W-2 vs. W-4 Form: What is the Difference & How to File

If your business has employees then out of all the hundreds of IRS documents, the two of the most important […]

If your business has employees then out of all the hundreds of IRS documents, the two of the most important are Forms W-2 and W-4.

Apart from the number at the end, there is a significant difference between W-2 vs W-4: What’s the Difference & How to file them.

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The W-2 records the report of the pay of their employees over the past year and the record of the tax that was withheld.

On the other hand, the W-4 is maintained by the employee and it is used by the employers to check the record of how much income tax is to withhold.

In this article, you will get a complete guide on W-2 vs W-4: What’s the Difference & How to File, not only the key differences but also how to fill the files.

W-2 vs W-4: A Quick Overview of the Basics

A W-4 differs from a W-2 in that it is filled out by the employee and utilized by employers to determine how much income tax to withhold. The W-2 is used to disclose employee salary for the previous year as well as the amount of tax withheld.

Let’s first get detailed information about what is W-2 and W-4, then below are the step to step instructions on how to fill W-2 and W-4 forms.

What is a W-2 Form?

W-2 stands for IRS Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement), which is filed by your employer with the IRS. At the end of the tax year, any firm with employees must file a W-2 for each employee. The employee receives a copy of the W-2 for your records. It will be mailed to you or sent to you via email. Employers must file it by January 31 of the year after the tax year ends.

A Form W-2 notifies the IRS how much money you made in salary, tips, and other forms of compensation during the tax year. It also informs the IRS of your Social Security and Medicare contributions.

What all Information does W-2 Include?

What all information does W-2 include?

The major sections that are including in the W-2 form are:

  • Retirement contributions paid
  • Local income tax paid
  • Wages, tips, and other compensation
  • Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes paid
  • Federal income tax paid
  • State income tax paid
  • Employer identifying information

Note: Those statistics are transferred to your tax return by you or your tax accountant when you prepare your taxes.

How to Get a W-2 Form?

If you haven’t received your W-2 for the current year by 14 February of the year, you need to contact your employer for a copy and double-check that the address is correct.

Your company may also instruct you on how to obtain your W-2 from the HR department or payroll processor via the internet.

If you are still not able to get the form, contact the IRS. You must submit information about when you worked as well as an estimate of your pay.

  • Your tax return is still due by the tax-filing deadline, so if you don’t receive your W-2, you may need to estimate your earnings and withholdings to complete it on time.
  • The IRS may postpone processing your return – i.e. your refund – while it attempts to verify your information.
  • If your W-2 arrives after you’ve already filed your tax return, you may need to revise it.

When do You Receive Your W-2 Form?

According to the IRS, the employers are required to Fill out their W-2 Forms and submit them to the government and employees by January 31 or they have to face penalties. The IRS defines transmit as getting it in the mail, so you should receive yours by the first week of February. Employers can also provide W-2s to employees electronically, but it is not necessary. That means you can also get your W-2 forms online.

Note: Even if you left your job months ago, your ex-company can still send you a W-2 until January 31 – unless you request it earlier, in which case the employer has 30 days to provide it.

What is a W-4 Form?

A W-4 or IRS Form W-4 Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate is a form that you must complete when you start working for an employer. If you work as an independent contractor, W-4s do not apply. The W-4 is a form that you must fill out if you are working as a new employee. You must fill it out and submit it to your company. It’s a payroll document that tells your employer how much tax to deduct from your paycheck.

What are the Functions of W-4?

The W-4’s purpose is to inform an employer of the following:

  • The number of withholding allowances a worker is entitled to.
  • If to withhold taxes at the higher rate for singles or the reduced rate for married couples.
  • If an employee requests a higher withholding amount or claims to be exempt from withholding.

When Should you Submit Your W-4 Certificate?

  • W-4 paperwork must be submitted to your employer before the first day of work.
  • The form inquires about your marital status, dependents, and withholding allowances.
  • These variables that you fill out are used to create the federal income tax tables.
  • If you pay State Tax, your state tax is likewise determined by your answers to those three criteria (ie. marital status, dependents, and withholding allowances).
  • You don’t have to pay state income tax if you live in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, or Wyoming.
  • The W-4 does not address contributions to Social Security or Medicare.

