The beginning of the year is a busy time for any business when it comes to bookkeeping and tax requirements. One of many business accounting tasks you’ll need to complete is compiling and distributing W2 forms to your employees and 1099s to any contract employees.
Even if your business operates on a non-calendar fiscal year, you still have a number of reporting requirements to fulfill in January. W2 forms must be distributed and filed prior to the end of January, meaning you have, at the most, 31 days to verify they are correct, print them, and get them to those who have done work for you.
Fortunately, if you use QuickBooks Online to manage your accounting operations, this process will be simple. In this guide to QuickBooks W2 forms, we’ll explain what these forms are and how to print W2 in QuickBooks Online. For how to print 1099s in QuickBooks, check out this separate tutorial.
What Are W2 Forms?
Form W2—or just W2 for short—is a statement of wages and taxes you are required to give to your employees each year. W2s must be delivered, or mailed, no later than January 31 of each year. W2s are only prepared for employees; if your business uses the services of independent contractors, you will prepare 1099s for them instead of W2s.
W2s may vary slightly in format, but they all report the same information: wages paid, taxes withheld, benefits deductions, etc. The exact information reported on the W2s your company gives employees depends on your business’s compensation and benefits structure. If you have questions regarding what should be reported on your employees’ W2s, you should discuss with your accountant.
When you print a W2 in QuickBooks Online, the form will look like this:
The actual print-out will include four copies of this same form for each employee. This is known as a 4-UP format, and this is the only form option available in QuickBooks Online Payroll.
Filing W2s in QuickBooks Online
There’s more to preparing W2s than simply distributing them to your employees. W2s must also be filed with the IRS no later than January 31 each year. Depending on state and local requirements, you might also have to file W2s with your state’s tax authority.
Fortunately, your QuickBooks Online Payroll subscription includes automatic electronic filing of your W2s. This eliminates the need to mail in or manually submit electronically W2s and Form W3 (a summary of all the W2s you submit.)
Note: Even though QuickBooks Online Payroll automatically files your tax forms for you, it’s still important to do your due diligence to ensure you are fulfilling all your filing requirements. Check with your state’s tax authority or an accountant or bookkeeper knowledgeable about payroll regulations in your state to ensure you are in compliance with all requirements.
How to Print W2 in QuickBooks Online
Now that you know more about W2s in general, let’s walk through how to print W2s in QuickBooks Online.
First off, in order to print W2s in QuickBooks Online, you must have processed at least one payroll through QuickBooks Payroll during the prior tax year. Note that QuickBooks Payroll is a paid service that is not included with your QuickBooks Online subscription. Pricing ranges from $22.50 per month plus $4 per employee for basic payroll to $62.50 per month plus $10 per employee for full-service payroll.
You can customize QuickBooks Online to send you a reminder when it’s time to file your payroll tax forms. To do this, click the Gear icon at the top right corner of your screen, then click on Payroll Settings.
On the next screen, click the pencil icon next to Email Notifications and make sure “Send to you” is selected for each email notification option. Click the “Done” button when you are finished.
If you don’t receive an email notification, though, that doesn’t mean you can’t print your W2s. In fact, we caution against relying solely on email notifications or the task list in QuickBooks Online to complete crucial tasks in your business. Our recommendation is to create a calendar of when vital accounting tasks are due to ensure you never miss a due date.
To print W2s without relying on email notifications or the task list on the QuickBooks Dashboard, follow these six steps:
1. Hover over the Taxes tab on your left-hand toolbar, then click on Payroll Tax.
2. You will be taken to the Payroll Tax Center on a new screen. The default setting for the Payroll Tax Center is to display your Tax Payments, but next to the Tax Payments tab you’ll find a Forms tab. Click on this tab.
3. Once you are on the Forms screen, you will see all the forms QuickBooks Payroll has filed on your behalf. These forms are organized by year and calendar quarter; find the Q4 section for the prior year and click to expand it.
4. Now you will see all the forms filed on your business’s behalf. Click on “W2-Copies B, C & 2” to download a PDF of the W2s you will give to your employees. Make sure you are clicking on the correct option—otherwise, you will print your file copies of Form W2 instead of the ones your employees need for their taxes.
Pro tip: Even though you can access all these forms in QuickBooks Online as long as you have an active subscription, we encourage you to download them and store them securely as a backup measure. Password-protect any PDFs that include employees’ personal data, such as addresses and social security numbers.
5. Now it’s time to print your forms. Find the PDF you downloaded in Step 4, open it, and print the forms just as you’d print any other PDF.
You’ll notice the first page of the PDF is an information page; if you are using pre-printed forms, make sure to set your printer to skip this page so you don’t waste a form.
Speaking of forms, there is no requirement that you must use pre-printed forms for W2s. You can save a considerable amount of money by printing these forms on plain paper. If you choose to use pre-printed forms, though, Intuit recommends you use the forms available on the Intuit Marketplace. These forms have been tested to work with QuickBooks Payroll; Intuit will not guarantee that forms not purchased through their marketplace will have the correct alignment.
Our personal preference is to use the Blank W2 Kit available through the Intuit Marketplace. These perforated forms can save valuable time on alignment and folding the forms to ensure employees’ sensitive information isn’t exposed.
6. You can also electronically deliver W2s to your employees, provided the employee has consented to receive their W2s electronically. Unlike with pay stubs, the IRS requires employee consent for you to deliver W2s electronically.
If your employees consent to receive their W2s electronically, they can access them by visiting the QuickBooks Workforce website at workforce.intuit.com. When you create your employees’ profiles in QuickBooks Online using the “Add an employee” button (see below), you have the option to invite the employee to view their pay stubs and W2s online. Entering the employee’s email address and then clicking the checkbox next to this option will send the employee an invitation to the QuickBooks Workforce site.
W2s are automatically sent to the QuickBooks Workforce site once they are filed in January.
Pro tip: Because employee social security numbers are not truncated on W2s, we do not recommend electronic delivery of W2s outside of the Workforce site. If you absolutely must send an electronic copy of an employee’s W2 outside of Workforce, password-protect the PDF and share the password with the employee securely (not via email).
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to print your employees’ W2s in QuickBooks Online. Whether you print W2s on plain paper, on pre-printed or blank kit forms, or electronically deliver them (with employee consent), you can complete this once-onerous task in mere moments—after you have verified all the information on your employees’ W2s is correct.
That brings us to an important point we feel is worth stressing: There is more to annual payroll reporting requirements than printing and filing W2s and other annual forms. An important step you must follow every year—even if you use QuickBooks Payroll—is reconciling W2 data against your quarterly payroll forms (941s and state tax forms). Usually, everything will be in order, and no adjustments will be required before distributing W2s and filing them with the IRS and your state. However, when adjustments are required, catching them prior to filing the forms will save you an immeasurable amount of time.
If you aren’t sure how to reconcile your W2s against your quarterly payroll forms for the year, contact your accountant or a payroll-savvy bookkeeper to help you.
If you have difficulty printing W2s in QuickBooks Online, reach out to a QuickBooks ProAdvisor or an accountant or bookkeeper who is well-versed in QuickBooks Payroll and QuickBooks Online. They will be happy to help you verify your payroll information, print your W2s, and distribute them to your employees, making January a little less stressful.
Billie Anne Grigg
Billie Anne Grigg is a contributing writer for Fundera.
Billie Anne has been a bookkeeper since before the turn of the century. She is a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, LivePlan Expert Advisor, FreshBooks Certified Beancounter, and a Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional. She is also a guide for the Profit First Professionals organization.
Billie Anne started Pocket Protector Bookkeeping in 2012 to provide an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full-time, in-house bookkeeping staff.