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How do I read Form W-2?

Here's a guide to reading the various elements of Form W-2.

Elements of Form W-2


  1. The total taxable wages, tips, and other compensation that you paid to your employee during the year. However, does not include elective deferrals (such as employee contributions to a section 401( k ) or 403( b ) plan) except section 501( c )(18) contributions.
  2. Amount of Federal Income Tax withheld, based on Box 1.
  3. Portion of Box 1 (excluding tips) that is taxed for Social Security, up to the wage base limit.
  4. Amount of Social Security Taxes withheld, based on Box 3.
  5. Amount of wages taxed for Medicare.
  6. Amount of Medicare taxes withheld, based on Box 5.
  7. Amount for reported tips that are taxed for Social Security.
  8. Amount of tips allocated by your employer.
  9. Amount deducted and contributed to Dependent Care FSA, if any.
  10. Distributions paid for the tax year, e.g., early withdrawals from a 401( k )
  11. Additional taxable and non-taxable compensation and benefits.
    • Lowercase letters a, b, c, d denote line items and do not refer to anything.
    • For each type of reported compensation, there will be an earnings code and an amount. In some cases, the amount is already included in Box 1, 3, or 5, and reported in Box 12 for informational purposes.
  12. Additional taxes or tax deductions not otherwise covered in another Box.
  13. Wages taxed for state income tax. May differ from Box 1.
  14. Amount of state income tax withheld, based on Box 16.
  15. Total wages subject to local tax. May be blank even, even if Box 19 is not empty.
  16. Total local taxes withheld.
  17. Name or code of local tax in Box 18 and/or 19.
  18. Number assigned by employer, for employer's reference.
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