W-2s to be filed January 31

The deadline for filing W-2s with the Social Security Administration has been pushed up a month, giving employers until Jan. 31 to file the forms.

The date was moved to give the IRS more time to verify tax returns and process refunds more quickly.  However, the accelerated deadline – which is the same date required for filing 1099s – can result in more errors as employers rush to get the forms filed on time.

The good news is the IRS will not assess a penalty for de minimis errors. In other words, no penalty will apply if the error for any single amount is $100 or less, or the tax withheld differs from the correct amount by no more than $25.

Even with the safe harbor, it is advisable to take care and make sure all the information on the W-2s is correct. The following are some common errors employers make when completing the forms:

  • 941/W-2/W-3 matching errors. Make sure the figures entered on your quarterly 941 forms match the totals on the W-2s. Also be sure the Employer Identification Number on the 941 matches the EIN on the W-2s.
  • W-2 formatting errors. Make sure the tax year, employment type and tax jurisdiction, including the state and city, are correct.
  • Incorrect employee name. Employees’ names and Social Security numbers must match, so confirm you have the correct information before filing the W-2s. Also double check to ensure the first and last name is not reversed on the form. Some other mistakes can occur when an employee has a hyphenated name or one that has an apostrophe (e.g., O’Reilly); when an employee’s name has a suffix (Jr., Sr., III); or when an employee has changed his or her name as a result of a recent marriage or divorce.
  • Filing a W-2 for the year after an employee dies. Payments on behalf of a deceased employee made after the year of death are reported to the beneficiary or estate on Form 1099, not a W-2.
  • Making entries that are too small or too large. The IRS recommends using 12-point Courier font, if possible.
  • Making entries using ink that is too light. The IRS recommends using black ink.
  • Dollar signs added to the money-amount boxes.
  • Inappropriately checking the “Retirement plan” checkbox.
  • The forms don’t balance. This can occur when:
    • The Social Security wage base is used for a prior year;
    • The Social Security wage base is used for Medicare wages;
    • Decimals in monetary entries are misplaced;
    • The Social Security tax is greater than $0 and the Social Security wages are entered as $0;
    • Medicare tax is greater than $0 and Medicare wages are $0;
    • Medicare wages are less than Social Security wages;
    • Employees’ Medicare taxes are balanced with the employer’s Medicare taxes. There will be an imbalance for high earners who pay the additional Medicare tax since there is no employer matching contribution.

If you are filing more than 250 W-2s, federal filing must be completed electronically. Otherwise, you may file on paper. While the federal forms must be filed by Jan. 31, each state has its own e-filing thresholds and due dates.

Please see the following chart, as provided courtesy Payroll Legal Alert:

2016 W-2 Filing Dates/E-Filing Requirements

State Filing Date

(Paper or electronic)

E-Filing Requirements
AL Jan. 31 Mandatory, 25 or more forms; e-filing
AR Feb. 28 Mandatory, 250 or more forms; e-filing, CD, DVD
AZ Feb. 28 Voluntary; CD, DVD
CA No W-2 filing
CO Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 or more forms; e-filing
CT Jan. 31 Mandatory, all employees; e-filing
DC Jan. 31 Mandatory, 25 or more forms; e-filing
DE Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 or more forms; e-filing
GA Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 or more federal forms or employers required to remit electronically; e-filing
HI Feb. 28 No e-filing
IA Jan. 31 Mandatory, 50 or more employers; e-filing
ID Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 federal forms with 50 Idaho forms; e-filing
IL Feb. 15 (e-filed forms) Mandatory, payroll providers and employers with 250 or more forms; e-filing
IN Jan. 31 Mandatory, 26 or more forms; e-filing
KS Feb. 28 Mandatory, 51 or more forms; e-filing
KY Jan. 31 Mandatory, 100 or more forms; e-filing, CD
LA Jan. 31 Mandatory, 100 or more forms; e-filing, CD, DVD
MA Jan. 31 Mandatory, 50 or more forms; e-filing
MD Jan. 31 Mandatory, 25 or more forms; e-filing
ME Feb. 28 (paper);

March 31 (e-filed forms)

Mandatory, 250 or more federal forms; e-filing
MI Feb. 28 Mandatory, 250 or more forms; cartridge or CD
MN Jan. 31 Mandatory, 10 or more forms; e-filing
MO Feb. 28;

(Jan. 31, eff. 1-1-18)

Mandatory, 250 or more forms; CD or flash drive
MS Jan. 31 Mandatory, 25 or more forms, or forms filed after 1/31/14; e-filing
MT Feb. 28 Voluntary; e-filing
NC Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 or more forms; CD
ND Feb. 28 (paper);

March 31 (e-filed forms)

Mandatory, 250 or more forms, or payroll service provider; e-filing, CD, USB flash drive, email with text file attachment
NE Feb. 1 Mandatory, more than 50 forms; e-filing
NJ Feb. 28 Voluntary; e-filing
NM Feb. 28 Voluntary; e-filing, CD
NY No W-2 filing
OH Jan. 31 (paper);

Feb. 28 (e-filed forms)

Mandatory, 250 or more forms; CD-ROM
OK Feb. 28 Mandatory, all employers; e-filing
OR Jan. 31 Mandatory, all employers; e-filing
PA Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 or more forms; E-Tides, CD, e-mail: ra-btftw2@pa.gov
RI Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 or more federal forms and 25 or more state forms
SC Jan. 31 Mandatory, 250 or more forms; e-filing
UT Jan. 31 Mandatory, all employers; e-filing
VA Jan. 31 Mandatory, all employers; e-filing
VT Jan. 31 Mandatory, 26 or more forms; e-filing
WI Jan. 31 Mandatory, 50 or more forms; e-filing; PDFs created at the SSA’s website (W-2 Online)
WV Feb. 28 Mandatory, 50 or more forms; e-filing, CD-ROM