If your employee is temporarily out of work with a short-term disability, you can treat any sick pay he receives just like regular wages. You report sick pay in Box 1 with his other compensation. It also appears in Box 3 if you're withholding income tax on it and Box 5 for Social Security and Medicare. Alternatively, you can make out a second W-2 just covering sick pay.
The Separate W-2
If you use a separate W-2 for sick or disability pay, you report it as you would regular wages. Box 1 shows the amount of sick pay the employee must include in income. Box 2 reports any federal tax withheld. Boxes 3 and 4 report the amount subject to Social Security tax and the tax withheld; Boxes 5 and 6 do the same for Medicare.
If the payments come from a third party like an insurer, and the employee pays for the policy -- even if it's purchased through your health plan -- none of the disability pay is taxable income. If you pay 100 percent of the policy, 100 percent of the benefits are taxable; if your company pays 40 percent, then 40 percent of benefits are taxable. Report nontaxable disability payments in Box 12 of the W-2, using Code J.
Any payments for medical expenses related to sickness or disability aren't taxable, and don't go on the W-2. You also don't report benefits that aren't related to the employee being off from work. Two weeks sick pay is taxable, but a flat sum for losing a leg is not. Workers compensation payments are nontaxable and don't show up on the W-2.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.