Employers must complete, file with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and furnish to their employees Form W-2 (PDF), Wage and Tax Statement, showing the wages paid and taxes withheld for the year for each employee. Because Form W-2 is the only document used to transmit information regarding employees' Social Security and Medicare wages for the year, it is very important to prepare Form W-2 correctly and timely.
The official Form W-2 is available as a multi-copy form packet. The form packet provides all six copies that the user may need for each Form W-2 (Copy A, Copy 1, Copy B, Copy C, Copy 2, and Copy D). Copy A of Form(s) W-2 must be sent to the SSA with the transmittal Form W-3 (PDF), Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, by the last day of February. Special due dates apply if you have terminated your business or you are filing electronically. The Form W-3 and Copy A of each Form W-2 that is sent to SSA must be a scannable-form version and can be ordered online at Online Ordering for Information Returns and Employer Returns on IRS.gov, or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Refer to the Form W-2 and W-3 General Instructions (PDF) for additional information. Send Copy 1, if applicable, to your state, city or local tax department. Contact that state, city or local tax department for requirements and transmittal information. You should retain the employer copy, Copy D, for 4 years.
You must give Copies B, C and 2 of Form W-2 to the employee by January 31. If an employee stops working for you before the end of the year, you may give your former employee Form W-2 anytime prior to January 31, but no later than January 31. If the employee asks for the Form W-2, you must give Copies B, C and 2 to the employee within 30 days of the request or within 30 days of the final wage payment, whichever is later.
Anyone required to file Form W-2 must also file Form W-3 (PDF), Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, to transmit Copy A of Form W-2 to the SSA. The totals for amounts reported on related employment tax forms ( Form 941 (PDF), Form 943 (PDF), Form 944 (PDF) or Form 1040, Schedule H (PDF), for the year) should agree with the amounts reported on Form W-3. If you have questions about a particular box on Forms W-2 or W-3, refer to the instructions, which give a detailed explanation of each box. The address for mailing Copy A of the Form W-2 and Form W-3 is listed in the Form W-2 and W-3 General Instructions (PDF). Be sure to order Form W-3 when you order Forms W-2.
Here are a few important items to keep in mind when preparing Form W-2:
- Type all entries using black ink and, if possible, in a 12-point Courier font. Entries are read by machine. Handwritten, script or italicized fonts or entries made in other than black ink cannot be read.
- Use decimal points followed by cents (or zeroes for no cents). Do not use dollar signs or commas.
- Do not make any erasures, cross-outs or whiteouts. Copy A must be error free. If you make an error, put an "X" in the "Void" box, use the next Form W-2 and start again. Do not write "corrected" on the next Form W-2.
- As Form W-2 is printed with two forms on a single page, send in the whole Copy A page (the page printed with red ink) to the SSA even if one form is blank or void. Do not cut or fold the page. Do not staple Forms W-2 to each other, or to Form W-3.
- If a box does not apply, leave it blank.
If you discover an error on an employee's Form W-2 after sending it to the SSA, submit a Form W-2c (PDF), Corrected Wage and Tax Statement. File Form W-3c (PDF), Transmittal of Corrected Wage and Tax Statements, whenever you file a Form W-2c with the SSA.
Employers filing 250 or more Forms W-2 must file electronically unless granted a waiver by the IRS. All employers are encouraged to file Forms W-2 electronically. If you file your Forms W-2 electronically, the due date is March 31. For more information on electronic filing, refer to Topic 801, Topic 802 and Topic 803. You may obtain additional information on electronic filing of Forms W-2 from the SSA's Business Services Online (BSO). You can access BSO at SocialSecurity.gov/employer. You can also get electronic specifications by contacting the SSA's Employee Reporting Branch at 800-772-6270.
For more information, refer to:
- Publication 15, (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide,
- Publication 51, (Circular A), Agricultural Employer's Tax Guide,
- Publication 15-A (PDF), Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide,
- Form 8809 (PDF), Application for Extension of Time To File Information Returns,
- Form 8508 (PDF), Request for Waiver From Filing Information Returns Electronically,
- Publication 1141 (PDF), General Rules and Specifications for Substitute Forms W-2 and W-3, and
- Publication 1223 (PDF), General Rules and Specifications for Substitute Forms W-2c and W-3c.
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: May 27, 2015