A post office box, or PO box, address is the postal service that provides a mailing address through the USPS (U.S. Postal Service). A PO box is not a physical address where an individual can reside. A PO box is only a mailbox address for receiving mail. This can limit the benefits of using a PO box for personal use.
Employers require key general information such as a Social Security number, phone number and address. This is often requested when a candidate is filling out a job application. Most people with some work experience will be familiar with these requirements. There are good reasons why employers ask for your street address separately from a mailing address.
Is a PO Box Address Valid for Work?
At some point in the hiring process, an employee or potential employee will be asked for their residential address and/or mailing address. Taxes and health benefits are two reasons an employer will need your home address. Incorrect or inaccurate information can create tax discrepancies and other issues.
As a W-2 employee, your employer must withhold and pay state or local taxes on your payroll wages, explains the IRS. Benefits like health insurance are also location-bound. Therefore, you may receive your payroll check at your PO box number, but your employer will still need to know your physical and current address.
The IRS mentions that self-employed or W-9 contractors are a bit different because they typically do not have eligibility for unemployment or benefits. They also they share the FICA tax burden with a contracting business. The check will be directed to the business address associated with the entity or taxpayer, even if it is a mailbox.
Does a Street Address Matter?
A residential address provides a layer of security for employers to mail payroll checks and for financial institutions that cash checks. A street address provides a way to contact the check payee in case of any problems with the check. It also provides a level of assurance that the check will safely reach its intended recipient within any legally mandated timeframes.
You may have been employed for a while and need to update your address. It is a good idea to review a W-4 yearly for accuracy, even if you do not need to change your address. You will want to verify that your employer will accept a post office box as your address. You may also fill out a USPS change of address form to have all your mail (paychecks included) forwarded to a PO box.
Contact the human resources department or payroll division to find out the company's rules and regulations regarding the use of a post office box as an address. You may be able to use it to receive your payroll check, but you may also need to keep a physical address on file to meet certain requirements.
Cashing a Check Addressed to a PO Box
If you have direct deposit or intend to deposit a payroll check into a checking account, you probably won't encounter issues. However, a bank is under no obligation to cash any check for non-customers. A non-customer may be assessed a check-cashing fee and/or receive the payment on a debit card.
Many check-cashing businesses will not honor a check addressed to a PO box, especially if it does not match the address on your identification. The best option is to contact the bank or check-cashing service to ask before attempting to cash a check.
The IRS will allow the use of a PO box address on a tax return. If an individual elects to receive a paper check tax refund and uses a PO box on the return – that is where the check will be mailed. Be aware that the IRS only permits the use of a PO box if you cannot receive mail at your physical home.
Hashaw Elkins is a financial services and tax professional, as well as a project management consultant. She has led projects across multiple industries and sectors, ranging from the Fortune Global 500 to international nongovernmental organizations. Hashaw holds an MBA in Real Estate and an MSci in Project Management. She is further certified in organizational change management, diversity management, and cross-cultural mediation.