How To File Forms W-2 and 1099-MISC Online

And When You MUST File Online

E-filing 1099-MISC Forms

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One of the most important payroll forms is the annual form given to employees and non-employees each year. These reports are necessary for federal income tax preparation. All of these reports can be filed online.

Be sure to use the 2019 version of 1099-MISC for 2019 payments to nonemployees and others. The 1099-MISC form is changing in 2020, and a new 2020 Form 1099-NEC will be used to report nonemployee compensation.

To be sure you are using the correct form, check that the date "2019" is in the top right and that Item 7 is for "nonemployee compensation."

Deadlines for Annual Wage and Tax Reports

Giving forms to payees:

In brief, by January 31 of the year following the tax year:

  • Employees must receive a W-2 form showing their taxable income, income tax withheld, and other information affecting their tax returns.
  • Non-employees must receive a 1099-MISC form showing the taxable payments your business made to them during the year.

Filing reports with federal agencies

By January 31 of the following year, these forms must be submitted to the proper federal agency:

  • Social Security Administration for W-2 forms 
  • IRS for 1099-MISC forms)

The filing deadlines have been moved up to January 31 in order to better monitor forms for tax fraud. The deadline is the same for all filings, including e-filing. 

The deadline for giving forms to payees and filing with federal agencies is the same date. Try to give reports to recipients early in January so there's time to correct errors before you file.

The filing deadline may change due to holidays and weekends. Here are the specific filing due dates for Form W-2 and 1099-MISC forms for the current year. 

Benefits of Filing Online

  • E-filing, according to the IRS, saves time and effort and helps ensure accuracy.
  • If you e-file W-2 forms, you don't need to calculate and submit a W-3 transmittal form; the Social Security Administration generates a W-3 automatically.
  • If you e-file 1099 forms, including the 1099-MISC form, you don't need to calculate and submit a 1096 form for each type of 1099 form.
  • You can use the BSO site to verify Social Security Numbers for wage reporting purposes. Verifying Social Security numbers assures that wages are reported correctly and it avoids costly W-2C forms to correct W-2s,
  • The BSO site offers a tutorial, handbooks, a checklist and lots of other useful information to help you e-file those W-2 forms.
  • If you find a mistake in one or more W-2 forms after you have submitted them, you can also submit W-2c (corrected) forms online.
  • You can verify that your files have been received and check the status online.
  • Using the IRS's FIRE system for e-filing information returns means faster processing with fewer errors.
  • Some states participate in the FIRE system, which means you can avoid a separate state filing.

When You MUST File Online

For calendar years through 2020, you must file information returns (W-2s and 1099-MISC forms) online if you file 250 or more of one type of form for the year. You may be penalized if you don't file online when you are required to do this.

  • Starting with 2021 information returns, you must file online if you have 100 W's or 1099-MISC forms to file. (That's 100 of each type of form).
  • For tax years after 2021, if your business has 10 or more W-2s or 1099-MISC forms to file, you must file online

Waiver from e-filing.

You can request a waiver from this requirement for both 1099 forms and W-2 forms by filing Form 8508 with the IRS at least 45 days before the due date of Form W-2, or 45 days before you file your first Form W-2c. There are no automatic extension requests for Form W-2. 

E-filing W-2 Forms With the Social Security Administration

The SSA's Business Services Online (BSO) is the place to go for e-filing W-2s. You will need to sign up with this service first.

The SSA has a Frequently Asked Questions page to help you with questions about filing W-2 forms.

E-filing 1099 Forms with the IRS

You can submit all 1099 forms, including Form 1099-MISC, to the IRS by mail or online, using the Filing Information Returns Electronically (FIRE) system.

If you are not submitting electronically, you must also submit a transmittal form 1096, one for each type of 1099 you are submitting, which summarizes all the forms for that category. This is another benefit to e-filing: no 1096 required.

For filing 1099 forms electronically, be sure to file IRS Form 4419, the application to file electronically, at least 30 days before the due date of the forms, and read the IRS information on the requirements for filing with the FIRE system.

Remember to Do This by the End of January:

  • You must send W-2 forms to employees and 1099-MISC forms to non-employees.
  • You must submit all W-2s, with transmittal W-3, to the Social Security Administration, including e-filing for 250 or more W-2s. 
  • You must submit all 1099 forms, including Form 1099-MISC, along with a transmittal form 1096, to the IRS, including filing electronically.

What If I Don't File When I'm Supposed to?

You can receive penalties for:

  • Failing to file online when this is required,
  • Failing to submit forms to the proper agency on time,
  • Failing to give forms to employees or non-employees,
  • Or failing to give the right form to the right person.

Penalties increase with lateness. 

Failing to follow the law for e-filing large batches of W-2 forms and for failing to e-file all 1099 forms means fines and penalties. Penalties increases with the lateness of the filing.

Article Sources

  1. IRS. Instructions for Form W-2 and W-3. Page 1. Accessed Oct. 25, 2019.

  2. IRS. "2019 Instructions for Form 1099-MISC." Accessed Dec. 29, 2019.

  3. U.S. Congress. H.R. 3151. "Sec. 2301. Electronic Filing of Returns," Page 32. Accessed Oct. 8, 2019.

  4. IRS. Topic 803 Waivers and Extensions. Accessed Oct. 25, 2019.

  5. IRS. Common Penalties for Individuals. Accessed Oct. 25, 2019.