You’ve probably heard of the W-2, but if you’re a small business owner with even one employee, you’ll also need to know the W-3 tax form

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that employers file Form W-3 each year to report employee wages and tax withholdings to the Social Security Administration (SSA). While an employee W-2 form shows that information for just one employee, the IRS Form W-3 form combines the numbers for all of your employees in one place.

Note that the amounts reported on related employment tax forms (for example, Forms W-2, 941, 941-SS, 943, or 944) should match the amounts reported on Form W-3. If there are inconsistencies, you could be contacted by the IRS and SSA.

How do I fill out a W-3?

Form W-3 mostly asks for the same information as form W-2, making filling out the W-3 relatively straightforward.

Boxes ah: company info and number of W-2s the form aggregates

According to the instructions for the W-3 2023 form, this section requires information about your company, plus how many W-2s the form aggregates.

Box a: Control number. This is an optional box that you may use for numbering this whole transmittal of wage and tax statements.

Box b: Kind of Payer. Check only one box that applies to you. Most private sector employers check “941,” a reference to Form 941 that they need to file. Check with your accountant to be sure. If you have more than one type of Form W-2, send each type with a separate Form W-3. These are your options:

  • 941—check this box if you file Forms 941 or 941-SS and no other category applies.
  • Military—check this box if you are a military employer sending Forms W-2 for members of the uniformed services.
  • 943—check this box if you are an agricultural employer and file Form 943 and you are sending Forms W-2 for agricultural employees. For nonagricultural employees, send their Forms W-2 with a separate Form W-3, checking the appropriate box.
  • 944—check this box if you file Form 944 (or the Spanish-language version), and no other category applies.
  • CT-1—check this box if you are a railroad employer sending Forms W-2 for employees covered under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA).
  • Household employer—check this box if you are a household employer sending Forms W-2 for household employees, and you did not include the household employee’s taxes on Forms 941, 941-SS, 943, or 944.
  • Medicare government employer—check this box if you are a US, state, or local agency filing Forms W-2 for employees subject only to Medicare tax.

Box b: Kind of Employer. Check only one box that applies to you (the only exception with checking a second box, is if you also need to check “Third-party sick pay”). See Pub. 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization, for information about 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. These are your options:

  • None apply—check this box if none of the checkboxes discussed next apply to you. Unless you are a government entity or nonprofit, you’ll select “None apply.”
  • 501c non-govt—check this box if you are a non-governmental tax-exempt section 501(c) organization. Types of 501(c) non-governmental organizations include private foundations, public charities, social and recreation clubs, and veterans organizations. For additional examples of 501(c) non-governmental organizations, see chapters 3 and 4 of Pub. 557.
  • State/local non-501c—check this box if you are a state or local government or instrumentality. This includes cities, townships, counties, special-purpose districts, public school districts, or other publicly owned entities with governmental authority.
  • State/local 501c—check this box if you are a state or local government or instrumentality, and you have received a determination letter from the IRS indicating that you are also a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3).
  • Federal govt—check this box if you are a federal government entity or instrumentality.

Box b: Third-party sick pay. Check this box if you are a third-party sick pay payer (or are reporting sick pay payments made by a third party) filing Forms W-2 with the “Third-party sick pay” checkbox in box 13 checked. File a single Form W-3 for the regular and “Third-party sick pay” Forms W-2.

Box c: Provide the total number of W-2 forms that you are transmitting with this Form W-3. Do not count “VOID” Forms W-2.

Box d: Establishment number. You may use this box to identify separate establishments in your business. You may file a separate Form W-3, with Forms W-2, for each establishment even if they all have the same EIN; or you may use a single Form W-3 for all Forms W-2 of the same type.

Box e: Employer identification number (EIN). Enter the 9-digit EIN assigned to you by the IRS. If you do not have an EIN when filing your Form W-3, enter “Applied For” in box e, not your social security number (SSN). You can get an EIN by applying online at IRS.gov/EIN, or by filing Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number.

Box f: Enter the employer’s name as shown on your Forms 941, 941-SS, 943, 944, CT-1, or Schedule H (Form 1040).

