How to Translate Your Pay Stub to File Your Taxes

How to Translate Your Pay Stub to File Your Taxes
••• tax time image by Tom Oliveira from

Employers are required to mail W-2s to all employees by January 31st. However, the information contained on the W-2 is the same information contained on your last pay stub for the calendar year. If you have a relatively simple tax situation, you may not want to wait to receive your W-2 to prepare your tax return and instead use your pay stub. You can also use your pay stub to see how much you earned, what deductions were taken and how much those deductions were at any point of the year.

Verify that the pay stub you are using is the last pay stub received during the calendar year. Ensure it contains all bonus, vacation and sick time payouts, if applicable.

Look at the year-to-date earnings column of the pay stub. This shows your annual gross salary. If you earn salary and commissions and had bonus, vacation, holiday or other payments, all should appear either separately or collectively in this column. Regardless of the presentation, there will be a total year-to-date gross salary.

Look at the year-to-date statutory deductions column of the pay stub. This section may also be called after-tax deductions. This column shows the amounts withheld for Social Security, Medicare, federal income tax withholding, state income tax withholding and any other after-tax withholdings. Other after-tax withholdings may include life insurance payments and union dues.

Look at the year-to-date other deductions column of the pay stub. This will include amounts deducted before taxes for health insurance, retirement plan contributions and cafeteria plan contributions. Depending on your tax situation, these items may or may not factor into your tax return. For example, if you itemize your deductions, you will include amounts withheld from your paycheck for health insurance premiums. If you do not itemize, health insurance premiums will not be included on your return.


  • Although you may be able to prepare your tax return using your last pay stub for the calendar year, it is advisable that you wait until you receive your W-2. This is to verify the reported amounts are indeed correct. Additionally, you should wait until at least January 31st to file your tax return to ensure all tax forms are up-to-date.