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Earnings Reports Filed by Employers

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

1404. Earnings Reports Filed by Employers

1404.1 When must employers file reports of earnings?

Reports of earnings must be filed annually with SSA by every employer who:

  1. Is required to withhold income tax from wages; and/or

  2. Is liable for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, also called Social Security and Medicare taxes.

1404.2 How do employers file W-2 forms?

  1. Employers are encouraged to file electronically; even if you are filing fewer than 250 W-2 Copy A forms. Social Security no longer accepts magnetic tapes, cartridges, or 3 1/2" diskettes. Effective 2007, all wages must be filed either electronically or on paper.

    Note: If you expect to file 250 or more W-2 Copy A forms, (Wage and Tax Statement) you must use electronic reporting to report this information to us.

    More information on Employer Reporting Instructions can be found at:

  2. Employers who are filing less than 250 W-2 Copy A forms and choose to file on paper may use Copy A of the W-2 form to report the wage and tax information for their employees. SSA records the employee's Social Security wages on his/her earnings record and then forwards the data to IRS.

1404.3 What other forms must employers file?

Employers must also file the following forms:

  1. Employers who are required to withhold income tax, FICA tax, or both, must file Form 941 (Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return) quarterly with IRS; and

  2. Employers of agricultural employees must file annual returns with the IRS on Form 943 (Employer's Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees) by January 31 of the year following the reporting year.

Both of these reports must be sent with the appropriate tax payments to IRS. These reports contain only summary information. To get more detailed information on employer reports and payment of taxes, contact any IRS office or visit their website at:

1404.4 What records of identification numbers must employers keep?

Each employer must keep the following records:

  1. The name and Social Security number of each employee as it is shown on the employee's Social Security card (this information is needed for the earnings report); and

  2. An employer identification number (EIN) obtained from IRS by filing an Application for Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4). The application may be obtained from any IRS or Social Security office. The employer identification number must be shown on the employer's tax returns and earnings reports.

1404.5 What should an employer do if an employee does not have a Social Security card?

If an employee does not have a Social Security card, the employer advises the employee to:

  1. Obtain an application Form SS-5, complete it, and send or take it to the nearest Social Security office along with the evidence required (See §1401);

  2. Apply in person if the employee is 12 years or older; and

  3. Provide the employer with the name and SSN exactly as it appears on the Social Security card.

The employer makes a record of the number as soon as it is received from the employee.

1404.6 What is an "employer"?

An employer is any person or organization for whom a person performs any service and receives payment as an employee.

1404.7 What payments are counted as wages?

Pay for covered employment counts as wages (unless excluded by the Social Security Act).

1404.8 If a worker receives payment after he or she stops working for the employer, is the payment counted as wages?

Yes. Even if the relationship of employer-employee no longer exists when the payment is made, the payment is still counted as wages.

Last Revised: Jan. 29, 2007

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