If you Pay Tax According to the US Tax System:

According to the US tax system, you pay less tax if you are married than if you are single, and you pay much less if you have dependents, such as children. Allowances for withholding can be claimed in the following situations, and each one lowers your withholding:

  • Each qualifying kid under the age of 17 receives one stipend, and each subsequent dependent receives another.
  • Allowances of up to $10,000 each for house mortgage interest, charity contributions, state and local taxes, acceptable medical expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of an employee’s salary, student loan interest, and deductible IRA contributions.
When is the Need to Increase Your Withholding Allowances?

If your life circumstances change, you may need to adjust your withholding allowances from time to time. At any moment, you can fill out a new W-4 for your employer. If any of the following applies to you, you’ll need to increase your withholding allowances:

  • You have income that is not subject to withholding since it is not earned through employment.
  • Pension income, as well as huge sums of interest or dividends, is examples of possible sources of income.
  • Both you and your spouse are employed.
When is the Need to Decrease Your Withholding Allowances?

If any of the following apply, you may need to reduce your withholding:

  • You are entitled to deductions other than the standard deduction, such as interest on student loans, IRA contributions, or you itemize your deductions rather than taking the standard deductions.
  • Tax benefits, such as the child tax credit, are available to you.
  • You pay your projected taxes.

W-2 vs. W-4 Form Differences

The first distinction between the W-2 and W-4 forms is who and when they are filled out. When an employee accepts a new job, or at any time thereafter, if they want to adjust their withholding allowances, they must complete a W-4 form. A W-2 is a statement of income and withholdings for the tax year that is filled out by the employee at the end of the year.

When an employee is employed by a new employer, the W-4 is prepared, and it is updated if there is a change in circumstances that could influence withholding allowances. At the end of the tax year, the W-2 is completed.

The W-4 contains the employee’s personal information, marital status, dependents, and withholding allowances, whereas the W-2 is a year-end reporting document that includes the employee’s wages, tips, and other forms of compensation, tax withholdings, and the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes paid, as well as retirement contributions.

DifferentiateW-2 FormW-4 Form
Who Fills the FormAt the end of each year, employers must file a W-2 form for each employee to the IRS. Employers must also give a copy of their W-2 to employees by January 31. Even if you did not collect any income, Social Security, or Medicare taxes from your employees, you must still file a W-2 for each employee who was paid $600 or more.Within their first month on the job, all employees on your payroll must file a W-4 form.
What is the PurposeThe form summarizes an individual employee’s earnings, including gross salary, tips, and bonuses, as well as their federal tax contributions, which include Social Security and Medicare taxes. Any other withholdings, like payments to retirement programs, would be reported on the W-2 as well.The form specifies how much money should be taken out of each employee’s paycheck and sent to the IRS. The amount would be determined by a variety of factors, including the employee’s marital status, number of dependents, and personal withholding preferences.
When to Submit the FormEvery year, employers must file Form W-2. To report withholdings for the prior year, employers must provide a copy to their employees and the IRS by January 31.When starting a new job, employees must complete Form W-4 once. They would, however, need to re-fill out the form if their personal financial circumstances change and they require more or less withholding from each paycheck.

W-2 vs. W-4 Forms: How to File

How to Fill the W-2 Form?

You can get the W-2 form either offline or online on the IRS website. To fill in your W-2 form, you can follow the steps that are mentioned below:

1. Specify How Much You were Paid in Salaries, Tips, and other Forms of Compensation.

This box totals all of your employee’s taxable income or compensation, including bonuses and taxable fringe benefits such as group term life insurance. Pre-tax benefits, such as contributions to a 401(k) or health insurance plan, are not included.

2. The Amount of Federal Income Tax that is Taken from Your Salary.

The amount of federal income tax withheld from a specific employee’s paycheck is determined by the number of withholding allowances specified on their W-4 form.

3. How much of Your Pay in Box 1 was Subject to Social Security Tax.

The Social Security Administration taxes only a fraction of each employee’s total wages. This so-called payroll tax is eliminated over a particular threshold, $128,400 in 2018. As a result, no employee’s compensation should be greater than $128,400 in this profession.

