Your W-2 Will Arrive Soon: Here’s the One Thing You Must Check

Learn how to read this important tax form.
  • You should receive your W-2s within the first week of February.
  • It’s important to correct any errors on your W-2 through either your employer or the IRS.
  • The W-2 Wage and Tax Statement form contains information that is essential for your taxes, including your wages and withheld taxes.

Once February rolls around, you should’ve received your W-2 forms from your employer. The deadline to furnish an employee’s W-2 is Jan. 31 — although if an employer mails it out by that day, that meets the IRS’s deadline requirements.

The Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement breaks down an employee’s pay, including withheld funds for income, Social Security or Medicare taxes. Reading the form can be confusing at first; here’s what you need to look out for on your W-2.

Make Sure Your W-2 Is Correct

When you first receive your W-2, verify your employer has properly filled out the form, such as spelling your name correctly. If it’s not correct, simply ask for a new, accurate one. Errors can lead to delays in processing your tax return, and might require you to contact the IRS for help. You’ll need to provide an estimate of wages you were paid and tax that was withheld.

Your employer sends copies of your W-2 to both the Social Security Administration and your state, city or local tax department. You should also receive copies for yourself and both your federal and state tax returns.

How to Read a W-2

The W-2 is essential for doing taxes, as you need it to complete your 1040 Form. It also answers questions regarding how your paycheck is allocated: How much Social Security tax was withheld? How much federal tax was withheld?

Related: How to Read a Pay Stub

Here’s a quick overview of some of the more important boxes to look out for on your W-2:

Box 1 shows your total income with your wages, tips and other compensation.

Box 2 shows how much federal income tax was withheld from your paycheck for the year. The amount is based on how many withholding exemptions you included on your W-4.

Boxes 3 and 4 deal with Social Security, with the former showing your total wages subject to the Social Security tax and the latter showing how much Social Security tax was withheld for the year. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2 percent for the employee.

Boxes 5 and 6 deal with Medicare wages subject to the Medicare tax, which right now is 1.45 percent.

Your W-2s will also include figures such as any tips you received, as well as any dependent care benefits. Box 12 might be one of the boxes that’s harder to understand, as it includes a list of codes that cover everything the form previously did not include. For example, code W is the employer’s contribution to an employee’s health savings account, and code AA is designated Roth contributions under a section 401k plan.

Find out what to do if you lost your W-2.

More on Taxes

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