What you should expect to see on your W-2: Box-by-box W-2 guide

This year is nearly over. Employees will be receiving W-2 tax forms from their employers. Below we’ve provided a box-by-box description of what you should expect to see on your W-2.


Boxes a-f: Personal and Employer information

Box 1: Wages, tips, and other compensation (excluding the benefits that are not subject to tax, such as amounts you have withheld to pay your share of health insurance premiums or contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans).

Box 2: Federal Income Tax Withheld. This box shows how much money employers took out of your paycheck to cover your income tax liability, this will be included on your tax return and if it is larger than what you owe in taxes, you can usually get a refund on the difference.

Boxes 3 and 4: Social Security wages and the related tax withheld.  These boxes show how much of your wages were subject to Social Security tax and the actual amount the employer deducted for your share from your paycheck.  Box 3 wages may differ from Box 1 wages. (Note: Social Security taxes in box 4 are currently calculated at 6.2% of Social Security wages).

Boxes 5 and 6: Medicare wages, tips, and tax withheld.  These boxes show how much of your wages were subject to Medicare tax and the amount the employer deducted for your share from your paycheck.  Box 5 may differ from Box 1 and possibly Box 3 for high-income earners.  (Note:  Medicare taxes in box 6 are currently calculated at 1.45% of Medicare wages and there is no wage limit).

Box 7: Social Security Tips. If applicable, this box should show tips you reported to your employer or tips that were allocated to you.  They are sometimes already included in box 1.

Box 12 a-d: These boxes are for employers to report items that usually affect your wages such as: retirement contributions, non-taxed medical contributions, etc...  An explanation of each code is on the back of your W-2 form.

Box 13: This box has 3 check boxes in it: Statutory Employee, Retirement Plan, and Third Party Sick Pay. A statutory employee is someone who is treated like an employee but didn't have any taxes withheld from their paycheck (this occurs frequently with employees who are 100% commission.)

Box 14: Employers may use this box to report information such as state disability insurance taxes withheld, union dues, uniform payment, nontaxable income, educational assistance payments or a member of a clergy’s parsonage allowance and utilities.

Boxes 18-20: State and Local Tax information. These boxes will provide information that state and local tax authorities need to determine what you owe in state and local taxes.



Still not sure about your W-2s? Back Office Remedies offers payroll outsourcing solutions, which is all inclusive (meaning no hidden fees.) We file all employment-related reports at no extra costs and issue annual W-2s, W-3 and 1099s free of charge. Contact us for more information.


Written by Jedia Necsu - Assistant Controller

Updated on May 8, 2017 11:49