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 be filed with federal agencies, along with annual wage and tax forms for employees and non-employees.

W-3 forms are transmittal forms used to summarize information on the W-2 forms you give to employees. Submit the W-2 forms and W-3 forms to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

1096 forms are transmittal forms used to summarize information on 1099-MISC forms you give to non-employees. Submit the 1096 form and 1099-MISC forms to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Due Dates for W-2, W-3, 1099-MISC, and 1906 Forms
Form To  Due Date: 
W-2 Employees January 31 of year after tax year
W-3 Social Security Admin. January 31 of year after tax year
1099-MISC Non-employees January 31 of year after tax year
1096 IRS February 28 of year after tax year

Double-check the date on the form you are using. It should be the date for the tax year you are reporting on, not the date for the year when you complete the form.

These reports are due the year after the tax year. For example, if you are reporting employee pay for 2019, the W-3 and W-2s are due January 31, 2010.

Due dates may change each year if the due date falls on a weekend or a holiday. Check this article on payroll tax due dates for the specific date for this year.

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

Form W-3 is a compilation form because it totals all data from all of the W-2 forms for all your employees.

Completing Form W-3. The W-23 form mirrors the information on the W-2 form for boxes 1 through 19. You will need to total the information from all W-2 forms and enter it into the correct box. For example, total Box 1 information (Wages, tips, other compensation) from all employee W-2 forms for Box 1 of the W-3 form.

You will also need to include information on the type of payer and type of employer. See the general instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3 for more details.

Submitting Form W-3. The SSA allows for both paper filing and electronic filing, but you only need to complete a W-3 transmittal form if you are filing a paper copy of the forms. To file the form with the SSA, you will need to include Copy A of the W-3 with all of the W-2 forms. The SSA has specific requirements for these two options based on the number of W-2s your company is providing.

The W-2 and W-3 forms can be mailed to:

Social Security Administration, Data Operations Center, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18769-0001.

Make a copy of Form W-3 and keep it with Copy D of all of the W-2 forms you are sending to the Social Security Administration.

Form 1096 for Contractors and Outside Business Information

Form 1096 is more complicated than the W-3. Form 1096 is what the IRS calls a "compilation report" because it totals all information from all of the 1099-MISC forms you've distributed to non-employees. Each type of Form 1099 must have its own Form 1096.

Completing Form 1096. You must total all the information in Boxes 1 - 5 on the 1099-MISC for all non-employees. You must also check the box for the correct type of form (1099-MISC in this case). See the General Instructions for Certain Information Returns for more information.

When You MUST File Wage and Tax Reports Online

The current (2019) law requires that you file information returns online when you have 250 or more of the same report. That means 250 W-2s or 1099-MISC forms.

Beginning in 2021, you must file online if you have 100 or more of each type of report, and

Beginning in 2022 and beyond, you must file online if you have 10 or more of any one type of report. 

The minimum number of forms that must be filed online is decreasing. You can file W-2 forms and 1099-MISC forms online now and not have to file paper forms W-3 and 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 Form 1099 that affects Form 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.​

Article Sources

  1. IRS. Form W-3 Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements." Accessed Nov. 11, 2019.

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