How Does Having Multiple W-2s Affect Your Taxes?

by Victoria Lee Blackstone ; Updated March 15, 2018
Multiple W-2s can leave you owning Uncle Sam a lot of money when you file your taxes.

The amount of federal income tax you pay depends on your total income, which may be from one or more sources. If you have multiple W-2 Wage and Tax Statements that reflect your total income, you won’t be penalized with a higher tax liability than if you have only one W-2, but having multiple W-2s may affect your taxes due to the withholding allowances you claim on them.

Why You May Have Multiple W-2 Forms

Employers must report the income they pay each employee and the amount they withhold on a Form W-2. If you worked for more than one employer during a tax year, you’ll have more than one W-2 form. You may have more than one job at the same time, or you may have changed jobs during the year. If you’re married and you file a joint return with your working spouse, the number of W-2s that you have collectively depends on how many employers both of you had during the tax year.

Filing Your Tax Return With Multiple W-2 Forms

You transfer the information from the multiple W-2s to your tax return the same as you would if you had a single W-2, with one exception. The amount you transfer is the total of all the W-2s. For example, if you file Form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, add the amounts in box 1 (Wages, tips, other compensation) on all your W-2s, and transfer the total to line 7 on Form 1040 (Wages, salaries, tips, etc.). You can download the instructions for Form 1040 at IRS.gov.

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Missing W-2 Forms

If you have multiple W-2s for the tax-filing year, wait to file your return until you receive all your forms. Employers have until Jan. 31 to issue W-2s to their employees, so if your employer mails the forms, you may receive them on a staggered basis. For example, you may receive one W-2 by mid-January, but you may not receive others until the first week of February, depending on when your employer mails the forms. If you are missing a W-2 by the end of the first week of February, contact your employer. If you still don’t have a W-2 by Feb. 15, call the IRS at 800-829-1040, and a representative will contact your employer to request the missing form.

How Multiple W-2s May Affect Your Taxes

The IRS requires a pay-as-you-go tax. If you work for an employer who pays your wages or salary, the employer withholds amounts from your paycheck and sends the money to the IRS. If you have more than one job or a working spouse with whom you file taxes jointly, multiple W-2 allowances that you claim on each W-4 form may affect your taxes by resulting in your not paying enough taxes throughout the year. You may owe additional tax when you file your return.

How to Make Withholding Adjustments

Form W-4 Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate includes a worksheet that walks you through how to calculate how many allowances to claim so that your periodic withholding payments are sufficient to pay the annual tax that's due at the end of the year. If you have multiple W-2s, the IRS recommends using only one W-4 worksheet to figure your allowances instead of filling out a W-4 worksheet for each employer. Enter that amount of allowances on one W-4, not on each W-4. You can download this worksheet from IRS.gov.

About the Author

Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper articles. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson University, Blackstone was hired as a University of Georgia Master Gardener Coordinator. She is also a former mortgage acquisition specialist for Freddie Mac in Atlanta, GA.

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