So many boxes, numbers, letters. Lots of blank spaces with tiny type above them asking about things like wages, Social Security, Medicare, tips, etc. What does it all mean? What goes in these boxes really? What is the control number and where is it located (see our description of Box D)?
Employers are required to file the W-2 Form for employees who are paid more than $600 and for whom taxes are withheld on income, social security and medicare. A payroll service typically produces W-2s for employers.
We've updated the information for 2015 and unpacked them for you, box by box. Read on to see what's really in each box, and don't miss our W-2 Blueprint here for top tips.
Form W-2 has 6 lettered boxes (A thru F) that are used to identify the employer and employee:
Box A: Employee's social security number ― as it appears on their social security card
Box B: Employer identification number (EIN) ― assigned to the employer by the IRS and is used on the employer's federal employment tax return
Box C: Employer's name, address, and ZIP code ― as it appears on the employer's federal employment tax return
Box D: Control number ― Optional; If present, it is a code number assigned by the company's payroll processing software to identify each employee's W-2.
Box E: Employee's name ― as it appears on their social security card
Box F: Employee's address and ZIP code ― If the employee recently moved, this will be their former address (the tax agency may have a record of them at the prior address).
Box 1: Wages, tips, other compensation
Reports the total gross taxable wages, received during the calendar year BEFORE payroll deductions are subtracted out.
Box 2: Federal income tax withheld
Reports the federal income tax withheld from the employee's earnings based on their W-4.
Box 3: Social security wages
Reports the total gross wages received by the employee (before payroll deductions) that are subject to the employee's portion of social security tax (at a rate of 6.2% for 2015).
Box 4: Social security tax withheld
Reports social security taxes withheld from the employee's wages and tips reported in Box 3 (at a rate of 6.2% for 2015).
Box 5: Medicare wages and tips
Reports the employee's gross wages, tips, commissions, etc. that are subject to employee Medicare tax.
Box 6: Medicare tax withheld
Reports the total Medicare taxes withheld from the employee's taxable wages (1.45% of the amount in Box 5).
Box 7: Social security tips
Reports the amount of tip income the employee reported to the employer.
Box 8: Allocated tips
Reports the employee's tip income not shown in boxes 1, 3, 5 or 7, including charged and cash tips the employee received directly.
Box 9: Advance EIC payments
Box 9 was eliminated January 1, 2011. It is now shaded on Form W-2 and remains blank.
Box 10: Dependent care benefits
Reports total dependent care benefits paid by or incurred by the employer for section 129 dependent care assistance programs.
Box 11: Nonqualified plans
Reports distributions made to an employee from the employer's nonqualified, deferred compensation plan or a nongovernmental section 457(b) pension plan.
Reports deferrals, contributions, and uncollected taxes with a single or double letter code and by a dollar amount.
Box 13 Checkboxes
This section offers a selection of three checkboxes: statutory employee, retirement plan, and third-party sick pay.
Box 14: Other tax information
Reports union dues, employer-paid tuition assistance, leased vehicle value, employee's post-tax contributions to a retirement plan, adoption benefits paid by an employer from a section 125 (cafeteria) plan, uniform payments; may also report state disability insurance taxes withheld.
Box 15: Employer's state ID number
Displays the two-letter abbreviation for the employer's state and the employer's state tax identification number.
Box 16: State wages, tips, etc.
Reports the employee's total taxable wages (earned in a specific state) that are subject to the state's income tax.
Box 17: State income tax
Reports the total amount of state income tax (SIT) withheld from the employee's taxable wages (Box 16).
Box 18: Local wages, tips, etc.
Reports the employee's total amount of taxable income that is subject to local, city, county, school district, municipal, or other state income taxes.
Box 19: Local income tax
Reports the total amount of local, city, county, school district, municipal, or other state taxes withheld from the employee's wages (Box 18).
Box 20: Locality name
Reports the code or name of the locality for which local income taxes were withheld.