What is a W-2 Form?

W-2 FormThe W-2 Form is one of the most essential forms in the tax world. It details what you’ve been paid by your employer.

The first point is to remember that the W-2 form is entirely different from your W-4 form. This details any payment that has been withheld as tax by your employer. Any employer that has paid you at least $600 during the tax year must send you a W-2.

Contractors and freelancers will receive 1099s because they don’t have employers; they have clients.

You’ll need the W-2 form for everything from filing your taxes to claiming tax credits.

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You Can’t Do Your Taxes Without Your W-2

Before you can complete your taxes, you must have your W-2 form. It’s the record of how much you’ve earned in the last financial year and how much tax you’ve already paid.

Without your W-2, you don’t have the information you need.

You Must Get Your W-2 By the End of January

By law, employers must make sure that their employers have access to their W-2 forms by January 31st, or they can face harsh financial penalties. The definition, set by the IRS, is that employers must have a W-2 form in their hands by the beginning of February.

But these days, it’s easier than ever before to get your W2 form online, because employers can send these forms electronically. Just make sure to keep in mind that previous employers can still wait until the end of January to provide you with your W-2 form.

However, if you do ask for it earlier, your employer must, by law, provide it to you within 30 days.

Your W-2 is So Much More than Your Salary

It’s easy to think that your W-2 form is exclusively about how much you earned in the last year. But it also includes lots of other helpful information.

You’ll also find numbers on how much you contributed to your retirement fund, how much your employer contributed to your health plan and any dependent care benefits you received. All this data will influence exactly how much tax you’re expected to pay in the next year.

Your W-2 is Also Possessed by State and Local Tax Authorities

The W-2 Form is not something that only you and your employer possess. Your employer is legally obligated to send it to both the state and local tax authorities, as well as sending Copy A to the Social Security Administration.

This is designed for the purpose of making sure that taxpayers enter all the correct information on their tax forms. Both your state tax authority and the IRS will check the numbers provided against the copies they have access to.

Don’t Believe What You See

Employers can and do make mistakes when they send out W-2 forms. It can be as simple as getting the wrong address or as significant as putting a decimal point in the wrong place.

If there’s something clearly wrong, you should point this out and request a correction of your W-2 form. If it means that your taxes are late, you won’t get fined by the IRS because it wasn’t your fault.

Your employer, on the other hand, may receive a fine if their error causes your taxes to be late. They can also be fined if there are significant mistakes.

The Most Important Part of Your W-2 is the Address

You might not think that the address stated on your W-2 could become an issue. But it happens to thousands of Americans every year. If you haven’t gotten your W-2 by Valentine’s Day, you need to investigate whether the wrong address was used.

You should call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to rectify this. You’ll need to provide some basic information about what you were paid and where you worked.

In this case, you may be able to estimate withholdings and earnings on your tax return. However, when your W-2 shows up, you may need to file your taxes all over again.

Learn how you can get your W2 form online fast with the online W2 finder.