Box g: Enter your employer’s address and ZIP code.

Box h: Other EIN used this year, if applicable.

Employer contact information: In respective boxes, enter employer’s contact person, employer’s telephone number, employer’s fax number, and employer’s email address.

Lines 119: combined income and tax information from all of the W-2s you’re including in this W-3 filing

Boxes 1–8: Enter the totals reported in boxes 1 through 8 on the Forms W-2. This includes the following: Total wages tips, and other compensation, federal income tax withheld, social security wages, social security tax withheld, Medicare wages and tips, Medicare tax withheld, Social Security tips, and allocated tips.

Box 9: Do not enter an amount in box 9. Leave this blank.

Box 10: Dependent care benefits. Enter the total reported in box 10 on Forms W-2. (Not applicable to Forms W-2AS, W-2CM, W-2GU, and W-2VI.)

Box 11: Nonqualified plans. Enter the total reported in box 11 on Forms W-2.

Box 12a: Deferred compensation. Enter the total of all amounts reported with codes D through H, S, Y, AA, BB, and EE in box 12 on Forms W-2. Do not enter a code.

Box 13: For third-party sick pay use only. Leave this box blank. See Form 8922.

Box 14: Income tax withheld by payer of third-party sick pay. Complete this box only if you are the employer and have employees who had federal income tax withheld on third-party payments of sick pay. Show the total income tax withheld by third-party payers on payments to all of your employees. Although this tax is included in the box 2 total, it must be separately shown here.

Box 15: State/Employer’s state ID number (territorial ID number for Forms W-2AS, W-2CM, W-2GU, and W-2VI). Enter the two-letter abbreviation for the name of the state or territory being reported on Form(s) W-2. Also enter your state- or territory-assigned ID number. If the Forms W-2 being submitted with this Form W-3 contain wage and income tax information from more than one state or territory, enter an “X” under “State” and do not enter any state or territory ID number.

Boxes 16–19: Enter the total of state/local wages and income tax shown in their corresponding boxes on the Forms W-2 included with this Form W-3. If the Forms W-2 show amounts from more than one state or locality, report them as one sum in the appropriate box on Form W-3. Verify that the amount reported in each box is an accurate total of the Forms W-2. (Note: These boxes are not applicable to Forms W-2AS, W-2CM, W-2GU, and W-2VI.)

How do I file my W-3?

You or someone with an approved role needs to sign and date the form before you file it. Both W-2 and W-3 forms can be filed electronically or by mail. You’re required to e-file, however, if you have 250 or more W-2 forms.

Filing electronically

To file W-2 and W-3 forms electronically, you’ll need to register for the Social Security Administration’s business services online (BSO) platform.

Once you’re in, you have two options:

BSO then makes your life easier by generating a W-3 for you once you’ve submitted all of your W-2s (with the entire Copy A page from each of them).

Filing by mail

If you have fewer than 250 W-2s and would rather file paper copies, you’ll need to order them from the IRS or get them through your payroll processor.

Unfortunately, you can’t just print them out from the IRS website because those PDF forms include a special red color that isn’t scannable. If you try anyway, you could face a penalty.

Once you have the right forms, fill out a Form W-2 for each employee and then add up all of the numbers from each W-2 to enter on the W-3.

Then, send them to the address listed on the forms. Note that it will need to be the original, scannable form, not a photocopy.

When do employers send W-2 and W-3 forms?

No matter your filing method, the submission deadline is January 31 each year for the previous year’s forms.

You’ll also need to send your employees a copy of their W-2 by that date. You’re not required, however, to share a copy of your W-3 with them.

If you make a mistake on your W-3 or you made an error on a W-2 that affects your W-3, you’ll need to file Form W-2c and Form W-3c to make corrections. Make sure they both show the correct tax year, too.

There’s no deadline for these correction forms, but the IRS requests corrections to be filed as soon as possible after you discover the error. Employers must also give the affected employees a copy of their Form W-2c, if the error discovered was for the prior year and Form W-2 was filed with the SSA.

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