A large part of complying with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) is about sending tax forms on time. One of the forms you’ll need to submit in 2024 is form W-2. But what’s the deadline, and what happens if you miss it?
Read on to find out when W-2 forms are due in 2024 and the consequences for late submissions.
What Is the W-2? T
The W-2 is an IRS form that reports your employees’ income and tax withholdings from the previous year. The document is also known as an employee’s wage and tax statement.
What Is the Purpose of the W-2 Form?
The purpose of W-2 forms is to report taxes for your workers, as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Your team members use the document to file their tax returns, and the IRS needs it to approve their submissions while tracking their tax obligations.
Components of the W-2 Form
Before you send a W-2 to your employees and the SSA, you can’t overlook any of these components:
- Box 1 – The total amount of wages, bonuses, tips, and other forms of compensation paid to your workers
- Box 2 – Federal tax withholdings from the employee’s wage
- Box 3 – Amount of total income (Box 1) subject to Social Security tax
- Box 4 – Social security tax withholdings
- Box 5 – Percentage or amount of pay subject to Medicare tax
- Box 6 – Medicare tax withholdings
- Box 7 – Income tip reported by the employee that’s subject to Social Security Tax
- Box 8 – Other tips paid to the employee (not included in the first box)
- Box 9 – Advance of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but it should be empty since EITC is no longer available
- Box 10 – Dependent care benefits allocated to the employee
- Box 11 – Amount distributed to the employee from their deferred compensation scheme
- Box 12 – Additional information about the payments from Box 1, including employee contributions to the worker’s 401(k) plan
- Box 13 – Whether the employee’s earnings are subject to Medicare and Social Security taxes but aren’t subject to federal tax withholdings and whether the employee has a retirement plan or any form of sick pay
- Box 14 – Any other amounts not listed in the previous boxes, such as those deducted for tax-deductible union dues or State Disability Insurance taxes (this box is rarely necessary for filing; it’s generally used for informational purposes)
- Box 15 – Your state abbreviation (e.g., KS for Kansas) and state tax ID
- Box 16 – Gross taxable wages earned by the employee in the state (if the person works for you in multiple states, you’ll need to provide information for each one)
- Box 17 – Gross state income tax withholdings for the payments in Box 16
- Box 18- Total wages subject to state, local, or city income taxes
- Box 19 – Total amount of tax withholdings from the employee’s paychecks for state, city, or local income taxes
- Box 20 – The name of the state, city, or locality where the employee pays their taxes
When Is the Form W-2 Deadline for Employers?
The IRS requires submission of tax documents, such as W-9s and W-4s, every year, which is why filing W-2s is mandatory for employers, no matter the size of their company. But when exactly is the annual deadline for sending your W-2 forms?
IRS Deadline for Employers
The deadline for handing in W-2 forms is set by the IRS and falls on January 31, 2024. It is applicable to the previous tax year (2023). If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is extended to the next business day.
State-Specific Deadlines for W-2 Submission
In most cases, you need to deliver your W-2 forms to the IRS by January 31, 2024. The due date is the same for electronic and paper filings.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Here are the states that allow you to complete your filing process after the said date:
- Iowa – February 15
- Louisiana – February 28
- Missouri – February 28 if you have fewer than 250 employees; if not, the deadline is January 31
- New Jersey – February 15
- New Mexico – February 28
Then there are states that don’t require you to issue W-2 forms at all:
- Alaska – No state income taxes
- California – You report wages and withholdings with form DE 9C
- Florida – No state income taxes
- Nevada – No state income taxes
- New Hampshire – No state income taxes on employees’ income
- New York – You report wages and withholdings with Form NYS-45
- South Dakota – No state income taxes
- Tennessee – No state income taxes on employees’ income
- Texas – No state income taxes
- Washington – No state income taxes
- Wyoming – No state income taxes
How to Ensure Timely Filing of Your W-2
Like with any other tax document, you need to ensure you meet the IRS deadline for W-2 forms. To do so, you need to collect the necessary information on time.
Gathering Necessary Information Ahead of Time
You can’t hand in a W-2 form on time unless you prepare for the filing by gathering the required information. Rather than do all the work manually, find the data in your accounting software. Most programs offer a detailed overview of your employees’ wages and taxes. Some even incorporate the data into W-2s directly, eliminating the need to calculate the amounts.
Keep these points in mind when filling out individual boxes in your software:
- Write all entries in black 12-point Courier font. Machines can’t read italicized, script, and handwritten fonts. Black ink is also incompatible with programs that process W-2 forms.
