Learn about wages, salaries, and tips for your tax

Learn how to report wages, salaries, and tips on your Form W-2. Find explanations for every box on Form W-2 here.

As an employee, your employer must give you a Form W-2 by January 31. The W-2 reports:

  • Your wages
  • Contributions
  • Social Security
  • U.S. or Massachusetts retirement and Medicare tax
  • Withholding for state and federal income taxes.

If you didn't receive a W-2 from your employer, you should first contact them to verify whether it was mailed to the correct address. You can also call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 after February 15 to request a Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement (U.S. Form 4852). You should only request this form after reasonably attempting all you can to get a W-2 from your employer. We'll still accept a U.S. Form 4852 if you don't have a W-2, but you must still submit the year-end pay stub to verify the amount you filled in the "State tax withheld" box.

Allocated tips are in Box 8 and you must add them to state wages to determine total Massachusetts wages. If wage amounts include tips, you should contact your employers to be sure that allocated tips are reported correctly on the W-2.

Medicare tax paid is in Box 6 and you should add them to amounts paid for Social Security (Box 4) and/or U.S. or Massachusetts retirement as a deduction.

State income tax withheld in Box 17 is the amount that employers have withheld from wages.

Form 4852

On Form 4852, provide the following information to the IRS:

  • Your name, address, zip code, Social Security number
  • Your employer's or payer's name, address and zip code, and identification number (if known)
  • Estimation of wages, compensation, and taxes withheld

Form W-2 Box Item Explanations

BOX 1: Wages, tips, other compensation - Federal taxable income, which is total gross pay during the calendar year,

Plus (+):

  • Cash and non-cash benefits (Boxes 12c, 14p, 14s, 14t, and 14u)

Minus (-):

  • Dependent Care Assistance Plan contributions (Box 10)
  • Tax Sheltered Annuity contributions (Box 12e)
  • OBRA 90 Alternative Retirement Plan contributions and elective Deferred Compensation (Box 12g)
  • Pretax Transit Pass (Box 14b)
  • Pretax Retirement contributions (Box 14c)
  • Pretax Health insurance premiums (Box 14e)
  • Pretax Health Care Spending Account contributions and fees (Box 14o)

BOX 2: Federal income tax withheld - The total amount of federal tax withheld from an employee during the calendar year.

BOX 3: Social Security wages

BOX 4: Social Security tax withheld

BOX 5: Medicare wages and tips - Wages subject to Medicare tax, equal to your gross pay minus:

  • Dependent Care Assistance Plan contributions (Box 10), and
  • Health Insurance premiums (Box 14)

BOX 6: Medicare tax withheld - Medicare tax deducted from Medicare wages and tips of qualifying employees. You should add these to amounts paid for Social Security (Box 4) and/or U.S. or Massachusetts retirement as a deduction.

BOX 7: Social security tips

BOX 8: Allocated tips - Amounts not included in Boxes 1, 3, 5 or 7. Add these to state wages to determine your total Massachusetts wages. If wage amounts include tips, you should contact your employers to be sure that tips are reported correctly on the W-2.

BOX 9: Blank - Outdated and irrelevant field.

BOX 10: Dependent care benefits - Total dependent care benefits your employer paid you or incurred on your behalf, including amounts from a cafeteria plan. Any amount over $5,000 is also included in Box 1.

BOX 11: Non-qualified plans - The amount in this box is either:

  • Included in Box 1 if it is a distribution made to you from a nonqualified deferred compensation or section 457 plan, or
  • Included in Box 3 and/or 5 if it is a previous year deferral under a nonqualified or section 457 plan that became taxable for Social Security and Medicare taxes this year because there is no longer a substantial risk of forfeiture of your right to the deferred amount.

