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Rev. date: 01/01/2011

Form W-2 – Where, When, and How to File

Tax Topic 752
Employers must complete, file with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and furnish Form W-2, 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 on your 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 a six part form with two forms printed on a single page. Copy A of Form W-2 must be sent to the SSA with the transmittal Form W-3 by the last day of February of the succeeding year. Special due dates apply if you have terminated your business or you are filing electronically. Refer to the Instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3 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 must give the remaining copies of Form W-2 (Copies B, C and 2) to the employee by January 31st of the succeeding year. 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. The employer copy, Copy D, should be retained for four years.
Anyone required to file Form W-2 must also file Form Form W-3, 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, Form 943, Form 944 for the year) should agree with the amounts reported on Form W-3. There are separate Forms W-2 and W-3 instructions. 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 FormW-2 and W-3 Instructions. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. Use decimal points followed by cents (or zeroes for no cents). Do not use dollar signs or commas.
  3. Do not make any erasures, cross-outs, or white-outs. Copy A must be error free. If you make an error, put an "X" in the "Void" box, go to the next Form W-2 and start again. Do not write "corrected" on the next Form W-2.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 Form W-2C, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement. File Form Form W-3C, 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 31st. For more information on electronic filing, refer to Tax Topic 801, Tax Topic 802, Tax Topic 803, Tax Topic 804, and Tax Topic 805. 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 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, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide, Publication 393, Federal Employment Tax Forms, Form 8809, Application for Extension of Time To File Information Returns, and Form 8508, Request for Waiver From Filing Information Returns Electronically.