- Don’t use the dollar symbol and commas. Instead, write down figures using decimal points. Be sure to include the cents portion, and if a number doesn’t need one, write it down in zeroes. Here’s an example of a well-written amount: 15000.50 ($15,500.50 in standard writing).
- Leave boxes that don’t apply to your employees blank. These are usually boxes 9 and 14.
- If you’re sending your forms by mail, don’t fold or cut the pages after printing them. Additionally, avoid stapling W-2s to W-3 forms (which summarize your W2s) together.
If this seems too time-consuming, you can always outsource the job to an accounting firm or any other payroll provider.
Finally, bear in mind that not everyone receives the same copy:
- Copy 1 goes to your state tax authority only.
- Copy 2 goes to your state tax authority and the employee.
- Copy A goes to the SSA.
- Copy B is submitted alongside the worker’s tax returns.
- Copy C goes to the worker for personal records.
- Copy D goes to you for your personal records.
Consequences of Missing the W-2 Deadline
W-2 forms play a pivotal role in your employees’ tax returns, which is why the IRS has a specific submission deadline that triggers penalties if missed. Most states have a due date, so what happens if you’re late? You face severe penalties.
Penalties for Late Filing
The penalties for late W-2 submissions aren’t the same. They depend on how late you submit the form and whether or not you ignore IRS warnings:
- If you hand in W-2s within a month after January 31 (or any other deadline in your state), you’ll pay a $50 penalty per form.
- If you submit W-2s once the 30-day window after the initial deadline (January 31, February 15, or February 28) expires and August approaches, you’ll pay $110 per form.
- If you send W-2 in August, you’ll generally pay $290 per form.
- If you don’t submit the forms in August and ignore the warnings by the IRS, SSA, or any other relevant administration, your fee may soar up to $580 per form.
Late submissions aren’t the only situation where the above penalties apply. The IRS can flag you for a fine even if you submit your W-2s on time for several reasons:
- You didn’t provide all the information.
- You submitted physical copies even though you’re required to submit them electronically (enterprises that file at least 250 forms must do so electronically, according to the IRS).
- You reported the wrong tax identification number (TIN) for at least one of your employees.
- You omitted one of the TINs altogether.
- You submitted a W-2 that can’t be loaded by the IRS or SSA software (e.g., you used blue ink and italicized fonts).
Impact on Employees and Business Operations
Financial loss is a direct consequence of not complying with IRS W-2 requirements. However, it might not be the most severe ramifications. If you repeatedly miss deadlines and ignore IRS warnings, the effect on your employees may be even more damaging.
This goes back to the main purpose of W-2s, which is to enable your employees to file federal and state taxes. If you’re the one keeping your team members from submitting tax returns, they won’t think highly of you, to say the least. Staying motivated in such an environment is virtually impossible.
And with an unmotivated workforce, the chances of growing your organization are slim to none. If your employees don’t care about refining your products or services, the customer experience will plummet.
Finally, late or improper W-2 submissions are distracting. The more W-2s you need to re-file, the more time you need to spend away from the strategic activities of being a business owner.
How to File Form W-2 Before the Deadline
Now that you know why late filings are penalizable and how much you stand to lose if you submit multiple W-2 forms incorrectly, you should learn how to keep this from happening. Whether you’re transmitting the documents electronically or by mail, it’s essential to do so correctly.
Electronic vs. Mail Filing Options
E-filing a W-2 form is the easiest and most beneficial way to comply with this IRS requirement:
- Speed – If you have all the information in front of you, it shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to submit a W-2 electronically. The filing portal has a user-friendly interface that eliminates the guesswork associated with this process.
- Security – With e-filings, you don’t need to worry about information loss or theft. There are no couriers or other intermediaries involved. It’s just you and a highly secure submission platform with advanced encryption standards.
- Cost-effective – In-person deliveries can be risky, especially if the courier is unreliable. If they lose your W-2s, it might be difficult to prove they’re responsible for the loss. This may require you to reprint hundreds of documents, and the cost quickly adds up. Electronic filings are a budget-friendly alternative due to their paperless nature.
Take the following steps to submit the document electronically:
- Visit the SSA Business Services website.
- Set up an account or log in with your username and password.
- Upload the wage report for the corresponding employee using the available format.
- Go back to the homepage.
- Select “Report Wages to Social Security.”
- Follow the on-screen prompts to create and file your W-2. You can generate up to 50 forms, all of which can be accessed whenever you need to print a physical copy.
This method of filing is straightforward, but it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake and catch it before the deadline. You can correct wrong names, SSN mismatches, and other mistakes after the submission.
