Systems With Forms W-4 From 2020 or Later.

This How To explains how to use the wage bracket tables in conjunction with Worksheet 3 to determine withholding from the pay of an employee who has a pre-2020 Form W-4 on file. For information on how to use the tables in conjunction with Worksheet 2, see How to Use the Wage Bracket Withholding Tables With Forms W-4 From 2020 or Later.