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Understanding Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement

Form W-2 reports wages earned and taxes paid

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This blank Form W-2 is an example of what the form looks like.

A blank Form W-2

Internal Revenue Service

Form W-2 reports the annual amount of earnings and tax withholdings of an employee's wages, salaries, and tips. Employers prepare the Form W-2 and provide one copy to the employee. Employers also provide copies of Form W-2 to the Social Security Administration, which shares the data with the Internal Revenue Service.

Employees will need to report all wages earned from their job or jobs during the year. In order to do this, the IRS mandates that every company you worked for, either full or part-time, must provide you with a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, in order for you to file your taxes at the end of the year; Form W-2 must be mailed out or hand-delivered to you no later than January 31st reporting wages, salaries and tips earned in the previous calendar year.

Common Problems Relating to Form W-2

What if You Have Not Received Your Form W-2?

If you have not received your Form W-2 by mid-February, then ask your employer if they mailed out the form. You may also ask for another printed copy of your Form W-2 for you to take home.

Sometimes, employers will charge a nominal fee for providing you with an additional copy of your W-2.

If you have not received a Form W-2 from your employer by February 14th, you can contact the IRS for assistance. See Tax Topic 154 on the IRS Web site for more details.

What if Some Information on Your W-2 is Wrong. How Do You Correct It?

You should ask your employer to correct any wrong information on your Form W-2. Examples of wrong information would be an incorrect Social Security Number, incorrect name, or incorrect wages or withholding amounts.

What if Your Employer Refuses to Give You Form W-2?

While this happens very rarely, it is a serious situation. If the company is still in existence, you should politely demand a copy of your Form W-2. If the company charges a nominal fee for processing your request, it might be easier just to pay the fee and get your tax documents.

If your employer still refuses to give you Form W-2, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS advises that you should have the following information ready:

  • The employer's name and complete address, including zip code, the employer's identification number (if known), and telephone number,
  • Your name and address, including zip code, Social Security number, and telephone number; and
  • An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and the dates you began and ended employment.
  • See Tax Topic 154 on the IRS Web site for more details.

Copies of Form W-2

The employee's Form W-2 should contain Copies B, C, and 2. Each copy of Form W-2 is used for different purposes.

Copy A – For the Social Security Administration. Your employer will mail or electronically transmit Copy A of your Form W-2 to the Social Security Administration. The SSA will share this information with the Internal Revenue Service.

Copy B – Attach this copy to your Federal Income Tax Return,such as Form 1040, if you are mailing in your tax return. If you are e-filing your tax return, keep Copy B with your tax documents for at least four years.

Copy C – Keep this copy of your Form W-2 with your tax documents for at least four years. For safekeeping, staple Copy C to the first page of your federal tax return so you can easily find it.

Copy 1 – For the State, City, or Local tax agency. Your employer will mail Copy 1 to your state or local tax department.

Copy 2 – Attach this copy to your State, City, or Local income tax return if you are mailing in your tax return. If you are e-filing these tax returns, keep Copy 2 with your tax documents for at least four years.

Copy D – This copy is kept by the employer. Companies are required to keep copies of Form W-2 for a minimum of four years.

For a line-by-line description of Form W-2, see page 2.

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