Janet Barrett, a Citibank officer, is waiting for the Internal Revenue Service to come up with a third W-4 form. Debra Mirek, an Orange County, Calif., nurse, has not received the new simplified form. Gary Schineller, who owns his own New York broadcast company, will let his accountant fill in the right numbers. It is seven months since the IRS introduced its complicated W-4 forms, and two months since its new and improved version, W-4A, was issued. Yet millions of Americans have not sent in either form. The W-4 tells employers how much an individual wants withheld from a paycheck.
In a recent survey, the IRS estimates about 40 percent of all working Americans, or about 75 million people, have not filled out the new forms.
For example, at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Mich., between 40 and 45 percent of the work force has yet to turn in the form; Allied-Signal Companies in Morristown, N.J., estimates 46 percent of its employees need to get in the W-4s; and, in New York, W.R. Grace is still missing W-4s from 35 percent of its workers.
For those who have not filed, an important deadline is near.
The IRS is giving taxpayers until June 1 to file W-4s without a penalty for underwithholding, that is having too little tax taken out.
After June 1, the IRS will penalize those who do not come within 10 percent of their proper withholding. On Oct. 1 employers will automatically start withholding on the basis of one allowance for singles and two for married individuals for those who have not filed the forms.
According to IRS spokesman Steven Pyrek, it is likely that a lot of those people who have not yet filed are being underwithheld.
``Most people saw an increase in the size of their paycheck,'' he explains, ``which means you will not receive as big a refund if you had one coming for your 1986 taxes.''
Some taxpayers are fine-tuning their withholding after they see the impact of the new allowances on their paychecks. At Minneapolis-based Twin City Federal Savings and Loan, 80 percent of the employees filled out the new W-4s.
But, 50 percent returned to change it after seeing the impact on their paychecks. Even though the tax rates are lower, some individuals are finding take-home pay is lower because the 1986 tax reform act eliminates many deductions.
To try to make up for lost revenue due to underwithholding, the IRS has designed the new simpler form W-4A to overwithhold. Thus, paychecks will be smaller but tax refunds larger.
In Washington, James Miller III, director of the Office of Management and Budget, had expressed concern that the underwithholding might adversely affect the budget deficit. But the US Treasury decided it was difficult to determine if this was happening.
John Withers, a former IRS official, says the underwithholding creates problems for the tax collectors, especially if people owe money but can't pay it.
``It takes up a lot of manpower to collect the unpaid taxes,'' says Mr. Withers, now a consultant to the accounting firm of Touche Ross in Washington.
Many taxpayers have yet to receive the simpler forms drawn up by the IRS after official Washington dressed down IRS Commissioner Lawrence Gibbs. For example, Ted May, who runs an eating and drinking establishment in Minneapolis, says none of his 11 employees have yet to turn in W-4s.
``They probably won't get them back until October,'' he says.