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IRS Releases 2021 Forms W-2, W-3, Instructions

BY: Jyme Mariani, Esq. | 02/02/21

The IRS released the 2021 Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, and the General Instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3. The instructions have been updated to address how employers should handle COVID-19-related employment tax credits.

What’s New

There are two items of particular interest to payroll professionals:

  • Potential discrepancies when reconciling Forms W-2 and W-3 with Forms 941 and 944 due to COVID-19-related employment tax credits. Employers may have a discrepancy when reconciling Forms W-2 and W-3 with Forms 941 and 944 if COVID-19 tax relief was taken in 2020. Paid qualified sick leave and family leave wages are not subject to the employer share of social security tax. Also, the deferred amount of the employee share of social security tax is reported on Forms 941 and 944, but it is not reported on Forms W-2 and W-3.
  • Reporting deferred employee share of social security tax from 2020. Employee social security tax deferred in 2020 under Notice 2020-65 that is withheld in 2021 and not reported on the 2020 Form W-2 should be reported in Box 4 on Form W-2c. Enter tax year “2020” in Box c and adjust the amount previously reported in Box 4 of the Form W-2 to include the deferred amounts withheld in 2021. All Forms W-2c should be filed with the Social Security Administration, along with Form W-3c, as soon as possible after withholding the deferred amounts. For more information, see the IRS webpage on Form W-2 reporting of employee social security tax deferred under Notice 2020-65.

For full coverage on the Forms W-2 and W-3 and the instructions, see the February issue of Payroll Currently, which will be published on February 5.


Jyme Mariani, Esq., is Managing Editor of Payroll Currently and Payroll Information Resources for the APA.