4. The Amount of Social Security Tax Taken from Your Pay.

The value in Field 4 should not be greater than the taxable threshold multiplied by the employer’s portion. Employers and employees both contribute equally to this tax, with each contributing 6.2 percent of the employee’s earnings up to the permissible threshold level.

5. How much of Your Pay in Box 1 was Subject to Medicare Tax.

The amount you put in this area represents the total taxable income made by each employee while working for your organization. Unlike Social Security, there is no such upper limit to Medicare.

6. The Amount of Medicare that has been Tax Taken from Your Pay.

Individuals with high incomes must pay an additional.9 percent above the ordinary rate, or 2.35 percent for couples earning more than $250,000 per year. This additional tax, however, is paid solely by the employee. Employers and employees contribute the same amount to Medicare – 1.45 percent each.

7. How much of Your Tip Income was Subject to Social Security Tax that you Reported to Your Employer (those tips are included in Box 1)

In this field, you include employee-reported tips. When Field 2 and Field 3 are combined together, the total should equal the number in Field 1.

8. The Amount of Additional Tips Your Employer gave you. Excluded: Box 1 does not include this Remuneration.

If your company is a major food or beverage facility and the amount of tips an employee reported to you fell below the IRS’s authorized percentage rate, you may pay your employees additional compensation in the form of allocated tips.

This amount, unlike any tips reported in Field 7, is not included in the total income reported in Field 1.

9. Payment in Advance for EIC

This field is a vestige of a no longer relevant tax policy and should always be left blank.

10. The Amount of Dependent care Benefits Paid to you or incurred on Your Behalf by Your Employer

This form is used to indicate income that was reimbursed to an employee for dependent care expenses, such as those incurred through a flexible spending account.

Anything over $5,000 (or $2,500 if you’re married and filing separately) is often detailed in Box 1. The American Rescue Plan Act allows businesses to boost this amount to $10,500 ($5,200 for couples filing separately) for the 2021 tax year (taxes due in April 2022).

11. This Box Reflects How much Money was Distributed to You From Your Employer’s Deferred Compensation Plan During the Year.

This is the place to disclose any funds distributed to your employees from a non-government Section 457 pension plan or a non-qualified deferred compensation plan. This sum should also be entered in Field 1 as taxable income.

12. Deferred Compensation

The IRS recognizes a variety of forms of deferred compensation, each with its own tax rules and generally the IRS recognizes around 30 types of deferred compensation.
In Field 12, the W-2 form requires you to disclose as many of these types of remuneration as are applicable to your employees.

Some of the most popular include group term life insurance payouts in excess of the $50,000 limit that can be provided as a tax-free benefit, as well as the non-taxable portion of temporary disability or sick pay.

13. Checkboxes for Statutory Employees, Retirement Plans, and Third-Party Sick Pay.

Here are three boxes. Check any of the three question boxes that apply to the employee in this field.

  • A statutory employee is someone who works for your firm but does not receive a regular paycheck; for example, they work entirely on commission.
  • If your employees have access to a 401k or 403b at work, you should check Retirement Plan, as this may limit their ability to take advantage of tax benefits generally associated with an IRA.
  • Third-Party Sick Pay refers to compensation received by your employee from a third party, such as an insurance provider.

14. Other

This section can be used to report any remuneration that does not fall into one of the other categories provided on the W-2 form.

15. State Identification Number

State ID numbers, like EINs, serve the similar objective of providing your firm with a recognized identity for tax purposes. The state ID number is only valid in the state where it was issued.

The need for a state ID for your business is determined by a number of variables, including how the company handles income and employment taxes.

16. Stage Wages, Tips, and so on.

This is where you submit the taxable income you paid to the employee at the state level.

If they worked for your company in more than one state, you must segregate their earnings, putting the income that is taxed in each state on a separate line. This field will be blank if you do business in one of the seven states in the United States that do not have an income tax.

17. State Income Taxes

This field displays the total amount of state income tax deducted from your employees’ paychecks for the fiscal year.

