W-5 Form

What is an IRS Form W-5 ?


Form W-5, known as the "Earned Income Credit Advance Payment Certificate," was a tax document used by eligible employees to receive a portion of their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in advance through their paychecks.

The form was discontinued after the 2010 tax year and is no longer in use. Its historical significance lies in how it represented an attempt to provide immediate financial relief to low-income earners.

Purpose of Form W-5

Aiding Low-Income Taxpayers
  • Financial Relief: The W-5 was designed to alleviate financial strain for those eligible for the EITC by boosting their regular paychecks.
  • Immediate Benefit: Instead of waiting for an annual tax refund, eligible taxpayers could enjoy the benefits of EITC throughout the year.

Eligibility Criteria for Form W-5

Targeted Users
  • Employees Expecting EITC: The form was specifically for employees who were likely to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Criteria: Eligibility was based on having earned income, meeting specific income limits, having a valid Social Security number, and filing a tax return with a particular marital status.

Functioning of the W-5 Form


Employee Submission: Employees filled out and submitted the form to their employers.

Paycheck Adjustment: Employers would then adjust the employee’s withholding, allowing for the advance receipt of a portion of the EITC with each paycheck.

Post-W-5 Era: The Current Approach

EITC Claims Now
  • Annual Tax Filing: After the discontinuation of W-5, taxpayers now claim the Earned Income Credit when filing their federal income tax returns annually.
  • Focus on Year-End Credits: This shift emphasizes claiming year-end tax credits, including investment income, requiring accurate filing to benefit from these.

Reasons Behind Discontinuing Form W-5

1. Simplification of Tax Code: The IRS aimed to streamline the tax process, making it more straightforward for taxpayers.

2. Low Utilization Rate: The form was underutilized, partly due to a lack of awareness or understanding of its benefits.

3. Reduced Administrative Burden: Eliminating the form eased the administrative load on employers who had to adjust withholdings based on the form.

4. Emphasis on Year-End Tax Credits: The IRS shifted focus towards encouraging taxpayers to claim benefits like the EITC during their annual tax filing.

Impact on Taxpayers

Changes in EITC Reception
  • Lump-Sum Payments: EITC recipients now receive their credit in a lump sum during tax refunds, as opposed to incremental payments throughout the year.
  • Simplified Process: This change has streamlined the process for both the IRS and taxpayers.

Final Thoughts 

The legacy of the IRS Form W-5 offers valuable insights into the evolution of tax documentation and the IRS’s efforts to assist low-income earners. While its discontinuation marked a shift in approach, understanding its purpose and impact provides a clearer picture of the modern tax landscape, particularly concerning the Earned Income Tax Credit. For those eligible for EITC, awareness of the current methods of claiming this credit is essential for maximizing financial benefits during tax season.