Employers Prepare for Accelerated Filing Deadlines
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) accelerated the due date for filing Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, and any returns or statements required by the IRS to report nonemployee compensation to January 31. The change is scheduled to take effect for returns and statements required to be filed in 2017. At this time, many employers and payroll providers are reprogramming their systems for the accelerated due date.
Every employer engaged in a trade or business who pays remuneration, including noncash payments of $600 or more for the year for services performed by an employee. Employers must also file a Form W-2 for each employee from whom income, social security, or Medicare tax was withheld or income tax would have been withheld if the employee had claimed no more than one withholding allowance or had not claimed exemption from withholding on Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate.
Prior to the PATH Act, the deadline for filing Copy A of Form W-2 with the Social Security Administration (SSA) was the last day of February following the calendar year for which the filing is made. The filing deadline was extended to the last day of March for employers that file electronically.
Under the combined annual wage reporting (CAWR) system, the IRS and the Social Security Administration (SSA) agree to share wage data. Employers submit Form W-2, (listing Social Security wages earned by individual employees), and Form W-3 (providing an aggregate summary of wages paid and taxes withheld) directly to the SSA. After the SSA records the wage information from Forms W-2 and W-3 in its individual Social Security wage account records, SSA forwards the information to the IRS.
Under the PATH Act, the due date has been accelerated to January 31, effective for Forms W-2, W-3 and information returns relating to calendar years beginning after December 18, 2015. The accelerated filing date of January 31 for Forms W-2 and W-3 matches the due date for providing wage statements to employees and written statements to payees receiving nonemployee compensation. One consequence of the PATH Act is that these returns no longer qualify for the extended due date of March 31 for filing electronically.
Employers that fail to file a correct Form W-2 by the due date may be subject to a penalty under Code Sec. 6721. Higher penalties apply to returns required to be filed after December 31, 2016 and are indexed for inflation. Forms W-2 with incorrect dollar amounts may be eligible for a new safe harbor for certain minor errors.