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Print W-2 and W-3 forms


Once the current year's W-2 forms are available and you finished running payroll for the year you may print and file your W-2 forms. This article explains how to print W-2 forms.

IMPORTANT NOTE: QuickBooks Desktop Payroll has now introduced a change in the way Payroll forms are printed. Visit the Form printing service for Payroll Forms section of the article How to process payroll tax forms to learn more.


  1. You are using a supported QuickBooks Desktop version.
  2. You have an active QuickBooks Payroll Standard or Enhanced Service.
    • If you have the QuickBooks Payroll Basic Service, the form will not be available in QuickBooks Desktop.  You may however create a payroll summary report to get the data you need in manually completing the form.
    • For laser printer, use either blank / perforated papers or preprinted forms.
    • For inkjet printer, use preprinted forms for best results.
  3. You have the latest payroll tax table.

Printing W-2 forms in QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks Desktop has a limitation when printing payroll forms. It can print up to $9,999,999.99 only in any box of a form. When you process W-2 Forms, QuickBooks Desktop will also process the Form W-3 which is a summary of the W-2s. If at least one value or box in your W-2 or W-3 Forms is greater than $9,999,999.99, process the forms by batch in step 3. The IRS accepts batch filing.

If you exceed the limit or if you have more than 800 employees, an error will appear in QuickBooks Desktop.



  1. On the top menu bar, choose Employees > Payroll Tax Forms and W-2s > Process Payroll Forms.
  2. In the list of forms under File Forms tab, choose Annual Form W-2/W-3 - Wage and Tax Statement Transmittal and click the Create Form button.If you are not able to find the form in the list, this can be due to the following:
    • The form may be below the previewed list. Scroll down the list and look for the form.
    • The form may be inactive. To activate the form, click the Forms drop-down arrow and choose Make a New Form Active. Click the State drop-down arrow and choose Federal. Select the W-2 form, and click Add Form.
  3. In the Process W-2s for options:
    • Select All Employees if you want to file the forms of all your employees at once.
    • Select Employee's Last Name (choose from and to) to file by batch.
  4. In the SELECT FILING PERIOD section, in the Year field, enter the year of the form you are printing and click OK. QuickBooks Desktop stores one version of the tax form only. If you have already received the 2017 version of the form, but need to print W-2 forms for 2016, you may use the newer version of the form. Check with the Social Security Administration for additional instruction.
    • If you choose to print the forms for 2016 on blank paper, they will include the year "2016" because the year is part of the government-approved form.
    • If you choose to print the forms for 2016 on preprinted form, QuickBooks Desktop might not print the information in the correct locations. QuickBooks Desktop will print the form details aligned for 2017.
  5. In the Select Employees for Form W-2/W-3 window, select the employees you are printing for. You can also click Mark All to select all employees displayed.
    If you have not yet reviewed all W-2 forms (as indicated by missing checkmarks in the Reviewed column), click Review/Edit. After reviewing, click Submit Form to continue printing.
  1. Click Print/E-file.  This will open the Print W-2 and W-3 Forms window. In the Print W-2 and W-3 Forms window, the items (or copies) are listed by recipients (For example, For employer, and For government).

In the Print W-2 and W-3 Forms window, the options under For employees section will vary depending on the type of paper you select. The items to print are listed by recipients (For employees, For employer, and For government) and you may print only one item at a time. The Print W-2 and W-3 Forms window will stay open until you click Close Window. This allows you to go back and print 1 item after another without having to close and re-open the window. Here are the options available in the Print W-2 and W-3 window:

