How to File a W-2 Form

Businesses use W-2 forms to report employee wages for the year.
Businesses use W-2 forms to report employee wages for the year. (Image: Daniel Padavona/iStock/Getty Images)

IRS Form W-2 shows wages earned during the years, as well as the taxes withheld from those wages. Employers must issue a W-2 form to each employee. Employees file copies of their W-2 forms with their federal and state tax forms. The W-2 serves as proof of earnings for the employee and as proof of wages paid and taxes withheld for the employer. W-2 forms also contain information about contributions to retirement accounts and employer-provided health insurance benefits.

W-2 For the Employer

If you have employees, you must file a W-2 for each employee. You must provide copies of the W-2 to both the employee and the IRS. You must provide a W-2 even if the employee worked only part of the year. Fill out the W-2 form with the employee’s name and address, Social Security number, the amount of gross wages paid to the employee, the amount of taxable wages and the amounts you withheld for federal income taxes, Medicare and Social Security taxes. Indicate any pre-tax amounts withheld from the employee’s paychecks for retirement benefits. If you are in a state with state income taxes, you must complete the boxes at the bottom of the W-2 to indicate the amounts you withheld for state income taxes.

W-2 For the Employee

Report the information on your W-2 form about your earnings and the taxes withheld from your paychecks on your Form 1040 or 1040EZ. If you receive more than one W-2 because you had more than one employer, add together the amounts shown on these forms. If you file your tax returns by mail, attach Copy B of your W-2 to your federal return and Copy C to your state return. If you file your taxes electronically, you don’t need to send copies of your W-2, but you must keep them on file. If a tax preparer e-files for you, you must supply the preparer with a copy of your W-2.

Filing Deadlines

Employers must provide employees with their W-2 forms by Jan. 31 (Feb. 2 in 2015 due to the weekend). In addition, employers must file Copy A of each employee’s W-2 along with a form W-3 to the IRS by Feb. 28 (March 2 in 2015). If you file your W-2 and W-3 files electronically, you have until March 31. If you cannot meet the deadline to file your W-2 and W-3 forms with the federal government, you may request a 30-day extension by filing Form 8809, Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns. This extension applies only to the deadline to file with the government, not the deadline to supply W-2s to your employees. Employees have until April 15 to file their tax returns, including their W-2 information, unless they request an extension.

Correcting Forms

Before you issue a W-2 as an employer, and when you receive your W-2 as an employee, verify that the Social Security number and name shown on the form is correct. If the number or name isn’t correct, the employer can issue a corrected W-2.

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