Employers Must File Copies of Form W-2 by Jan. 31

Earlier date also applies to Form 1099 for independent contractors

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS November 3, 2016

The Internal Revenue Service is reminding employers that a new federal law to make it easier for the IRS to detect and prevent refund fraud moved the annual deadline for filing copies of employees' Form W-2 with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to Jan. 31.

The earlier filing deadline is part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, enacted last December. "As tax season approaches, the IRS wants to be sure employers, especially smaller businesses, are aware of these new deadlines," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a news release.

Under the new deadline:

  • Employers filing 249 or fewer copies of Form W-2 can file these forms electronically or by paper.

  • Employers filing 250 or more returns must do so electronically.

Employers must file by Jan. 31 regardless of number of employees or the method of filing.

In the past, employers typically had until the end of February if filing on paper, or the end of March if filing electronically, to submit copies of these forms to the government.

As they have in the past, employers must also give copies of Form W-2 to their employees by Jan. 31.

[SHRM members-only HR forms: W-2 Form Electronic Delivery Consent Notice]

The new Jan. 31 filing deadline applies as well to certain Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation, such as payments to independent contractors.

Extensions and Corrections

In addition, there are changes in requesting an extension to file Form W-2. Only one 30-day extension to file Form W-2 is available, and this extension is not automatic. If an extension is necessary, a Form 8809, Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns, must be completed as soon as the employer knows an extension is necessary, but by Jan. 31 at the latest. The instructions for Form 8809 contain additional information.

To make corrections after filing Form W-2 with the Social Security Administration, employers can file Form W-2c, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement.

In addition, many states have also adopted the federal change of the new deadline of Jan. 31, beginning with the upcoming filings for 2016 Form W-2 during the 2017 tax filing season.

Impact for Employers

"Contact your payroll provider to determine who will handle the filing of the government copies of these forms," advised Karin Spoerke, CPA, a tax advisor in the Akron, Ohio, office of accounting firm Meaden & Moore. "Don't assume because your provider handled it in the past that they will continue to do so. If the responsibility ends up falling on you, you may need to register with the SSA and the IRS, which can take up to three months."

To start planning early, she suggested:

  • Verify your employees' filing status and confirm their mailing addresses prior to year-end.

  • Verify that the form W-9 information for your 1099-MISC contractors is current and accurate.

"Due to the shortened deadline between year-end and the new filing date, it is essential that you have all the necessary information needed to complete the filing of these forms ready to go by Jan. 1, 2017," Spoerke said.

Related Resource:

Employer W-2 Filing Instructions & Information, Social Security Administration

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