Difference Between W2 And W4

W2 forms report an employee's payroll taxes, while W4 forms are used by employees to tell their employers how much money to withhold from their paycheck for tax purposes.

Difference Between W2 And W4

As an employee, you may have heard about W2 and W4 forms, but what exactly are they, and what is the difference between them? W2 and W4 forms are two essential documents related to US taxation that are used by employers and employees. In this article, we will discuss the difference between a W2 and a W4 and their significance.

What is a W2?

Form W2, also known as the Wage and Tax Statement, is a document that employers must provide to their employees at the end of the year. It displays details of an employee's annual earnings and taxes deducted throughout the year. The W2 form includes critical information, such as the employee's name and address, tax ID or Social Security number, total annual wages, federal, state, and local taxes withheld, and any wages that qualify for Social Security or Medicare taxes.

The W2 also shows details of any other deductions that have been made from the employee's paycheck, such as retirement plans, healthcare, and life insurance premiums. Employers must provide their employees with a copy of their W2 form by January 31st of the following year. Additionally, the employer must also submit a copy of the W2 form to the Social Security Administration.

Why is form W2 important?

If you are an employee, you will need your W2 form to file your tax return for the year. You will receive a copy of the W2 form by mail or can access it online. Your W2 form helps you in understanding how much money you have earned before taxes and the amount of money withdrawn from your paycheck throughout the year.

If your employer fails to provide you with a W2 form, you can contact the IRS, and they will take appropriate action against your employer. Your W2 form is also used to verify your income when applying for loans, credit cards, or any other financial aid.

What is a W4?

Form W4, also known as Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, is the most familiar IRS form employees complete. It is a document that employees fill out for their employers that determine the amount of federal income tax that should be withheld from their paychecks. The W4 form requires employees to provide their name, address, and Social Security number.

Additionally, it requests an estimate of the number of allowances or exemptions you will be claiming throughout the year. An allowance is a number that your employer uses to calculate the amount of money to withhold from your paycheck. Your W4 form also asks if you want additional amounts withheld from your check, such as extra federal or state taxes.

Why is form W4 important?

Your W4 form is used to calculate how much federal income tax must be withheld from your paycheck. The information provided on the form will determine how much money will be deducted from your paycheck for taxes. The aim of the form is to ensure that you neither owe taxes at the end of the year nor receive a tax refund due to over-withheld taxes.

It's important to update your W4 form when there is a significant shift in your financial situation. This could include a change in your marital status, the birth of a child, or a change in your employment status, which could impact your withholdings. If you don't update your W4 form, you may end up owing more taxes at the end of the year or receiving a large refund, which is essentially an interest-free loan to the government.

The Difference between W2 and W4

The key difference between Form W2 and Form W4 is that the W2 reports on an employee's payroll taxes, including Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, federal, state, and local income taxes withheld from an employee's paycheck during the tax year. On the other hand, a W4 form is used by employees to tell their employers how much money to withhold from their paycheck for tax purposes.

While the W2 form provides details on your income, taxes withheld, and deductions, the W4 form is a document that employees submit to their employers. The W4 form includes information used to calculate federal income tax withholding. If the information on the W4 form changes, the employer will adjust payroll taxes according to the new allowances or exemptions. If the W4 form stays the same, the employer will continue to withhold the same amount of taxes from the employee's paycheck.


In conclusion, as an employee, it is important to understand the difference between W2 and W4 forms. Form W2 reports an employee's payroll taxes, and it must be provided to the employee by the employer at the end of the year. On the other hand, Form W4 is completed by the employee and is used to determine how much money will be withheld from their paycheck for tax purposes.

If you're an employee, make sure that you update your W4 form when there is a significant change in your financial situation, such as getting married or having a child. By keeping your W4 form updated, you can ensure that you neither owe taxes nor receive a large refund at the end of the year. Understanding these vital US taxation documents can help you manage your finances more efficiently, ensuring that you always stay on top of your tax obligations.