If you’ve ever studied your paycheck, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed money deducted from your pay, aka – taxes. That makes you an employee, which means you should receive a tax form called a W-2. Simply put, Form W-2 reports what you’ve earned over the year and the amount your employer withheld to pay federal and state income taxes, Medicare, and Social Security.

Form W-2 informs the federal government as well as your state, city, and local government about your earnings and taxes paid for the year. Your employer provides all of the information on this form, therefore you don’t have to fill out anything! Your employer also provides both you and the IRS a copy, so you don’t have to lift a finger.

Even though you don’t have to fill it out, you still need to know how to read and understand it. We’re here to help! Below is a colorful, broken down version of the form and what you need to know about each box! Who said tax forms can’t be fun?

The lettered boxes (on the left):






The numbered boxes (on the right):

Boxes 1-4


Boxes 5-8


Boxes 9-13


*Note for Box 12: Learn the meaning of each code on the IRS site (starts on page 7, continues on page 9).

Box 14: This is a “catch-all” and will usually be empty, unless your employer needs to provide additional info that doesn’t fit anywhere else on the form. Some examples are union dues, educational assistance payments, and state disability insurance taxes withheld.

Box 15 through 20 (at the bottom): Box 15 shows your employer’s state and state tax ID number. This is important if you’re e-filing your tax return. Boxes 15 through 20 report your state and local income tax info.

The W-2 is extremely important when it comes to filing your tax return. If you still haven’t received your W-2, you need to get your hands on it ASAP!

If you need further assistance understanding your W-2, visit your local tax professional. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more tax tips and form breakdowns.