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Sending W-2s Late? Penalties Are Possible

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

What happens if you can't get your W-2 forms out to your employees on time?

An employer who pays an employee more than $600 per year (in cash and noncash payments, such as benefits) has an obligation to file a W-2 with the Social Security Administration and must also provide W-2s to employees.

Being late on either of these two things can cost an employer by way of penalties from the IRS. And the IRS isn't kidding around when it hits taxpayers with penalties.

What happens if you just can't get your W-2 forms out to your employees by the February 1 deadline? Here's what you should do, if you find yourself in that boat:

  • Get an extension to furnish a W-2 from the IRS. You can request an extension of time to furnish a W-2 to an employee by asking the IRS in writing. Send a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, Information Returns Branch, Mail Stop 4360, Attn: Extension of Time Coordinator, 240 Murall Drive, Kearneysvville, WV 25430. Be sure to do this before January 31!

  • Contact your employees. Notify your workers so you won't have to deal with a flurry of anxious emails and phone calls. This will also give your employees time to file an extension for their own tax returns, if they choose to do so. If employees don't understand why you're late with your W-2s, they could report you to the IRS.

  • Keep copies of W-2s if they're undeliverable. It's possible that an employee never left a forwarding address. If that's the case, then you must keep the W-2 on file for four years.

  • Beware the penalties: For every W-2 Form that is sent late to an employee, the IRS will impose a $50 penalty for each late form. These are different from the penalties for improperly filing a W-2, as explains.

Failure to furnish W-2s and sending out your W-2s late aren't your only concerns. The IRS cares a great deal about accuracy. If you've been timely in furnishing the W-2s but left out accurate details, you will still be fined.

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