If you're an employee, you should receive a W-2 form from your employer each year, which is a statement of your wages. You'll receive three different copies, one of which you need to send to the IRS along with your tax return.
If you don't send your W-2 in, or it gets lost because the person who opened the envelope didn't see it and didn't forward it with your tax return, your return could be delayed. Taking a few steps to make sure you properly attach your W-2 to your return will help you get your taxes filed more quickly and help you get your refund sooner, if you have one coming.
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Read More: How to Attach Tax Return Forms
What Is a W-2?
A W-2 form shows the amount of money you earned from an employer and the amount of taxes withheld. The form details which taxes you paid (e.g., federal income tax, Social Security, Medicare) and how much. The form also includes other information, such as your name, address and Social Security number.
To learn how to use a W-2 to prepare your taxes, visit the IRS website for step-by-step instructions for using the information on your Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement.
If you work as a contractor, you'll receive a 1099 form from the company (or companies) that paid you. This will only include your income information, since contractors don't have taxes taken out of their payments by clients.
Read More: How to Verify W-2 Information
Which One to Attach?
You will receive three copies of your W-2: one to keep for your personal records, one to attach to your federal tax return and one to return with your state tax return. Each copy is clearly marked so that you know which one to include with which return.
If you accidentally attach your W-2 marked for your state onto your federal return, don't worry – the personal, state and federal designations on each W-2 copy are helpful suggestions only. You can send any of your three W-2 forms to your state or the federal government. They all have the same information.
Read More: How to Mail a Federal Tax Return
How to Attach W-2 to 1040
The IRS asks you to "attach" your W-2 form to your tax return, but doesn't specify how. This includes the instructions to "Attach Form(s) W-2" that are written on Form 1040. Some people use a staple, while others use a paper clip. Regardless of which route you choose, keep in mind that the IRS requests that you attach your W-2 to your tax return to help ensure that the two documents do not become separated at any point during the process.
To attach your W-2, do so by attaching it to the front page (only) of your tax return. This means if you're going to use a stapler, don't staple the W-2 in such a way that you staple all of the pages of your return. Only staple the W-2 to the first page.
Place the W-2 on the right-hand side of the top page of your tax return and staple the W-2 in the middle so the IRS employee can quickly see your name and Social Security number without having to remove your W-2. You can also use a paper clip to attach the W-2 to your return. Only clip the form to the top page of your tax return, not all of them.