A W-2 is an official tax document prepared by your employer that summarizes important financial information about your job for the year. This typically includes how much money you've earned, how much money was withheld for taxes, and other tax-relevant details.

The information in your W-2 is used to complete your federal, state, and city taxes (if applicable). A copy is also sent to the IRS. You should receive a W-2 from each employer you worked for during the tax year.

What Information Does a W-2 Contain?

W-2 statements provide an overview of several key financial inputs that must be reported on your income tax return. These include:

  • Information about the employer such as the company name, address, and EIN (employee identification number)
  • Your gross wages, tips, and any other income that was reported
  • Income tax withheld for federal, state, and city taxes (if any)
  • Taxes withheld for Social Security and Medicare
  • Contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans
  • Other taxable benefits
  • Etc.

How Do I Get a W-2?

There are several ways that employees typically receive their W-2 statements:

  • During work - Employers will often hand out physical copies of these documents to their staff directly.
  • By mail - If your employer prefers not to hand out W-2s directly, or you've separated from that employer, then the W-2 will arrive in your mailbox.
  • Online - If your employer uses a popular payroll service such as ADP, then you may be able to download a copy of your W-2 from your online account.

In all of these situations, the employer typically has until January 31st following the close of the calendar year to mail out W-2s. You may receive yours a few days later depending on the capacity of your local mail system.

Check Your W-2 for Errors

It's always a good idea to check your W-2 over for errors. Make sure that details like your legal name and Social Security number are correct. Also, compare your income against your last paycheck stub for the year to make sure the values match.