Most Can’t File Income Taxes Without It: When You’ll Get Your W-2 Form

The 2023 tax season is officially open, and there’s no reason to wait to file your 2022 tax return. In fact, doing your taxes as early as possible has many benefits that could make tax procrastinators change their ways.


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Most full-time employees, however, will need to receive a W-2 form from their employers before they can start filing taxes. The official tax form contains critical info for your tax return that is also required to calculate your potential tax refund.

What is the W-2 form, what important information does it contain and when you should expect to receive it? We’ve got everything you need to know about W-2 forms and your 2022 income taxes.

For more tax tips, learn all the tax breaks you can get if you own a home and our picks for the best tax software

What is a W-2 form?

A W-2 form — more officially called Form W-2, or “Wage and Tax Statement” — is the official tax document that your employer sends you and the IRS at the end of every tax year. Most important, your W-2 form shows your wages and salary for the past year plus the amount of taxes that you’ve already paid on that income.

Your W-2 form includes other important info like Social Security and Medicare taxes and compensation information you might need for certain credits or deductions. It also breaks out your state-specific income and tax data in a section along the bottom.

Whether you do your taxes with pen and paper, on your computer or phone, or with a professional tax preparer, you’ll need to use information from several of the boxes on Form W-2 to complete your income tax return for 2022.

What information is included in my W-2 form?

A screenshot of a W-2 form for 2022

Form W-2 contains 20 boxes of potential info, although one has been discontinued.


IRS/Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

Form W-2 includes a strictly defined set of income and tax information for every American taxpayer. Here’s a quick breakdown of all of the boxes and data on the W-2 form:

Boxes A-F: The lettered boxes on the top and left side of the document contain identifying information for both you and your employer, including legal name, address, your Social Security number and the tax identification number of your employer. (The “control number” is just a unique ID for identifying your W-2 in your employer’s system.)

Boxes 1 and 2: These two boxes have the most important information for most taxpayers — your total wages, tips and other compensation for 2022, and the total federal income tax that was withheld for the year.

Boxes 3 through 6: These boxes show how much of your income is subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as how much taxes you paid for both in 2022.

Boxes 7 and 8: If you receive compensation by tips, these two boxes show how much tip income you reported, and how much your employer reported in tips paid to you. 

Box 9: Don’t worry about the mysteriously grayed-out Box 9. It was formerly used for reporting advance payments for the Earned Income Credit. That tax perk ended in 2010, yet the box remains.

Boxes 10 and 11: Box 10 shows any dependent care benefits you may have received in 2022, while Box 11 contains any deferred compensation

Box 12: This box contains additional compensation or reductions to taxable income, and there are 28 possible items that can be included here, each designated by a single or double letter code. Some of these codes need to be included in your tax return, while others are only for your information.

Box 13: Three options here show income that’s not subject to federal tax: employer-sponsored retirement plan (like a 401(k) account), third-party sick pay (such as private insurance) or money earned as a statutory employee.

Box 14: This box acts as a catch-all for your employer to report any additional tax information, such as tuition assistance or union dues. Employers can also include certain state and local taxes here. 

One common Box 14 entry is payment for state disability insurance (SDI), which can be deductible for some taxpayers.

Boxes 15 through 20: The boxes at the bottom of your W-2 form show your income and withholding data for 2022 as they relate to your state taxes. That section also includes your employer’s state ID number.

When will I receive my Form W-2?

You should receive your Form W-2 by Jan. 31, 2023, at the latest. Employers are required by law to send W-2 forms to all employees and the IRS by the end of January. 

You will likely receive your W-2 form in the mail, although many companies now make them also available to employees through online portals. Your W-2 form might come from a third-party like ADP or Gusto that handles your company’s payroll, so be on the lookout.

What should I do if I don’t get my W-2 form by Jan. 31?

First, make sure that your employer hasn’t emailed you instructions on how to access your W-2 form online. According to IRS Publication 15A, employers can provide electronic versions of W-2 forms if employees opt in. There might be an email with instructions that’s been filtered to your spam or junk folders.

Next, contact your human resources or payroll department to ask if your W-2 form has been sent and, if so, to request that they send you another.

If your employer cannot or does not help you, you can also contact the IRS directly for your W-2 information. You can call the agency at 800-829-1040, and the IRS will contact your employer or payer and request your missing W-2 form for you.

When you call the IRS for help with a missing W-2 form, you’ll need to have several pieces of information to verify your identity:

  • Legal name, address, Social Security number and phone number
  • Employer name, address and phone number
  • Dates you worked for the employer
  • Estimates of your wages and income tax withheld in 2022

For the last item in the list, your last paycheck of the year is a good way to find an estimate of your total wages and taxes paid.

If you still don’t receive or can’t access your W-2 form by April 18 — when taxes are due this year — you have a few options for filing your 2022 tax return.

First, you can file your tax return by using Form 4852, a substitute for the W-2 form that lets you estimate your income and withholding tax. However, if you find out later that the information in your return is different from your W-2, you’ll need to file an amended return.

Alternatively, you can file Form 4868 and ask for a six-month filing extension that will give you more time to track down your W-2. If you don’t think you owe any taxes, you don’t have to pay anything. If you do owe taxes, you’ll need to pay an estimated amount when you file your extension or risk a penalty later.

For more tax tips, learn about tax changes in 2022 to avoid refund shock.