If you are using Preprinted Forms
  1. Under the Select paper section, select bet ween Blank / Perforated Paper and Preprinted Forms: May require alignment. Refer to Types of paper available for printing W-2 forms to know which type of paper is right for you.
  2. Choose who you're printing for under Select item to print section.
    • For employees
      • If you are using Blank / Perforated Paper
        • 3 per page: copies B, 2, C
        • 4 per page: copies B, 2, 2, C
        • Employee filing instructions: Required if not already printed on paper.
      • If you are using Preprinted Forms
        • W-2 – Copy B: for employee’s federal tax return, 2 per page (1 per page if only 1 employee)
        • W-2 – Copy 2: for your State or Local Tax Department, 2 per page (1 per page if only 1 employee)
        • W-2 – Copy C: for employee records, 2 per page (1 per page if only 1 employee)
        • Employee filing instructions: Required if not already printed on paper
    • For employer
      • W-2 – Copy D: for your records, 2 per page (1 per page if only 1 employee)
      • Employer filing instructions: for W-2 and W-3 form
    • For government
      • W-3 per page
      • W-2 - Copy A: for the SSA, 2 per page (1 per page if only 1 employee)
        Note: If you are filing Forms W-2 and W-3 electronically with the Social Security Administration, do not mail Copy A.
      • W-2 - Copy 1: for your State or Local Tax Department, 2 per page (1 per page if only 1 employee)

  1. f you are using Preprinted Forms, perform a print test to check and adjust preprinted forms alignment. Any adjustments you make will remain until you change them. You skip this step if you are using Blank / Perforated Forms.
  2. Click Print PDF. This exports the forms you have selected to your PDF Reader. If you do not have a PDF Reader installed in your computer, we recommend downloading and installing Adobe Reader as this program works well with QuickBooks Desktop.
  3. At this point, you may initiate the printing process from inside the PDF Reader. The steps in printing may vary depending on the PDF Reader that you are using. For Adobe Acrobat Reader users: Printing using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Other tasks before or after printing W2

To set QuickBooks Desktop to automatically archive the W-2 form(s) after e-filing or printing

In the Payroll Tax Form page, make sure that the Automatically create an archive when I e-file or print checkbox is selected.

This automatically saves the form (PDF format) in a default location whenever you e-file or print the form.

To view archived W-2 forms that have been efiled or printed

  1. Choose Employees > Payroll Tax Forms and W-2s > Process Payroll Forms.
  2. In the Filing History section, in the Saved Filings tab, a list of forms (in PDF format) printed or e-filed are listed here.
  3. To open the form, click the link of the filed form under the Saved PDF column.

To save a draft of the W-2 form(s)

  1. In the Payroll Tax Form page, click Save as PDF.
  2. Select a location where you want to save a draft of your W-2s.
  3. Click Save.

To email the W-2 from Adobe Reader

  1. Choose File > Send > Page by Email; or
  2. Save as an attachment and add it as an attachment to your email.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I still access my archived forms even if I no longer have an active payroll subscription?

You can still access an archived form even if you no longer have an active payroll subscription. You can navigate to the folder containing the .pdf form and open it without using QuickBooks Desktop.

  1. Go to C:\Users\Public\Documents\Intuit\QuickBooks\Sample Company Files\QuickBooks 20xx\(Company Name) Tax Form History.
  2. Click the folder of the archived form that you need. Folder name will have 941, W2, etc. in the title.
Note: You need to have an updated version of PDF Reader in your computer to open the file.

Some employees have 2 or more W-2s when printing out.

If Boxes 12 or 14 contain more than 4 lines, a second form prints the overflow information. The additional form displays only the name, address, and overflow information.

Why are some of my W-2s printing forms without amounts or figures?

Sometimes when printing W-2s of your employees, you may find that some of the forms appear to have no amounts/figures but boxes a,b,c,d,e and box 18 are populated. This may be due to the employee having more than two local taxes withheld. Only two lines can fit in box 18 (local wages) and if there are more than two local taxes withheld, QuickBooks Desktop prints a multiple-page W-2.

Why is the Printer Setup button grayed out?

User-added image

The Printer Setup button in Print W-2 and W-3 Forms window is grayed out since we are no longer using the functionality. QuickBooks Desktop now uses the Print PDF feature in printing payroll tax forms which exports the forms to a PDF reader.

If you need to configure the printer setup, you need to make the changes in the PDF Reader software. Here's an example of how to access the Printer Setup window in Adobe Acrobat Reader which is a PDF Reader software.

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