How To File W-2 Forms Online

Avoid penalties and submit your forms electronically

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Business Tax Filing Questions
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All businesses with employees must file a W-2 report every year with information about the employee's total pay and withholding for the year. If you have W-2 forms to file for annual wage reports for employees, the easiest way to file them is online. Here's what you need to know to e-file these forms.

Key Takeaways

  • You must file W-2 forms for all employees each year with the Social Security Administration (SSA), by January 31 of the year after the tax year (January 31, 2022 for 2021 W-2s).
  • To file W-2s electronically, register with the SSA's Business Services Online (BSO) website.
  • If you are filing 100 or more 2021 W-2s, you must file them electronically; you can't send paper copies.
  • You don't need to file the W-3 transmittal form with W-2s you file online.

What Is a W-2 Form?

W-2 forms are used to report employee wages and salaries and tax withholding to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The W-2 is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). but you file these forms with the SSA, which shares the information with the IRS for income tax purposes. 

You must issue a W-2 form to each employee from whom you've withheld FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act) taxes, which are Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as federal, state, and local income taxes. You must also issue a W-2 form to anyone who should have had income tax withheld but did not withhold for some reason (someone who claimed a withholding exemption, for example).

The W-2 form includes information on

  • Wages, tips, and other compensation
  • Federal income tax withheld
  • Social Security and Medicare wages
  • Social Security and Medicare tax withheld
  • Social Security and Medicare tips withheld

It also includes information on state and local wages and tips, and taxes withheld for each.

What's the Deadline for W-2 Forms?

The deadline to file W-2 forms with the SSA is January 31 of the following year, so for 2021 W-2s, the deadline is Jan. 31, 2022. The change was made in 2015 to help prevent tax fraud, and the date applies to both paper and online submissions. Your filings will be considered on time if they are submitted by this date.

You must also give W-2 forms to employees no later than January 31. It's a good idea to give these forms to your employees early in January so they can look them over and you can make corrections if necessary before the deadline.

How Do I File W-2s Online?

You can e-file W-2 forms online at the SSA's Business Services Online website. It is free and secure, and it's the method preferred by the SSA over submitting paper records. You must first register on the Social Security Administration's BSO website, then you can create and save your W-2 forms using a special file format and submit them on the website.

The BSO offers two options. You can create up to 50 of these forms and print out copies to give to your employees. Or, if you use payroll software, you can upload a wage report to use in generating the forms.

You can view the uploaded files and see error reports after the files are submitted, including name and Social Security number mismatches. This allows you to make any necessary corrections.

You can also review the status of your submission to see whether the file has been accepted.

When To Submit W-3 Forms with W-2 Forms

W-3s are transmittal forms that must accompany W-2s if you file paper copies. They summarize the information on all the W-2 forms you send to the SSA. If you e-file your W-2 forms with the SSA online using the BSO portal, it will automatically generate your W-3 form, so you don't need to file the form. 

When You Must File W-2 Forms Online

Effective with the 2021 tax year, if you are filing 100 or more or more W-2 forms during a calendar year, you must file them electronically unless the IRS grants you a waiver. For tax years after 2021, you must file online if your business has 10 or more W-2s to file.

You may be charged a penalty if you fail to file electronically when required. Of course, you can begin filing all W-2s online at any time to make sure you meet the requirement.

The Benefits of E-Filing W-2 FormsĀ 

E-filing saves time and effort and helps ensure accuracy. You don't have to calculate and submit a W-3 transmittal form because the Social Security Administration will generate a W-3 automatically when you submit your W-2s.

You can also submit W-2c (corrected W-2) forms at the BSO site to correct an error if you make a mistake in one or more W-2 forms after you have filed.

You can also use the BSO site to verify Social Security numbers for wage reporting purposes. The site offers a tutorial, handbooks, a checklist, and other useful information to help you e-file those forms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I file a corrected W-2 online?

To correct W-2 forms after you have filed them, you'll need to use Form W-2c (and W-3c if you filed a paper W-2). You can use the form to correct current year forms and those for previous years. You can file this form through the SSA's BSO website.

What happens if you don't file W-2s?

The IRS assesses penalties for each form not filed or filed incorrectly. Penalties depend on how late the form is filed with the SSA or given to employees, and the penalties vary depending on the size of your business. Penalties are much higher if the IRS determines that the employer intentionally disregarded the filing requirements.

You may consider filing an extension application, then filing the forms as soon as possible to minimize penalties.