How to Calculate Taxes Using a Paycheck Stub

by Cynthia Gomez ; Updated April 19, 2017
Your last paycheck has the information you need to estimate how much in taxes you'll get back or owe.

Waiting for your W-2s to arrive in the mail to file your taxes can be a drag. Fortunately, if you have the check stub for the last paycheck of the tax year for which you’re filing, you can at least get an idea as to how much you can expect to owe in taxes once you file. The key is knowing what information your check stub contains that will also appear on your W-2.

Step 1

Identify your gross and net pay. The first figure represents how much you got paid before taxes, while the latter shows how much you brought home after taxes and other deductions. Specifically, look for the year-to-date totals, not the totals for just this pay period.

Step 2

Find how much you had withheld in federal income. This amount usually appears next to or directly below the letters “Fed Tax,” “FWT” or “FT.”

Step 3

Locate how much was withheld in state and local taxes. Look for the abbreviations “St Tax,” “ST” or “SWT” when trying to locate state tax withholding. Remember that not all states withhold income taxes. For local taxes, remember that individual taxes may be withheld by your city, county and even school district.

Step 4

Identify the Social Security and Medicare tax withholding figures. For the first, look for abbreviations like “FICA,” “SS” and “SSWT.” For the latter, look for the abbreviations “Med” or “WT.”

Step 5

Look for deductions. These might include life or medical insurance, and contributions made to retirement plans.

Step 6

Match the numbers you pulled from your last paystub of the year to the boxes on the W-2 form you have yet to received. You can pull out last year’s W-2 form if you don’t know what numbers correspond to what box, or you can pull up a sample W-2 from the Internet.

Step 7

Plug the numbers from your mock W-2 into your tax preparation software, a blank 1040 Form or a tax calculator online, and proceed normally, plugging in any deductions you plan to take for the year. The result should give you a rough idea of how much you can expect to get back or owe in taxes. However, remember that all the figures in your last paystub may not be identical to those in your W-2 because things like bonuses paid at year’s end may not appear on the pay stub, but will appear in the W-2.

About the Author

Cynthia Gomez has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. She is currently an editor at a major publishing company, where she works on various trade journals. Gomez also spent many years working as a newspaper reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.

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