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What do the W-2 Boxes and W-2 Form Codes mean?

Box 1 -- Enter this amount on the wages line of your return.

Box 2 -- Enter this amount on the federal income tax withheld line of your return.

Box 5 -- This amount might be required on Form 8959. See Form 1040 instructions to determine if you’re required to complete Form 8959.

Box 6 -- This amount includes these:

  • 1.45% Medicare tax withheld on all Medicare wages and tips shown in Box 5
  • 0.9% Additional Medicare tax on any of those Medicare wages and tips above $200,000

Box 8 -- This amount isn’t included in W-2 Boxes 1, 3, 5, or 7. For information on how to report tips on your return, see your Form 1040 instructions.

You must file Form 4137: Social Security and Medicare Tax on Unreported Tip Income with your return. You’ll report at least the allocated tip amount unless you can prove a smaller amount with adequate records. If you have records that show the actual amount of tips you received, report that amount even if it’s more or less than the allocated tips. On Form 4137, you’ll figure the Social Security and Medicare tax owed on the allocated tips shown on your W-2. By filing Form 4137, your Social Security tips will be credited to your Social Security record (used to figure your benefits).

Box 10 -- This amount reports dependent care benefits provided under a dependent care assistance program. Any amount over $5,000 is also included in Box 1. Complete Form 2441: Child and Dependent Care Expenses to compute any taxable and nontaxable amounts.

Box 12 -- Various W-2 Form Codes:

A -- Uncollected Social Security or RRTA tax on tips. Include this tax on Form 1040.

B -- Uncollected Medicare tax on tips. Include this tax on Form 1040.

C -- Taxable cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000

D -- Elective deferrals to a section 401(k) cash or deferred arrangement. Also includes deferrals under a SIMPLE retirement account that’s part of a section 401(k) arrangement.

E -- Elective deferrals under a section 403(b) salary reduction agreement

F -- Elective deferrals under a section 408(k)(6) salary reduction SEP

G -- Elective deferrals and employer contributions (including nonelective deferrals) to a section 457(b) deferred compensation plan

H -- Elective deferrals to a section 501(c)(18)(D) tax-exempt organization plan

J -- Nontaxable sick pay (information only, not included in Boxes 1, 3, or 5)

K -- 20% excise tax on excess golden parachute payments

L -- Substantiated employee business expense reimbursements (nontaxable)

M -- Uncollected Social Security or RRTA tax on taxable cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000 (former employees only)

N -- Uncollected Medicare tax on taxable cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000 (former employees only)

P -- Excludable moving expense reimbursements paid directly to employee (not included in Boxes 1, 3, or 5)

Q -- Nontaxable combat pay. See the instructions for Form 1040 or Form 1040A for details on reporting this amount.

R -- Employer contributions to your Archer medical savings accounts (MSA). Report on Form 8853: Archer MSAs and Long-Term Care Insurance Contracts.

S -- Employee salary reduction contributions under a section 408(p) SIMPLE plan (not included in Box 1)

T -- Adoption benefits (not included in Box 1). Complete Form 8839: Qualified Adoption Expenses to compute any taxable and nontaxable amounts.

V -- Income from exercise of nonstatutory stock option(s) (included in Boxes 1, 3 (up to Social Security wage base), and 5). See Publication 525 and instructions for Schedule D (Form 1040) for reporting requirements.

W -- Employer contributions (including amounts the employee elected to contribute using a section 125 (cafeteria plan) to your health savings account (HSA). Report on Form 8889: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Y -- Deferrals under a section 409A nonqualified deferred compensation plan

Z -- Income under section 409A on a nonqualified deferred compensation plan. This amount is also included in Box 1. It’s subject to an additional 20% tax plus interest. See Other Taxes in the Form 1040 instructions.

AA -- Designated Roth contributions under a section 401(k) plan

BB -- Designated Roth contributions under a section 403(b) plan

DD -- Cost of employer-sponsored health coverage. The amount reported with Code DD isn’t taxable.

EE -- Designated Roth contributions under a governmental Section 457(b) plan. This amount doesn't apply to contributions under a tax-exempt organization Section 457(b) plan.

Box 13 -- If the "Retirement plan" box is checked, special limits can apply to the amount of traditional IRA contributions you can deduct.

Box 14 -- Employers can use this box to report information like:

  • State disability insurance taxes withheld
  • Union dues
  • Uniform payments
  • Health insurance premiums deducted
  • Nontaxable income
  • Educational assistance payments
  • A member of the clergy's parsonage allowance and utilities

Railroad employers use this box to report:

  • RRTA compensation
  • Tier I tax
  • Tier II tax
  • Medicare tax
  • Additional Medicare tax

Since there's no standard list of codes for Box 14, employers can list any description they choose. If the code is unclear, contact your employer and ask what the code represents.

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Calculators

So how much will you get (or owe) this year? That’s the million-dollar question. We happen to have three very useful calculators to help you estimate your refund or balance due.

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