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Investigating payroll tax and federal income tax withholding


Students analyze W-4 forms and pay stubs in order to better understand payroll taxes and federal income tax withholding.

Big idea

Payroll and income taxes are withheld from employees’ pay by their employers, and Form W-4 is used to determine how much income tax is withheld.

Essential questions

  • How can you calculate how much money will be withheld for taxes from your paycheck?
  • What’s the purpose of the Form W-4?


  • Identify what types of taxes are deducted from a paycheck
  • Complete a Form W-4 and claim federal income tax withholding allowances

What students will do

  • Read a handout on taxes.
  • Apply their understanding to interpreting sample Form W-4s and pay stubs.

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Teacher guide


Student materials



Note: Please remember to consider your students’ accommodations and special needs to ensure that all students are able to participate in a meaningful way.