Find out more about W-2 and W-3 forms. Helpful information you need to learn about W-2 and W-3 forms can be found below.

Form W-2

General information

Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) is used to report wages paid to employees and the taxes withheld from them. The form is used to report FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare) to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Relevant amounts on Form W-2 are reported by the SSA to the IRS.

Employers must complete a W-2 form for each employee to whom they pay a salary, wage, or other compensation, as part of the employment relationship. The W-2 form reports income on a calendar year (January 1 through December 31), regardless of the fiscal year used by the employer or employee for other federal tax purposes. However, this refers to the time period in which an employee has been compensated, not necessarily the actual dates of employment. After the final payroll in December, employment is normally compensated and subject to tax in the following year.

If an employer receives a returned W-2 form because of an outdated employee address, the employer must make a good-faith effort to deliver the W-2 form. The employer must keep copies of W-2 forms for up to four years.

State income taxes are also reported on Form W-2.

W-2 copies

Form W-2 comprises the following six copies, each with a different purpose:
  • Copy A: Submitted by the employer to the SSA. (In addition, manual filers must also submit Form W-3, which is a summary of all Forms W-2 completed, along with all submitted forms of Copy A. Form W-3 must be signed by the employer.)
  • Copy B: To be sent to the employee and filed by the employee with the employee's federal income tax returns.
  • Copy C: To be sent to the employee and retained by the employee for the employee's records.
  • Copy D: To be retained by the employer for the employer's records.
  • Copy 1: To be filed with the employer's state or local income tax returns (if any).
  • Copy 2: To be filed with the employee's state, city or local income tax returns (if any).
    Note: The employee will receive 2 copies of Copy 2 as some employees may need to file to multiple state and local agencies.

Employers are instructed to send Copies B, C, 1, and 2 to their employees generally by January 31 (February 1 for year 2018) of the year immediately following the year of income to which Form W-2 relates. This gives the employees about 2.5 months before the April 15 income tax return due date. Form W-2 Copy A must be electronically filed by the employer with the SSA by January 31. (Online Payroll doesn't support manual filing of paper Form W-2 Copy A).

W-2 box 12 codes

Form W-2 Box 12 Codes Compensation and Benefits
Code A Uncollected Social Security or RRTA tax on tips. Include this amount as part of your total tax on Form 1040.
Code B Uncollected Medicare tax on tips. Include this amount as part of your total tax on Form 1040.
Code C Taxable benefit of group term-life insurance over $50,000. Already included as part of your taxable wages in Boxes 1, 3, and 5.
Code D Non-taxable elective salary deferrals to a 401(k) or SIMPLE 401(k) retirement plan.
Code E Non-taxable elective salary deferrals to a 403(b) retirement plan.
Code F Non-taxable elective salary deferrals to a 408(k)(6) SEP retirement plan.
Code G Non-taxable elective salary deferrals and non-elective company contributions to a 457(b) retirement plan.
Code H Non-taxable elective salary deferrals to a 501(c)(18)(D) tax-exempt plan.
Code J Non-taxable sick pay. This amount is not included in taxable wages in Boxes 1, 3, or 5.
Code K Excise tax (equal to 20%) on excess "golden parachute" payments. Include this amount as part of your total tax on Form 1040.
Code L Non-taxable reimbursements for employee business expenses.
Code M Uncollected Social Security or RRTA tax on taxable group term life insurance over $50,000 for former employees. Include this amount as part of your total tax on Form 1040.
Code N Uncollected Medicare tax on taxable group term life insurance over $50,000 for former employees. Include this amount as part of your total tax on Form 1040.
Code P Non-taxable reimbursements for employee moving expenses, if the amounts were paid directly to the employee.
Code Q Non-taxable combat pay. Some individuals may elect to include combat pay when calculating their Earned Income Credit.
Code R Company contributions to an Archer Medical Savings Account. This amount should be reported on IRS Form 8853.
Code S Non-taxable salary deferral to a 408(p) SIMPLE retirement plan.
Code T Employer paid adoption benefits. This amount is not included in Box 1 wages. You must use IRS Form 8839 to calculate the taxable and non-taxable portion of these adoption benefits.
Code V Income from the exercise of non-statutory stock options. This amount is already included as taxable income in Boxes 1, 3, and 5. See also, how to report stock options.
Code W Company contributions to your Health Savings Account. Report this amount on IRS Form 8889.
Code Y Salary deferrals under 409A non-qualified deferred compensation plan.
Code Z Income received under 409A non-qualified deferred compensation plan. This amount is already included in taxable wages in Box 1. This amount is subject to an additional tax of 20% plus interest as part of your total tax on Form 1040.
Code AA After-tax contributions to a Roth 401(k) retirement plan.
Code BB After-tax contributions to a Roth 403(b) retirement plan.
Code DD Cost of employer-sponsored health care coverage
Code EE Designated Roth contributions under a governmental section 457(b) plan.
Code FF Used to report the total amount of permitted benefits under a qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA). These new QSEHRAs allow eligible employers to pay or reimburse medical care expenses of eligible employees after the employees provide proof of coverage.
Code GG Income from qualified equity grants under section 83(i).
Code HH Aggregate deferrals under section 83(i) elections as of the close of the calendar year.