If you still prefer the old-fashioned way of mailing your W-2 forms, use the following address:
Direct Operations Center
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18769-0001
If it’s a last-minute submission, you’ll need to forward your W-2s to the United States Postal Service (UPS) or Federal Express. The couriers will send the documents to this address:
Direct Operations Center
ATTN: W-2 Process
1150 E. Mountain Drive
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702-7997
Finally, use this address if you’re submitting the forms via regular mail:
Direct Operations Center
P.O. Box 3333
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18767-3333
How to Request an Extension for W-2 Filing
If you’re in imminent danger of missing a W-2 filing, don’t hit the panic button just yet. You might be able to request an extension of the deadline.
To do so, you need to file Form 8809 with the IRS. Also known as the Application for Extension of Time to File Information of Returns, this form prolongs the deadline for an additional 30 days if you have a valid concern that you’ll miss it.
But keep in mind that submitting this form doesn’t automatically extend your deadline. You must state the reason for the delay clearly and sign the document under the threat of perjury.
The easiest way to file the form is through the IRS FIRE system. It has a convenient interface that automatically acknowledges whether or not you’ve successfully sent the document.
As for the timing, the earlier you issue the form, the better. Most business owners do so between January 1 and January 31, which is usually when the IRS starts reviewing W-2 forms. If January 31 falls on a federal holiday or weekend, you can hand it the following business day.
Special Circumstances for Extensions
Form 8809 can be your light at the end of the tunnel, but only if the reason you’re late is justified. The IRS recognizes the following developments as valid explanations for being late with your W-2s:
- You suffered a tornado, flood, hurricane, earthquake, or any other natural disaster that destroyed your records, including those relevant to W-2 forms.
- You had a catastrophic event in a federal disaster region that prevented you from resuming your business operations.
- The person who was supposed to file the form had a severe illness, was absent, or died.
- This is your first year of business.
- The payroll provider had a valid reason (e.g., a natural disaster, death, or serious illness) for not providing you with wage/tax information on time.
If you receive a positive response, it’ll be your last chance for a timely submission. You can’t receive a second extension.
What to Do If You Miss the Deadline
The W-2 deadline is extendable, but only in special circumstances. Chances are, you may not qualify for the extension, increasing the risk of missing the deadline. What should you do if that happens?
Mitigating Penalties and Corrective Actions
The most important thing to do when missing a W-2 deadline is to stay calm and start corrective actions immediately. The sooner you do so, the less severe your penalty will be.
For instance, if one of your W-2s was rejected, you should correct any inaccurate or incomplete information and re-submit:
- Sending the incorrect form – You can’t use the same W-2 form you submitted in 2023. The 2024 form is slightly different.
- Leaving SSNs blank – Each W-2 requires an employee’s SSN. Forms that leave the box blank will be rejected. When re-filing the document, be sure the SSN contains dashes (e.g., 123-45-6666).
- Entering the wrong employee name – You must use your employee’s full legal name, not their nickname.
- Sending handwritten forms – The SSA and IRS only accept electronic and printed W-2 forms. If you’ve submitted a handwritten form, switch to a digital format immediately.
In some cases, corrective actions might not be necessary. If you submit one of your W-2s late but normally fulfill your tax responsibilities on time, the IRS may give you a pass. Here are the conditions you must meet to qualify for this courtesy:
- You’ve filed all tax returns on time.
- You have no outstanding balance, or you’ve entered into an IRS installment agreement.
- You haven’t had a single penalty in the last three years.
- The deadline for handing in W-2 forms for employers is January 31, 2024.
- Some states have different deadlines, such as Missouri, Louisiana, New Mexico (February 28), Iowa, and New Jersey (February 15).
- The penalties for missing a deadline range from $50 to $580 per form.
- You can extend the deadline for an additional 30 days if you state a valid reason for the delay on Form 8809.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Employers File W-2 Forms After the Deadline Without Penalty?
Yes. Employers can file W-2 forms after the deadline without penalties if the IRS has given them a waiver. The most common reason for an exemption is that you suffered a natural disaster that interrupted your operations and kept you from accessing employee records.
What Should Employees Do If They Don’t Receive Their W-2?
If an employee doesn’t receive their W-2, they should first check the software where the employer uploads the forms. If it’s not there, they should consult the owner. If the owner doesn’t provide the documents before the deadline, employees need to inform the IRS about the problem.
Are There Different Deadlines for Electronic and Paper Filings of Form W-2?
No. There aren’t different deadlines for electronic and paper filings of form W-2. The due date is the same: January 31, February 15, or February 28, depending on your state.