How To Use A W-2 to Fill Out a Form 1040
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How To Use A W-2 to Fill Out a Form 1040

The boxes on the W-2 Form tell taxpayers the facts and numbers they need to know to fill out a tax return on a 1040 Form. Using the paper form at tax time prevents errors.

Having the exact income and tax numbers can make filling out an income tax return on Form 1040 foolproof work from the top line down. The dollars and cents on paper in a W-2 Form simplify the steps.

The short form can fill in any gaps in the facts and numbers a taxpayer has on hand. Just get all the tax records together and start looking up, or calculating, the numbers that count.


1. Get a copy of the W-2 Form instructions online at the IRS website. Read the sections on the boxes and codes thoroughly. There are no free errors allowed on the form.

The instructions can explain the right decisions on including income on the tax return and the adjustments a taxpayer can make to taxes. There are many specific employer payments and taxes a taxpayer might have to know.

2. Review the W-2 Form sent to the address by an employer. Note any differences between the facts and dollar amounts on the form and those on record, or remembered. Boxes 1 and 2 are the most important.

3. Write the wages, tips and other compensation in box 1 on the gross income line on the 1040 tax return form. The gross income number will be used for subtractions and sums on lines down the form.

4. Write on the 1040 line for federal tax withheld the amount in box 2 on the W-2. This amount tells the IRS how much the employer already took out of pay. The money will not have get paid again. Dollars and cents come back to the taxpayer in a tax refund.

There are two other important tax numbers used for completing a Form 1040. Use the social security tax withheld on line 4 and the medicare tax withheld on line 6. The employer has already taken these amounts out of work pay.

5. Calculate the taxable and nontaxable dependent care benefits the employer paid. Use the total amount in box 10 and do the calculation on the IRS form for child and dependent care expenses. It is available online.

6. Go through the additional income and taxes noted by a code in box 12. Money already paid by the employer, or taken out of pay, will get noticed by the IRS. Uncollected social security taxes are noted with an A and uncollected medicare taxes with a B. Contributions taken from pay and made to a 401(k) plan are not to be ignored. Look for a D in the box.

Correct any differences between the W-2 amounts and a taxpayer's records before the tax return form is filled in.


  • Watch out for a missing decimal point or missing cents in the income amounts and taxes the employer prints on the W-2 form.
  • Make sure the retirement plan box is checked right.
  • Names written in reverse order can fail to match the IRS records. The right format for the name written on a W-2 is the first name and middle initial in the first name box and the family name in the second box.


IRS, Form W-2 (2012).

IRS, Instructions for Form W-2 (2012).

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Comments (2)

Very methodical and quite informative.Thanks.

Thank you for this informative post. I just want to share a good source for Tax forms and tutorials - PDFfiller. It has a ton of Tax Forms. It helps me fill out a needed W2 form neatly and gives me the option to esign.