§ 422.114. Annual wage reporting process.

(a) General. Under the authority of section 232 of the Act, SSA and IRS have entered into an agreement that sets forth the manner by which SSA and IRS will ensure that the processing of employee wage reports is effective and efficient. Under this agreement, employers are instructed by IRS to file annual wage reports with SSA on paper Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” and Forms W-3, “Transmittal of Income and Tax Statements,” or equivalent W-2 and W-3 magnetic media reports. Special versions of these forms for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are also filed with SSA. SSA processes all wage reporting forms for updating to SSA's earnings records and IRS tax records, identifies employer reporting errors and untimely filed forms for IRS penalty assessment action, and takes action to correct any reporting errors identified, except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section. SSA also processes Forms W-3c, “Transmittal of Corrected Income Tax Statements,” and W-2c, “Statement of Corrected Income and Tax Amounts” (and their magnetic media equivalents) that employers are required to file with SSA when certain previous reporting errors are discovered.

(b) Magnetic media reporting requirements. Under IRS regulations at 26 CFR 301.6011-2, employers who file 250 or more W-2 wage reports per year must file them on magnetic media in accordance with requirements provided in SSA publications, unless IRS grants the employer a waiver. Basic SSA requirements are set out in SSA's Technical Instruction Bulletin No. 4, “Magnetic Media Reporting.” Special filing requirements for U.S. territorial employers are set out in SSA Technical Instruction Bulletins No. 5 (Puerto Rico), No. 6 (Virgin Islands), and No. 7 (Guam and American Samoa). At the end of each year, SSA mails these technical instructions to employers (or third parties who file wage reports on their behalf) for their use in filing wage reports for that year.

(c) Processing late and incorrect magnetic media wage transmittals. If an employer's transmittal of magnetic media wage reports is received by SSA after the filing due date, SSA will notify IRS of the late filing so that IRS can decide whether to assess penalties for late filing, pursuant to section 6721 of the Internal Revenue Code. If reports do not meet SSA processing requirements (unprocessable reports) or are out of balance on critical money amounts, SSA will return them to the employer to correct and resubmit. In addition, beginning with wage reports filed for tax year 1993, if 90 percent or more of an employer's magnetic media wage reports have no social security numbers or incorrect employee names or social security numbers so that SSA is unable to credit their wages to its records, SSA will not attempt to correct the errors, but will instead return the reports to the employer to correct and resubmit (see also § 422.120(b)). An employer must correct and resubmit incorrect and unprocessable magnetic media wage reports to SSA within 45 days from the date of the letter sent with the returned report. Upon request, SSA may grant the employer a 15-day extension of the 45-day period. If an employer does not submit corrected reports to SSA within the 45-day (or, if extended by SSA, 60-day) period, SSA will notify IRS of the late filing so that IRS can decide whether to assess a penalty. If an employer timely resubmits the reports as corrected magnetic media reports, but they are unprocessable or out of balance on W-2 money totals, SSA will return the resubmitted reports for the second and last time for the employer to correct and return to SSA. SSA will enclose with the resubmitted and returned forms a letter informing the employer that he or she must correct and return the reports to SSA within 45 days or be subject to IRS penalties for late filing.

(d) Paper form reporting requirements. The format and wage reporting instructions for paper forms are determined jointly by IRS and SSA. Basic instructions on how to complete the forms and file them with SSA are provided in IRS forms materials available to the public. In addition, SSA provides standards for employers (or third parties who file wage reports for them) to follow in producing completed reporting forms from computer software; these standards appear in SSA publication, “Software Specifications and Edits for Annual Wage Reporting.” Requests for this publication should be sent to: Social Security Administration, Office of Financial Policy and Operations, Attention: AWR Software Standards Project, P.O. Box 17195, Baltimore, MD 21235.

(e) Processing late and incorrect paper form reports. If SSA receives paper form wage reports after the due date, SSA will notify IRS of the late filing so that IRS can decide whether to assess penalties for late filing, pursuant to section 6721 of the Internal Revenue Code. SSA will ask an employer to provide replacement forms for illegible, incomplete, or clearly erroneous paper reporting forms, or will ask the employer to provide information necessary to process the reports without having to resubmit corrected forms. (For wage reports where earnings are reported without a social security number or with an incorrect name or social security number, see § 422.120.) If an employer fails to provide legible, complete, and correct W-2 reports within 45 days, SSA may identify the employers to IRS for assessment of employer reporting penalties.

(f) Reconciliation of wage reporting errors. After SSA processes wage reports, it matches them with the information provided by employers to the IRS on Forms 941, “Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” for that tax year. Based upon this match, if the total social security or medicare wages reported to SSA for employees is less than the totals reported to IRS, SSA will write to the employer and request corrected reports or an explanation for the discrepancy. If the total social security or medicare wages reported to SSA for employees is more than the totals reported to IRS, IRS will resolve the difference with the employer. If the employer fails to provide SSA with corrected reports or information that shows the wage reports filed with SSA are correct, SSA will ask IRS to investigate the employer's wage and tax reports to resolve the discrepancy and to assess any appropriate reporting penalties.

[60 FR 42433, Aug. 16, 1995]