18. Local Wages, Tips, and so on.

You must disclose all income that is subject to local taxation. This figure might differ from the figure in Field 16.

19. Local Income Tax

If one or more of the municipalities in which you conduct business require employees to pay local income tax, enter the amount here.

20. Locality Name

You will have to enter a brief description of the city or town where taxes were withheld.

What information is added up in Your W-2 Form?

Your W-2 form contains the following information:

  • The W-2 is used to file your tax return.
  • Then W-2 form discloses more than just your pay.
  • It also includes information such as how much you contributed to your retirement plan during the year.
  • What amount did your company contribute to your health-care coverage
  • And how much did you receive as an independent care benefits.

What to do if Your W-2 is incorrect

If your employer by mistake even edits a decimal point, misspells your name or enters the wrong dollar amount, or clicks the wrong box then by default it is pointed out the error and requests a corrected W-2. If this happens, you will have to fill in a fresh form, and this will waste time, pointing out the error and waiting for a fresh W-2, but here’s something that might make you feel better: If the error involves a dollar sum or a substantial item in your address, the IRS may levy a fine on your company.

Your W-2 information is not Hidden.

You will not be getting anything, if you don’t show up your W-2 form and submit it or if you just can’t get away with anything if you simply place your W-2 in a drawer and decide not to include it on your tax return. According to the law, all employers are required to provide copies of your W-2 to the Social Security Administration and the IRS (Copy A), and should also submit it to your state and local tax authorities (Copy 1). After comparing the income you recorded on your tax return to the information your employer gave to the government, you will most likely receive a terse letter from the IRS and the state, if your state has the income taxes.

How to Fill the W-4 Form?

You can find the W-4 form and fill it in on IRS websites. To know how to fill in the W-4 form, follow the steps mentioned below:

1. Personal Information

Put your name, address, Social Security number, and tax-filing status in the boxes provided.

2. Accounts for Multiple Jobs

If you have multiple jobs or you have joined with your spouse, then follow the steps that are mentioned below to get the accurate withholding information:

  • Fill complete steps 2 to 4(b) of the W-4 for the best-paying employment. For the other jobs, leave those steps blank on the W-4s.
  • You can check a box stating that you and your spouse earn around the same amount if you’re married and filing jointly. The caveat is that this must be done on each of the couple’s W-4s.

3. Claim Dependents, including Your Children

You can enter how many children and dependents you have and multiply them by the credit amount if your total income is under $200,000 (or $400,000 if filing jointly).

4. Refine Your with Holdings

You can make a notation if you want more tax withheld or if you anticipate claiming deductions other than the standard deduction when you file your taxes.

5. Add on the Date and Sign up Your Form

Give the signed form to your employer’s human resources or payroll department once it’s been completed.

What information is Added up in Your W-4 Form?

You can utilize Form W-4 to increase your withholding if you received a large tax bill when you filed your tax return last year and don’t want another. If you do this then, the next time you file, you will have to pay less (or nothing). If you received a large refund last year, you are giving the government a free loan and can live on less money for the rest of the year. So, if you want to minimize your withholding, you can use the W-4 form.

Follow the steps below to know how you can achieve that result:

1. How to Get more Taxes Deducted from Your Paycheck

Here’s how to change your W-4 if you want extra taxes deducted from your paychecks, maybe resulting in a tax refund when you file your annual return.

  • You need to cut down the number of dependents.
  • You need to add an extra amount to withhold on line 4(c).
2. How to get Less Taxes Deducted from Your Paycheck

Here’s how to change your W-4 if you want less tax taken out of your paychecks, maybe resulting in having to pay a tax bill when you file your annual return.

  • You need to increase up the number of dependents.
  • You need to reduce the number on line 4(a) or 4(c).
  • You need to Increase the number on line 4(b).
3. How to Use a W-4 Form to owe Nothing on a Tax Return

The accuracy of your W-4 is critical if your goal is to engineer your paycheck withholdings so that you wind up with a $0 tax payment when you file your annual return.

