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Global Work Glossary

Lost in a maze of global employment jargon? Find your way out with our handy collection of work and HR terminology

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Form W-5

What is Form W-5?

Form W-5, officially known as the Earned Income Credit Advance Payment Certificate, was a form used by eligible employees to receive advance payments of the earned income credit (EIC) from their paychecks. The EIC is a refundable tax credit for low to moderate-income working individuals and families, particularly those with children. The form allowed individuals to benefit from the credit throughout the year, rather than waiting to receive it all at once when filing their annual tax return.

Purpose and Function

The purpose of Form W-5 was to enable eligible employees to access a portion of their earned income credit in each paycheck, thus improving their cash flow throughout the year. This was particularly beneficial for those managing tight budgets. Employees would submit the completed form to their employers, who would then adjust the amount of tax withheld accordingly, increasing the employee’s net pay by the amount of the advance EIC.

Key Components and Completion Guidelines

Although the IRS discontinued the use of Form W-5 in 2010, when it was in use, it required employees to certify their eligibility for the EIC based on their expected income, marital status, and qualifying children. Employees needed to meet specific criteria and provide accurate information to avoid penalties and ensure they did not receive more advance EIC than they were entitled to, which could result in a debt to the IRS.

Relevance and Current Practices

After the discontinuation of Form W-5 and the advance EIC payments, employees now receive the earned income credit only through their tax returns. This change means that while individuals cannot get the EIC in their paychecks throughout the year, they can adjust their withholding to increase their take-home pay if they anticipate qualifying for the credit.

Employees interested in this should consult with a tax professional or use IRS tools like the Tax Withholding Estimator to make appropriate adjustments.

Form W-5 was a significant tool for many working families, providing immediate financial relief throughout the year. Although it is no longer in use, understanding its history helps clarify the evolution of tax relief measures and the current options available for managing tax credits and withholdings.

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