How to File W-2 Forms Online

And When You MUST File Online

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How to E-File Form W-2

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If you have W-2 forms to file for annual wage reports for employees, the easiest way to file these is online. Here's what you need to know.

When Is the Deadline for W-2 Forms?

The filing deadline for W-2 forms was moved up a few years ago. File W-2 forms with the Social Security Administration (SSA), not the IRS.

Beginning in 2018 and going forward, the deadline to file W-2 forms with the SSA is January 31 of the following year. For 2019 W-2 forms, the filing deadline is January 31, 2020.

That is a month earlier than the former filing date. The change was made to help prevent tax fraud, and the earlier date applies to all filings including both paper and online submissions. Your filings will be considered on time if they are submitted by this date, and filing online is much easier and more convenient.

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

What Are W-2 Forms and W-3 Forms? 

W-2 forms are used to report employee wages and salaries to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA 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 taxes (Social Security and Medicare) and federal and state income taxes. You must also issue a W-2 form to anyone who should have had income tax withheld but did not for some reason. W-3s are transmittal forms that must accompany W-2s. They summarize the information on all the W-2 forms you send to the SSA. A W-3 is not required if you file your W-2 forms with the SSA online. 

When You MUST File Online

 The Social Security Administration states that for calendar years through 2020, if you file 250 or more W-2 forms during a calendar year, you must file them electronically unless the IRS grants you a waiver. You may be charged a penalty if you fail to file electronically when required.

Penalties assessed for each form not filed or filed incorrectly. Penalties also depend on how late the form is filed with the SSA or given to employees and the size of your business.

Read more about filing an extension application (not guaranteed), then file the forms as soon as possible to minimize penalties.

A recent tax law change (the Taxpayer First Act) has changed the requirement for filing certain annual information returns online (including W-2 forms for employees and 1099-MISC forms for non-employees).

  • Starting with the 2021 tax year, if your business has 100 W-2s to file, you must file online.
  • For tax years after 2021, if your business has 10 or more W-2s to file, you must file online.

There are also special rules for partnerships filing W-2s online for the following calendar years:

  • For 2018, a partnership must file W-2s online if they have 200 or more,
  • For 2019, a partnership must file W-2s online if they have 150 or more,
  • For 2020, a partnership must file W-2s online if they have 100 or more, and
  • For 2021, a partnership must file W-2s online if they have 50 or more.

You can begin filing W-2s online at any time to make sure you meet the requirement.

How Do You File Online? 

You can e-file W-2 forms online at the SSA's Busines Services Online (BSO) website. It is free and secure. The SSA very much prefers that you use this option rather than submit paper records.

The BSO offers two options. You can create fill-in versions of these forms and print out copies for filing with state or local governments as well as for distribution to employees and for your own records—up to 50 at a time. Or, you can simply upload your wage files if you use tax or payroll software.

The Benefits of E-Filing W-2 Forms 

E-filing saves time and effort and helps ensure accuracy, according to the IRS. 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 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.

Before You Submit the Forms Electronically

You must first register with the Social Security Administration's BSO section before you can submit your W-2 forms online. Then, create and save your W-2 forms using a special file format and submit them to BSO.

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 and see if the file has been accepted.

Be sure to file all employee W-2 forms by the January 31 deadline to avoid late filing penalties.

Article Sources

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