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What is Form W-3?

Written by: Chase Charaba
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Published on August 17, 2022.

As a small business owner, you’re likely familiar with Form W-2. Now that you’ve hired your first employees, however, you’ve probably also seen the term “W-3 form”.

Organizations are required to submit a W-3 form for their employees. But what is this form, and how does it differ from W-2 forms?

In this article, we’ll explain what a W-3 form is, how it differs from Form W-2, and how to complete it.

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What are W-3 forms for?

A W-3 form, also known as the Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements form, summarizes your organization’s wages and employee contributions for the tax year. You’ll send this form to the Social Security Administration (SSA) instead of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The form allows you to report the following information:

  • Wages, tips, and other compensation
  • Federal income tax withheld
  • Social Security wages
  • Social Security tax withheld
  • Medicare wages and tips
  • Medicare tax withheld
  • Social Security tips
  • Allocated tips
  • Dependent care benefits
  • Nonqualified plans
  • Deferred compensation
  • State wages and tips
  • State income tax withheld
  • Local wages and tips
  • Local income tax withheld

Unlike a Form W-2, your organization only needs to complete one Form W-3. That’s because you’ll add all the information for all employees’ wages to the form, whereas W-2 forms are individualized to each employee.

Do you have to file a W-3 if you have no payroll?

You don’t need to file a W-3 if you have no W-2 employees. Form W-3 only reports the information you put on your employees’ W-2s to the SSA.

If you file a Form W-2, then you must file a W-3.

If any of the following situations apply to you, then you must file W-2 Forms for each eligible employee and a W-3 for your organization:

  • You withheld any income, Social Security, or Medicare taxes from employee wages
  • You paid $600 or more in wages to employees, even if you didn’t withhold any taxes

Where can I get W-3 forms?

You can find W-3s on the IRS website. However, the exact form you’ll use depends on how you plan to file.

If you’re filing online, you can use Business Services Online (BSO) or your payroll or tax software to complete a W-3 and send it electronically to the SSA. In many cases, BSO will automatically fill W-3 forms with information from your submitted Form W-2s. BSO is only available to organizations with fewer than 50 employees.

If you use tax preparers, they’ll likely already have W-3 forms available online.

You can also file the form by mail, but you must be careful. Printing Form W-3 from the IRS website can come with a penalty, as the SSA can’t scan those forms. Instead, you’ll need to order the red ink paper forms1 from the IRS.

How do I fill out Form W-3?

Filling out the form is similar to completing Form W-2s for your employees, as it uses the same information. However, it can be challenging for business owners to complete the first time.

We’ll review each section below and what you need to complete it.

Box a - Control number

Most organizations will skip Box a, or the control number. This is generally only used for organizations that want to assign all of their related documents a unique number.

Box b - Kind of payer and kind of employer

In Box b, you’ll tell the SSA which type of business you are. First, you must check which type of payer your organization is.

You have seven options:

  • 941
    • Most organizations file Form 941 to remit employment taxes
  • Military
    • For military employers sending Form W-2s and W-3s to members of uniformed services
  • 943
    • For agricultural employers who file Form 943
  • 944
    • Organizations that file Form 944 are generally small businesses with fewer than $1,000 in annual liability for employment taxes
  • CT-1
    • CT-1 is for railroad employers sending W-2s and W-3s for employees covered under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA)
  • Hshld. emp.
    • For household employers sending Forms W-2 and W-3 to household employees
  • Medicare govt. emp.
    • For federal, state, and local government agencies submitting Form W-2s and W-3s for employees who are subject to only Medicare taxes

Most organizations fill out Form 941 to pay taxes, so you’ll likely choose this one.

Next, you’ll select the kind of employer that you are.

You have six options to choose from:

  • 501c non-government
  • State/local non-501c
  • State/local 501c
  • Federal government
  • Third-party sick pay
  • None apply

Unless your organization is a tax-exempt charitable organization, private foundation, local government, school district, or other publicly owned government entity, you’ll select “none apply.”

Boxes c through h

In Boxes c through h, you’ll provide your business information, including the number of W-2 forms you submitted, your employer identification number (EIN), your organization’s legal name, address, and other EINs used during the tax year.

At the bottom of the form, you should also provide a contact person, a phone number, and an email address so that the SSA or the IRS can contact you with any questions.

Boxes 1 through 11

Each box in sections 1 through 11 corresponds to the same boxes on your employees’ W-2s. Simply add all this information and report the total amount for your organization. However, you’ll skip section 9, as this is for SSA use only.

Box 12

In Box 12, you’ll enter all the amounts for codes D through H, code S, code Y, code AA, code BB, and code EE from your employees’ W-2s. Skip codes A through C, J through R, T through W, Z, DD, FF, GG, and HH, as these aren’t needed for Form W-3.

Box 13

You’ll leave this box blank, as it is only for third-party sick pay through Form 8922.

Box 14

If you have any employees who have their taxes withheld on third-party sick pay payments, you’ll include this information in Box 14.

Box 15 through 19

In Box 15, you’ll enter your state and your state tax/employer ID number. If you have employees in multiple states, enter an “X” instead of listing any state.

Now enter any state tax information in Boxes 16 through 19.

Where do I send Form W-3?

If you’re filing by mail, you should send Form W-3 and Form W-2 Copy A only in a flat envelope without folding the forms.

Send the form to the SSA at the address below:

Social Security Administration

Direct Operations Center

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18769-0001

If you use certified mail, use ZIP Code 18769-0002 instead.

Don’t send employment tax forms, cash, checks, or other payment methods to the SSA. You must send all payments and other forms to the IRS.

Form W-3 and the accompanying form W-2 Copy As are due by January 31 each year.

What if I make a mistake on Form W-3?

If you made a mistake on your tax form W-3 or any W-2, you can submit Form W-3 C, also known as the Transmittal of Corrected Wage and Tax Statements form.

For any W-2 that’s corrected, you’ll submit Copy A of Form W-2c along with Form W-3 C to the SSA.

Send W-2 C and W-3 C via the U.S. Postal Service to:

Social Security Administration

Direct Operations Center

P.O. Box 3333

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18767-3333

For any other carrier, you’ll send the corrected forms to:

Social Security Administration

Direct Operations Center

Attn: W-2c Process

1150 E. Mountain Drive

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702-7997

Conclusion

If you have any employees for your small business, you’ll need to submit a Form W-3 to the SSA as a summary of your W-2s. Completing this form will allow you to remain compliant and avoid any potential penalties from the IRS.

We recommend contacting your tax professional or CPA to help you fill out Forms W-2 and W-3.

1. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/online-ordering-for-information-returns-and-employer-returns

Originally published on August 17, 2022. Last updated August 17, 2022.
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