How to Prepare and File Form W-3 or Form 1096

File Transmittal Forms for W-2s and 1099s

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IRS Forms W-3 and 1096 are summary transmittal forms that must accompany W-2s given to employees and 1099-MISC forms given to non-employees when you file copies with the government. Here's what you need to know to do it right: 

Due Dates 

The due date for W-3s and 1096 forms for the 2016 tax year is January 31, 2017. This is a new earlier date. Form W-3 and your employee W-2s are submitted to the Social Security Administration. All 1096 forms along with their corresponding 1099s are submitted to the Internal Revenue Service. 

Form W-3 for Employee Year-End Wage and Tax Reports 

Form W-3 is the summary transmittal form that must be filed with the Social Security Administration by the due date for the current tax year. Form W-3 totals all data from W-2 forms for all your employees. Learn more about how to complete Form W-3.

Submitting Form W-3

Do NOT copy the W-3 form from the IRS website and submit it. You can only use purchased W-3 forms which use a special red ink. You can submit the form in one of two ways:

  • By mail to the Social Security Administration, Data Operations Center, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18769-0001
  • Online through the Social Security Administration's Business Service Online portal

Form 1096 for Contractor and Outside Business Information Reports 

Form 1096 is what the IRS calls a "compilation report" because it totals all information from all Form 1099s you've distributed to non-employees. You do not need to complete and file a 1096 form if you e-file your 1099s. 

Each type of Form 1099 must have its own Form 1096. For example, you must have a 1096 compilation for all 1099-MISC forms you've provided to independent contractors and others to whom you paid $600 or more during the year, and you'll need another 1096 form if you provide 1099-DIV forms to anyone for dividend payments.

Preparing Form 1096

You must total all the information on the 1099 forms for each type you have provided to prepare Form 1096. A few additional requirements include: 

  • You must file electronically if you submit 250 or more forms. 
  • All the information on the 1096 about you (the filer) must be the same as it appears on the 1099-MISC forms you are submitting, including your EIN. 
  • You must submit the RED scannable form to the IRS. Don't download and print a 1096 from the Internet and submit it. Although it appears in red, it's not scannable. You could be subject to a fine for submitting a 1096 form that is not scannable.

Filing Form 1096

Errors on W-3s and 1096 Forms 

If you make a mistake on a W-2, you must file Form W-2c. If the error affects the summary W-3, you must also file a W-3c form correcting the totals. Read more about how to correct W-2 and W-3 forms

If you make a mistake on a 1099 that affects a 1096, you can correct the error by filing a corrected form designated with an X in the appropriate box. But the correction process is a little more complicated than that, so please read General Instructions for Certain Information Returns

NOTE: Tax laws change periodically, and you should consult with a tax professional for the most up-to-date advice. The information contained in this article is not intended as tax advice and is not a substitute for tax advice.​