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


The W2 boxes and codes show the wages you’ve earned and any taxes paid through withholding. To help you understand your Form W2, we’ve outlined each of the W-2 boxes and the corresponding W2 box codes below.

W-2 boxes and codes.

Box 1 — Shows your wages, tips, prizes, and other compensation for the year. Include this amount on the wages line of your return. If you have more than one Form W-2, or you are married and your spouse also has one or more W-2s, the total of all forms’ Box 1 will be shown on Form 1040, line 1.

Box 2 — Shows the total federal income tax that was withheld from your paycheck for the year. Include this amount on the federal income tax withheld line of your return (Form 1040, line 16).

Box 3 — Shows your wages subject to Social Security tax. (This amount may not be the same as reported in Box 1)

Box 4 — Shows the amount of Social Security tax withheld from your pay.

Box 5 — Shows your wages subject to Medicare tax. This amount, which also may not be the same as the amount reported in Box 1, might be required on Form 8959 if your income is high enough. See Form 1040 instructions to determine if you’re required to complete Form 8959.

Box 6 — Shows the amount of Medicare tax withheld. 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 7 — Shows any tip income you reported to your employer.

Box 8 — Shows tip income allocated to you by your employer. 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 or IRS Pub. 531, Reporting Tip Income .

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(s). 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 11 — Shows the total amount distributed to you from your employer’s non-qualified (taxable) deferred compensation plan.

Box 12 — Various Form W-2 Codes on Box 12 that reflect different types of compensation or benefits.

  • 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 (included in boxes 1,3 (up to Social Security wages base), and box 5.
  • 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 non-elective 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 a member of the U.S. Armed Forces (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 non-statutory stock option(s) (included in Boxes 1, 3 (up to Social Security wage base), and 5). See Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, 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 a nonqualified deferred compensation plan that fails to satisfy section 409A. This amount is also included in Box 1 and is subject to an additional 20% tax plus interest. See 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.
  • FF — Permitted benefits under a qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement.
  • GG — Income from qualified equity grants under section 83(i).
  • HH — Aggregate deferrals under section 83(i) elections as of the close of the calendar year.

Box 13 — If the “Retirement plan” box is checked, special limits can apply to the amount of traditional IRA contributions you can deduct. If the “Statutory Employee” box is checked, Box 1 will be carried to Schedule C line 1.

Box 14 — Employers can use this W-2 box to report information such as:

  • 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
  • Charitable contributions made through payroll deduction

Railroad employers use this W-2 box to report:

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

Since there’s no standard list of W2 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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