BOX 12: Types of compensation and benefits

Code Type of compensation or benefit
12A Uncollected social security or RRTA tax on tips.
12B Uncollected Medicare tax on tips.
12C Cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000 (included in Box 1, 3, and 5).
12D Elective deferrals to a section 401(k) cash or deferred arrangement. This also includes deferrals under a SIMPLE retirement account that is part of a section 401(k) arrangement.
12E Elective deferrals under a section 403(b) salary reduction agreement. This includes both voluntary and mandatory contributions made to a Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) Plan or to a Teacher's Insurance And Annuity Association And College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF).
12F Elective Deferrals to a section 408(k)(6) salary reduction SEP.
12G Elective deferrals and employer contributions (including nonelective deferrals) to a section 457(b) deferred compensation plan.
12H Elective deferrals to a section 501(c)(18)(D) tax-exempt organization plan.
12J Nontaxable sick pay not included in Boxes 1, 3 and 5.
12K 20% excise tax on excess golden parachute payments.
12L Nontaxable part of substantiated employee business expense reimbursements.
12M Uncollected Social Security or RRTA tax on cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000. This applies to former employees only.
12N Uncollected Medicare tax on cost of group-term life insurance coverage over $50,000.This applies to former employees only.
12P Excludable moving expense reimbursements paid directly to an employee that are not included in Box 1, 3, or 5.
12Q Nontaxable combat pay.
12R Employer contributions to an Archer (MSA) medical savings account.
12S Employee salary reduction contributions to a section 408(p) SIMPLE plan not included in Box 1.
12T Adoption benefits not included in Box 1.
12V Income from the exercise of nonstatutory stock option(s) included in boxes 1, 3 (up to Social Security wage base) and 5.
12W Employer contributions (including amounts you chose to contribute using a section 125 (cafeteria) plan) to your health savings account.
12Y Deferrals under a section 409A nonqualified deferred compensation plan.
12Z Income under section 409A on a nonqualified deferred compensation plan.
12AA Designated Roth contributions under a section 401(k) plan.
12BB Designated Roth contributions under a section 403(b) plan.
12DD Cost of employer-sponsored health coverage. The amount reported with Code DD is not taxable.
12EE Designated Roth contributions under a governmental section 457(b) plan. This amount does not apply to contributions under a tax-exempt organization section 457(b) plan.

BOX 13:
If the "Statutory employee" box is checked, you are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes but not federal or state income tax withholding.
If the "Retirement plan" box is checked, you were an active participant in any of the following:

  • Qualified pension, profit sharing or stock bonus plan
  • Annuity plan in 403(a)
  • Annuity contract or custodial account in 403(b)
  • SEP in 408(k)
  • SIMPLE in 408(p)
  • Trust in 501(c)(18)
  • Government plans, other than 457 plans. For state employees, this box indicates that you're a contributing member of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Retirement System.

The "Third party sick pay" box is checked only if the employer is a third party sick pay payer filing Form W-2 for an insurer's employee.

BOX 14: Other - This box displays:

  • Post-tax retirement contribution - Any post-tax retirement contribution, which is federally taxed before being credited to your retirement account and has been taxed accordingly. The post-tax method is applicable for voluntary buy back (make-up) retirement contributions.
  • Pre-tax retirement - Retirement that was deducted from your earnings on a pre-tax basis. This retirement contribution will be federally taxed at a later date and thus will be taxed before being credited to your account. This will include all contributions to state retirement plans, higher education optional retirement plans, and any additional retirement paid during the calendar year, including make-up retirement deductions.
  • Health insurance premium - Your total payment of health insurance premiums paid on a pre-tax basis. These payments haven't been deducted on a tax-deferred basis and therefore contributions will not be taxed in later years.

BOX 15: State employer's stated I.D. number

BOX 16: State wages, tips, etc. - State taxable income, also known as stage wages. This is equal to your total gross pay during the calendar year minus:

  • Dependent Care Assistance Plan contributions (Box 10)
  • Tax Sheltered Annuity (Box 13)
  • Deferred Compensation contributions (Box 13), and
  • Health insurance premiums (Box 14)

This should also exclude:

  • Voluntary employee contributions to 403b retirement plans
  • Contributions to Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) accounts
  • Qualified moving expenses reimbursement related to Massachusetts employment
  • Employer-provided educational assistance
  • Employer contributions to a medical savings account

This amount could be different from federal wages in Box 1 since Massachusetts doesn't exclude certain retirement plans from wages. This difference is due to pension contributions, which are excluded from income for federal tax purposes. When filing your Massachusetts income tax return, use the amount shown for state wages. If you enter the lower dollar amounts, your refunds will be delayed for correction. For Massachusetts wages, use the amount shown in Box 16.

BOX 17: State income tax withheld - State income taxes that employers withheld from your wages.

BOX 18: Local wages, tips, etc. - Income from which local or city tax was withheld.

BOX 19: Local income tax - Local or city taxes withheld.

BOX 20: Locality name - For states that have local taxes, this is the name of the local or city (such as New York City). Contact your department payroll office for:

  • A form W-2c (Statement of Corrected Income and Tax Amounts) if your name, social security number, or any of the information reported on your Form W-2 is incorrect
  • A reprint of your Form W-2 if necessary
  • Any other questions on specific Form W-2 items

Additional Resources for Form W-2 Box Item Explanations

Reporting on your original tax return

Once you're done with your Forms W-2, attach them all to your original tax return. Enter the amount of Massachusetts wages on Form 1, Line 3 or Form 1-NR/PY, Line 5. Note that the W-2 includes amounts excluded from Federal Adjust Gross Income (AGI): contributions to any annuity, pension, endowment or retirement fund of the US, Commonwealth or political subdivision thereof.

If you want to submit an abatement form or amended tax return, include a Statement of Corrected Income and Tax Amounts (Form W-2c), or a letter from your employer verifying corrected wages.