When Do Employers Have to Send Out W2 Forms?

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The W-2 form is an essential tax document for employees. W-2s record an employee’s wages and other compensation, payroll tax deductions and other withholding information that must be reported on tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service says employees should receive their W-2 forms no later than January 31 so they have enough time to prepare their tax returns.

W-2 Distribution Deadline

The deadline for employers to distribute W-2 forms is Jan. 31 -- although the IRS also says employees should receive them by that date. The IRS can fine employers for every late W-2, with the amount depending on how late the W-2s are distributed, the size of the business and whether the violation is deliberate or unintentional. An employer can request an extension by writing a letter to the IRS explaining why she can’t distribute W-2s by the deadline. Extension requests must be mailed to the IRS Information Returns Branch in Kearneysville, WV. Mark the letter to the attention of the Extension of Time Coordinator. The extension request must be sent by Jan. 31.

Electronic W-2 Distribution

Traditionally, W-2 forms are sent by mail. Employers also can send them electronically, provided the employee consents and gets the W-2 by the end of January. Employees must be told the hardware and software requirements for receiving W-2 forms electronically. In addition, employers must inform employees how to revoke consent if they wish to do so. Employees who don’t elect to receive electronic W-2s continue to get paper forms.