The Complete Guide to the W-2 Form


January kicks off the season for W-2 Forms to arrive in your mailbox. Each year we see quite a few questions about how to read a W-2 from our clients. To help you make sense of this common, yet information-packed form, here are some quick & simple answers to the most common questions.

Do I really need my W-2 Form to file my taxes?

Yes, you need your W-2 to file taxes. You cannot file your taxes using your last pay stub; you must have your W-2 form. However, you can estimate your refund, prepare for your appointment and come into an office to get started on your taxes using information from your last pay stub–but you cannot file without the information on your W-2 form.

When will my W-2 Form arrive?

Employers are typically required to issue Form W-2 by January 31. If you have moved or have concerns about the form getting to you, contact your employer as soon as possible to ensure your information is up to date.

You may also be able to have an electronic copy your W-2 sent to an H&R Block office so we can have it ready for you when you come in for your appointment–visit W-2 Early Access to find out if your employer participates.

What do I do if I don’t receive my W-2 Form?

If you have not received your W-2 by the end of January, contact your employer to find out if and when the W-2 was mailed.

If you do not receive your W-2, you may then contact the IRS for assistance at 800-829-1040. From there, you will follow the steps listed here on

What information is on my W-2 Form?

Check out the image below and our notes to see how to read key parts of a W-2 Form.

  • Copies – You may notice that there are several copies of your W-2. These show the intended use of the copy: either the Federal return, state return or your personal copy.
  • Names, numbers and address – This includes your employer’s name and address, plus your Social Security number. This is probably the most familiar part of reading a W-2.
  • Income – You’ll see your total wages, tips and other compensation; plus breakouts for Social Security wages, Medicare wages and Social Security tips. These items stack up just to the right of your Employer information.
  • Withholdings – Next to the income boxes, you can also see the amounts of taxes paid through paycheck withholdings, including federal income, Social Security taxes and Medicare tax.
  • Other boxes – Some boxes may or may not be completed depending on your personal situation. For help understanding what these cover, review our W-2 Boxes and Codes article. If you have specific questions on Box 12, start with our Form W-2, Box 12 article for more information.

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