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Workforce Management

What are W-3 Forms? FAQs and Helpful Tips for 2021

As a trusted HR & payroll provider, Paycor gets hundreds of questions about Form W-3 each year. To help HR professionals mitigate risk, our compliance experts answered the most frequently asked questions around Form W-3.

The good news is that the form doesn’t change much from year to year, but we’ll be sure to update our guidance if anything does change. Remember, if you’re ever confused by payroll terminology, you can consult our payroll glossary.

What is a W-3 form?

Technical answer: Form W-3 is used to total up all parts of Form W-2. Both forms are filed together and sent to Social Security Administration (SSA) every year. Form W-3 is also known as “Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements.”

What employers really need to know: As an employer your responsibility is to review all W-2s for your workforce, summarize employee wages and tax information and then combine that data into one W-3 form.

What’s the difference between Form W-2 and Form W-3?

The difference between Form W-2 and Form W-3 is the person(s) who complete the forms. Employees are required to complete Form W-2 while employers are responsible for completing Form W-3.

Employers must file both W-2 and W-3 forms with the Social Security Administration by January 31st of every year.

Who must file Form W-3?

Any employer required to file Form W-2 must also file Form W-3. Be sure to use the correct version. For example, use the 2020 version for reporting 2020 taxes, even though you may be working on the form in 2021.

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When do you need to file W-3 and W-2 forms?

To remain compliant, you’ll need to mail or electronically file W-2 forms and Form W-3 with the SSA by January 31, 2021.

How to complete Form W-3?

Take a deep breath. Completing Form W-3 may not be as challenging as you think. Because this form asks for the same information as Form W-2, it’s more of a time suck than anything else.

However, since many employers still have questions about the individual sections of Form W-3, we’ve broken down everything you need to know here:

What is a W-3 Control Number?

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A control number is a unique number assigned by an employer to identify individual W-2 wage a tax statements. This section is optional.

Box b: Kind of Payer

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Most likely, if you’re a private business you’ll check “941”. To be sure, ask your accounting department or legal team.

Box b: Kind of Employer

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Unless you’re a non-profit or government entity, select “None apply”.

Boxes 1-19

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Enter the combined income and tax information from all the W-2s you’re including in this W-3 filing.

How to file a W-3?

W-2s and W-3s can be filed by mail or electronically. However, if you have 250 or more W-2 forms, you must electronically file both forms.

To file W-2s electronically, you’ll need to register for the Social Security Administrations business services (BSO) online.

When you complete that step, you have 2 options:

  • Upload wage files from your payroll or tax software
  • You can use a fill-in W-3 form to submit up to 50 W-2 forms at a time

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If you decide to mail the forms, send them to the following address:

Social Security Administration

Direct Operations Center

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18769-0001

If you use “Certified Mail” to file, change the ZIP code to “19769-0002”. If you use an IRS-approved private delivery service, add “Attn: W-2 Process, 1150 E. Mountain Dr.” to the address and change the ZIP code to “18702-7997”. Go to IRS.gov/PDS for a list of IRS-approved private delivery services.

Where can you get W-3 forms?

Keep in mind, you can’t just print off a W-3 form from the IRS website and file it with the SSA. The form is printed with special red ink, so you’ll need to buy the official form from the same place you buy your W-2 forms. If you partner with an HR and payroll provider, they’ll complete the forms for you.

If you’re a Paycor customer and still have unanswered questions, please contact your payroll specialist for more support.

How Paycor Can Help

We’re proud to keep more than 30,000 organizations informed and compliant with federal and state laws and regulations. Since 1990, Paycor has maintained a core expertise in payroll and compliance. We established our compliance expertise in the Cincinnati tri-state area, one of the most complex tax jurisdictions in the country, which is why we’re able to handle payroll and tax complexities in a way our competitors can’t.