Finance News & Insights

Wait! Before you issue those W-2s, check for this

Whether it’s your first or fifteenth year filing W-2s, you’ll want to take a step back and double check that no information returns contain any of these all-too-common errors.

You might be surprised at some of the entries on this list, but rest assured, companies make these mistakes every year. And with all you have to do to get these forms into employees’ and then the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) hands, there’s a chance one of these could creep in.

That’s why it couldn’t hurt to scan this list of common W-2 filing errors to make sure none of them could get returns bounced back to your company, or worse, get it slapped with penalties:

  1. Using the wrong year’s form. Seems crazy, but it’s worth double checking that you’re using the 2011
    W-2 for this year’s filing.
  2. Not using original copies. Straight from IRS’s mouth: Do not download Copy A of Forms W-2, W-3, W-2c, or W-3c from the IRS website and then file them with the SSA. The SSA accepts only e-filed reports and the official red-ink (or approved substitute versions) of these forms.
  3. Not using black ink. Other colors are too light to be read.
  4. Not including decimals and cents on amounts. That’s a must for your figures to be accurate.
  5. Adding dollar signs to the money-amount boxes. They have been removed from Copy A and are not required.
  6. Using the wrong type size. IRS’s preference: Courier 12 pt.
  7. Mis-formatting an employee’s name. To clarify, the first box gets the first name and middle initial, the surname goes in the second box and any suffix, like Jr., resides in the third (and is optional).

One very avoidable error

  1. Name and Social Security number mismatches remain one of the key reasons returns get kicked back. Why not avail yourself of a critical backstop? You have two Internet options to verify names and Social Security numbers: The SSA Verification service offers employers two options:
  • Verify up to 10 names and Social Security numbers (per screen) online and receive immediate results; or
  • Upload batch files of up to 250,000 names and Social Security numbers and receive results the next business day.

Note: The SSA has an entire section on its Website devoted to employers’ responsibilities for W-2s, from filing instructions (both paper and electronic) to the SSN verification Service links. It couldn’t hurt to get your info straight from the horse’s mouth!  You’ll find it here.

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