IRS W-2 sample

Troubleshooting box amounts

User-added image

Common reasons why the amounts will change:

  • Box 1 - Wages, tips, other compensation
    • Retirement plans reduce the amount in this box.
    • Cash and paycheck tips are added to this box.
    • S-Corp owners health insurance, group term life insurance (GTLI) taxable amounts, and personal use of company care (PUCC) are considered taxable and added to this box.
    • Pretax medical, vision, and dental plans will reduce the amount in this box.
    • Flexible spending accounts (FSA) and pretax health savings accounts (HSA) will reduce the amount in this box.
  • Box 3 - Social security wages
    • Group term life insurance (GTLI) taxable amounts and personal use of company care (PUCC) are considered taxable and added to this box.
    • Pretax medical, vision, or dental plans will reduce the amount in this box.
    • Flexible spending accounts (FSA) and pretax health savings accounts (HSA) will reduce the amount in this box.
  • Box 5 - Medicare wages and tips
    • Cash and paycheck tips are added to this box.
    • Group term life insurance (GTLI) taxable amounts and personal use of company care (PUCC) are considered taxable and added to this box.
    • Pretax medical, vision, or dental plans will reduce the amount in this box.
    • Flexible spending accounts (FSA) and pretax health savings accounts (HSA) will reduce the amount in this box.
  • Box 12
    This box will include amounts from:
    • Nontaxable per diems
    • Group term life insurance (GTLI) taxable amounts
    • Company health savings accounts (HSA)
    • Pretax health savings accounts (HSA)
    • Retirement plans (401(k), 403b, SAR SEP, etc..)
  • Box 14 - Other
    This box will include amounts from:
    • Clergy housing (cash or in-kind)
    • Personal use of company care (PUCC) taxable amounts
    • S-Corp Owners Health Insurance
  • Box 16 - State wages, tips, etc
    • In most cases, this will match Box 1 however, some state agencies treat wages and deductions differently than the IRS. Check with your state agency for questions about the taxability of certain items.

Form W-3

General information

Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statement, is a form employers must include when filing paper W-2 forms with the Social Security Administration. Form W-3 summarizes the total wages, Social Security wages, federal income tax withheld, and FICA tax withheld from employees during the year and lists the number of W-2 forms being transmitted.

When you submit your W-2 forms electronically through your Online Payroll account, we include the W-3 information in the electronic file. Therefore, you don't need to submit a separate W-3.

For more W-3 information, please see Form W-3: Transmittal of wage and tax statements.

Print Form W-3

Starting the tax year 2018, you can now print form W-3 from your payroll system.

For prior tax years, the W-3 cannot be printed from your payroll product however, you can generate and print a Payroll Tax and Wage Summary report for your records. This report has the same information as your Form W-3. If you paper file at least one W-2, you must send a paper Form W-3 (printed by the government, not on your printer) along with the entire Copy A page of Form W-2.

If you are filing with paper forms, be sure:

  • You have a W-3 for the correct year.
  • You file by the due date at the end of January.

To print a report that shows the W-3 information:

Intuit Online Payroll and Intuit Full Service Payroll

  1. Go to Reports > Tax and Wage Summary.
  2. Select (or enter) a date range for the year you want to display.
  3. Select Update Report.

QuickBooks Online Payroll and QuickBooks Full Service Payroll

  1. Select Reports > Standard > Payroll.
  2. Select Payroll Tax and Wage Summary.
    • To quickly jump to it in the list, just search Payroll Tax and Wage Summary in the search field.
  3. Select a time period from the Date Range drop-down.
  4. Select Run Report.

To view and print the W-3 form:

Intuit Online Payroll

  1. Select Taxes & Forms tab.
  2. In the Forms section, select Annual Forms.
  3. Select W-3, and then View.
  4. Select the Printer icon to print.

Intuit Full Service Payroll

  1. Select Tax Records > W-3.
  2. Select the Printer icon to print.

QuickBooks Online Payroll and QuickBooks Full Service Payroll

  1. Select Taxes > Payroll Tax.
  2. In the Forms section, select Annual Forms.
  3. Select W-3, and then View.
  4. Select the Printer icon to print.

 

IRS W-3 sample