  • Check to see if your W-4 accurately reflects your current family situation. If you had a child or a teenager turn 18 this year, your tax position may have changed, and you should update your W-4.
  • Calculate your deductions precisely. When you file your tax return, the W-4 expects you’ll take the standard deduction. If you plan to itemize (probably because itemizing reduces your taxes more than the standard deduction), you’ll need to calculate those additional deductions and alter what’s on line 4 to reflect them (b).
  • Estimate your other sources of income as accurately as possible. Capital gains, investment interest, rental properties, and freelancing are just a few examples of non-job income that could be taxable and should be updated on line 4(a) of your W-4.
  • Make sure you’re using the correct tax-filing status. If you have submitted and filled in as a head of household and haven’t updated your W-4 in a few years, for example, you might want to consider filling out a new W-4 if you want the amount of taxes taken from your income to better match your tax liability.
  • Make use of the line for additional withholding. You can specify a specified dollar amount on line 4 if you want to have a certain amount withheld from each check for taxes (c).

What are the Things You need While Filling W-4 Form?

You need to keep in mind the following things while filling out the W-4 form:

1. If you Are Exempted from Withholding Taxes.

If you are exempt from the withholding taxes, your employer will not deduct federal income tax from your paycheck. In most cases, you can only be exempt from withholding if two conditions are met:

  • You received a refund for all federal income tax withheld last year since you had no tax liability.
  • You expected the same outcome this year.

When you’re not required to withhold, type exempt in the box below step 4. (c). You still have to finish steps 1 and 5. If you want to keep claiming the withholding exemption, you’ll need to submit a new W-4 every year.

2. When Your Life Changes, You must File a new W-4 Form.

Yes, you can easily modify your W-4 at any time. But if any of the following things happen to you during the year, you should update your W-4 to reflect your tax situation:

  • You marry or get divorced.
  • You have got a child.
  • You purchase a home.
  • You either take a pay cut or earn a significant boost.
  • You only work for some portion of the year.
  • You made a good amount of money from dividends.
  • You or your partner both work as a freelancer as an extra source.
3. Get used to Fiddling with Your With Holdings.

Yes, it is fine to make mistakes or tinker. You can easily fill up and provide a fresh W-4 to your employer at any time. That means you can complete a W-4, hand it to your employer, and then check your next paycheck to see how much money was withheld. Then you can calculate the total on how much you have deducted from your paychecks over the course of the year. You can submit another W-4 and amend if it doesn’t appear to be enough to cover your entire tax obligation, or if it appears to be way too much.

You can enter it on lines 4(a) and 4(c) of Form W-4 if you want an extra predetermined amount withheld from each paycheck to cover taxes on freelance income or other income.

Now that you know that you fill out a W-2 form to report how much an employer has paid an employee and what amount of tax is withheld during the year. Whereas, you fill out a W-4 form to check how much tax is to be withheld from an employee’s paycheck. Also learn How to Print W-2 in QuickBooks Desktop & Online.

You have now a complete guide on what are W-2 vs W-4: What’s the Difference & How to File. However, if you still are stuck or have queries, you can reach out to Dancing Numbers experts team for quick and easy assistance.

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Who all Completes W-2 vs W-4 Form?

The following completes in the W-2 and W-4 form:

checked W-2: The employer fills out the W-2 form using a payroll and it’s filled in for each employee.
checked W-4: The employee fills out the W-4 to fulfill the state new-hire reporting requirements.

When do you need to Complete the W-2 vs W-4 Form?

You need to complete and submit the form as follows:

checked W-2: Every employee needs to fill out this form every year, by January 31.
checked W-4: Every employee needs to fill out this form before their first payday.

How can You get Your W-2 Form?

Employers are required to mail you a copy of your W-2 by January 31 of each year. Although you may be able to get a copy of your form from the IRS for a cost, the simplest option to get a copy is through your employer.

How many Allowances Should You Claim using W-4 Form?

If you’re worried about owing money while submitting your tax return, you should increase your withholding. The more allowances you claim, the lower the amount deducted from each paycheck will be.

Are the W-2 and W-4 Forms the Same?

No, the forms are different, where W-2 reports income, withholdings, state withholding and more. The W-4 holds information like the employee name, address, withholding rate and more.

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