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What to do with your W-2?

It’s that time of the year again and you will soon be receiving your W-2.  But do you know what to do with it?  What if you don’t receive it?  What do you do if the information is incorrect?  Let’s take a look at this essential form for filling your taxes…

Your W-2 reports the amount of wages that you have earned, in addition to the amount of taxes that have been withheld and any contributions to your retirement that have been made.  Your employer has until January 31st to get you your W-2, either by mail or hand delivered.

Understanding what is contained on your W-2

You will need your W-2 in order to file your taxes, if you worked at more than one place during the year, you will need a W-2 from each of your employers.

When you receive your W-2 make sure to look it over and make sure the information on it is accurate… like your name, address, social security number, etc.  The first thing you will likely look for is the amount of money you made last year… located in box 1 is your total wages.  If you are like me, you’ll wonder just “what happened to all of that money?”

But What if I Haven’t Received My W-2?

If you have not received your Form W-2 by let’s say, mid-February, then ask your employer if they mailed it out. It is possible that it has been returned to them because of an incorrect or incomplete address.  Also ask for a copy of your Form W-2.  Irs.gov suggests that “if you do not receive your W-2 by February 14th, contact the IRS for assistance at 800-829-1040.” When you call, you must provide your name, address, city and state, including zip code, Social Security number, phone number and have the following information:

  • Employer’s name, address, city and state, including zip code and phone number
  • Dates of employment
  • An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and when you worked for that employer during 2010. The estimate should be based on year-to-date information from your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if possible.

What do I do if there is incorrect information on my W-2?

If you find that there is information on your W-2 that is incorrect or missing, contact your employer and advise them of the changes that need to be made. Irs.gov, in their “corrections” section has this advice: “If your name, SSN, or address is incorrect, correct Copies B, C, and 2 and ask your employer to correct your employment record. Be sure to ask the employer to file Form W-2c, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement, with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to correct any name, SSN, or money amount error reported to the SSA on Form W-2. If your name and SSN are correct but are not the same as shown on your social security card, you should ask for a new card at any SSA office or call 1-800-772-1213.”

What are all of these copies for? Who gets what?

W-2 forms come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the payroll processing software that employers use, they all will however, contain the same information.  You should receive 3 or 4 copies of your W-2… here’s where they go:

  • Copy B–File with your federal income tax return
  • Copy C–Keep for your records (the IRS recommends up to seven years)
  • Copy 1–File with your state income tax return
  • Copy 2–File with your local income tax return

What’s with all of those boxes?

You will likely find that many of the boxes on your W-2 are blank, here is what should be in each of the boxes that apply to most of us, where applicable of course.

  • Box 1–Your income (how much you earned)
  • Box 2–How much federal income tax you paid
  • Box 3–How much of your income was taxable for Social Security
  • Box 4–How much Social Security tax you paid
  • Box 5–How much of your income was taxable for Medicare
  • Box 6–How much Medicare tax you paid

NOTE: Box 3 and 5 may be different from Box 1 if you had any deductions (money withheld from your paycheck) that are not taxable. The most common non-taxable deductions are health benefits and retirement contributions.

  • Box A–Your Social Security number
  • Box B—You employer’s identification number
  • Box C–Your employer’s name and address (most often the corporate headquarters)
  • Box D—Official Top Secret number… don’t worry about this one.
  • Box E/F–Your name and address

There is no need to freak out when it comes to your W-2, it is a simple and easy to use form.  Don’t forget, you until April 15th to file your tax return.

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