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Jean   Murray

6 Common Errors on Form W-2 - And How to Avoid Them

By January 18, 2013

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STOP! Before you submit those W-2s to employees (the deadline is January 31, 2013), check to make sure you haven't made one of these common errors:

1. Sending a W-2 to a non-employee. Make sure you know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. Employees receive W-2 forms; contractors receive Form 1099-MISC.

2. Using the form for the wrong year. You are completing the 2012 form, for the 2012 tax year.

3. Not using the approved form. You can't download the form from the Internet and use it. You must use the approved form because the red ink in Form A is a specific type. You can find approved W-2 forms in a variety of places, including from your software company, payroll service,  the IRS, or at an office supply store.

4. Sending W-2 forms to the IRS. W-2 forms are given to employees at the end of January and are submitted to the Social Security Administration at the end of February, along with transmittal form W-3.

5. Failing to get a waiver for not e-filing. If your business files more than 250 W-2 forms, you must file electronically. But you can get a waiver from the IRS.

6. Failing to stop Social Security withholding at the Social Security maximum wage level for 2012 of $110,100. Employee wages above this amount do not have the Social Security tax deducted. But the Medicare tax has no maximum.

6. Not checking for form errors, like:

  • Failing to include decimal and cents on amounts
  • Failing to use black ink (making entries too light)
  • Making entries too large or too small. The IRS suggests you use 12 pt. Courier type font for printing W-2s.
  • Mis-formatting employee name. Employee first name and middle initial goes in the first box, the employee surname goes in the second box, and any suffix (like "Jr.") goes in the third box

For more information:

Instructions for 2012 Form W-2 from the IRS (PDF)

All about Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement, including how to complete and file.


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