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How to fill out a W-2 form: Box-by-box guide

If you’re a small business owner with employees, you know the importance of filing and paying your payroll taxes. When figuring out how to fill out a W-2 form, you’ll first need to collect your information, such as wages and taxes withheld. 

However, there are roughly 25 boxes you’ll have to fill out, which can be overwhelming. While it seems intimidating, you likely won’t have to complete all the boxes, which means you’ll want to learn how to fill out and file your W-2 forms before diving into the process. 

How to fill out a W-2 form 

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure W-2 forms are accurate. Any employee you pay will get one of these forms. The W-2 form reports the total wages and compensation for the year to both your employee and the IRS. Your employees will use the W-2 form you provide to prepare their own personal tax returns for the year.

An image of a w-2 form as an example.

When filling out a Form W-2, make sure that each box on the form contains the correct information. Here’s how to fill out a Form W-2: 

  • Box A—Employee’s Social Security number: Here, you’ll enter your employee’s nine-digit Social Security number using the XXX-XX-XXXX format. 
  • Box B—Employer identification number (EIN): This box is for your nine-digit EIN, which should be in the XX-XXXXXXX format. 
  • Box C—Employer’s name, address, and ZIP code: Enter your company’s name and legal address. 
  • Box D—Control number: Often left blank unless your company uses control numbers to keep records internally. 
  • Box E—Employee’s name: This is the name of your employee. 
  • Box F—Employee’s address: Here, you’ll enter the address of your employee. 
  • Box 1—Wages, tips, other compensation: The amount you pay your employee that is subject to federal income tax. 
  • Box 2—Federal income tax withheld: The amount of federal income tax you withheld from your employee’s wages. 
  • Box 3—Social Security wages: This is the total amount you pay your employee that is subject to Social Security taxes. The number should not be more than the Social Security wage base, which is $168,600 for 2024. 
  • Box 4—Social Security tax withheld: The amount you withheld from an employee’s Social Security wages. The Social Security tax rate for the employee portion is 6.2%. 
  • Box 5—Medicare wages and tips: This is the amount of wages your employee earns that is subject to Medicare taxes. The amount is generally the same as Box 3 unless your employee makes above the Social Security wage base. 
  • Box 6—Medicare tax withheld: This is the amount you withheld for Medicare taxes. The Medicare tax rate for the employee portion is 1.45%. Note that if your employee earns above a certain amount, they will pay an additional Medicare tax of 0.9%. 
  • Box 7—Social Security tips: If your employee earns tips, you will enter them here, but note the total of boxes 3 and 7 cannot be more than the Social Security wage base. 
  • Box 8—Allocated tips: This is the amount of tips you designate to tipped employees. Allocated tips are not part of taxable income, and you should not include them in Boxes 1,3, 5, or 7. 
  • Box 9—Blank: Leave this box blank. 
  • Box 10—Dependent care benefits: If you gave your employee dependent care benefits as part of a dependent care assistance program, you will enter that amount here. 
  • Box 11—Nonqualified plans: This is the amount of distributions from nonqualified deferred compensation plans like Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans (SERPs) that an employee receives.
  • Box 12: There are four boxes (although you can have more) that allow you to enter a code and a relevant amount. There are several codes you may need to use, such as code D for 401(k) contributions. 
  • Box 13—Various checkboxes: There are three checkboxes to indicate whether the employee is a statutory employee, has a retirement plan, or earned third-party sick pay. Statutory employees are independent contractors who are treated as employees due to certain exemptions. Third-party sick pay is a disability benefit that insurance companies pay in case workers miss time due to a non-work-related injury.
  • Box 14—Other: Here, you will report other payments or deductions, such as health insurance premiums deducted or vehicle lease payments made on the employee’s behalf. 
  • Box 15—Employer’s state ID number: This is your state-specific ID number, also known as your state EIN.
  • Box 16—State wages, tips, etc: This is the amount of employee wages subject to income tax, which may differ from Box 1. 
  • Box 17—State income tax: The amount of money you withheld from your employee’s wages for state income taxes. Leave blank if no state income tax was withheld. 
  • Box 18—Local wages, tips, etc: This is the amount subject to local income tax, which can differ from boxes 1 and 16. If the employee works in a locality that has no income tax, this will be blank. 
  • Box 19—Local income tax: Leave blank unless you withheld any amount from your employee’s wages for local income tax 
  • Box 20—Locality name: This is the name of your city or other locality. 

Note that employers use the information from Form W-4, which they have employees fill out, to determine the amount of taxes they need to withhold from an employee’s paycheck.

With QuickBooks, get every tax deduction you deserve.

How to file Form W-2

Once you fill out all your W-2 forms, you’re ready to file them with the IRS and Social Security Administration (SSA), as well as send copies to employees. The due date for filing your W-2 forms is January 31. 

You can file your W-2 forms with the IRS online or mail them in. If you do decide to submit a hard copy, you can order the forms from the IRS website. 

You’ll fill out multiple copies of the form: 

  • Copy A goes to the SSA
  • Copy 1 goes to the state, city, or local tax department
  • Copy B is for your employee to file with their Federal tax return 
  • Copy C is for your employee to keep for their records 
  • Copy 2 is for your employee to file with their state, city, or local tax return 
  • Copy D is for your (the employer’s) records 

You must file W-2 forms if you withheld any income, Social Security, or Medicare taxes from wages, regardless of the amount of wages. You can mail or electronically send W-2 forms to your employees

Why it’s essential to file the right tax forms

A misclassification of workers, whether it be accidental or intentional, could have severe implications. If you do discover an error, you’ll need to complete IRS Form SS-8. You’ll need to file one of these forms for each one of the misclassified workers.

After receiving the form, the IRS will levy any taxes. You may have to pay wages to employees going back at least three years, along with having to pay penalties such as a $50 fine for each misclassified employee.

Find peace of mind come tax time

There’s a sense of security that comes with hiring employees. However, figuring out how to fill out a W-2 form can be challenging. Mastering the process of filling out and filing your tax forms like W-2 and 1099 forms is a necessary step toward a smooth tax season. 

Streamlining your payroll process with payroll software like QuickBooks Payroll helps automate the tax form-filling process.

QuickBooks Online Payroll & Contractor Payments: Money movement services are provided by Intuit Payments Inc., licensed as a Money Transmitter by the New York State Department of Financial Services, subject to eligibility criteria, credit and application approval. For more information about Intuit Payments Inc.’s money transmission licenses, please visit

How to fill out a W-2 FAQ

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