Businesses can file their W-2s online


Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 2:59 p.m.

If you own a business and have employees, you know the law requires you to file W-2 forms each year for them.

Depending on the size of your business and amount of time you have, that could leave you feeling like you're drowning in paperwork. But Social Security offers more than a life preserver — we offer you a way to file your W-2s without any paper at all. File your W-2s online — the fast, convenient and paperless way.

Filing your W-2s electronically is free, fast and secure. And there's an added bonus: when you file electronically, you receive an extra month to file because electronically filed W-2s aren't due until March 31. You'll also receive an electronic acknowledgement receipt. And when you file electronically, you can print out your W-2s for your employees.

The Social Security free electronic filing option is available for any small business. It allows owners to prepare and submit up to 20 W-2s (per report) over a secure Internet service. When you register to file electronically, here's what you get:

Freedom from buying paper forms.

W-2s for your employees and for your records.

Electronic receipts you can use as proof that you filed on time.

An extension until March 31 to file.

You can register now to get started on your 2011 W-2s. Just take these seven simple steps:

1. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/employer.

2. Select "Business Services Online" (BSO).

3. Select the "Register" button.

4. Complete the registration form.

5. Select your own password.

6. Select "Request access to BSO Services."

7. Complete the wizard for selecting the applications you want to access in BSO.

To learn more, visit the Social Security Business Services Online at www.socialsecurity.gov/bso.

You also may want to review the 2010 Electronic W-2 Filing Handbook, available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/bsohbnew.htm.

Q&A

Q: How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

A: We base Social Security benefits on work credits. Anyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. You can earn up to four credits a year, so you will need to work at least 10 years to become eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading the publication How You Earn Credits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html.

Q: Will my son be eligible to receive benefits on his retired father's record while going to college?

A: No. At one time, Social Security did pay benefits to eligible college students. But the law changed in 1981. We now pay benefits only to students taking courses at grade 12 or below.

Normally, benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. However, if children are still full-time students at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, benefits generally can continue until they graduate or until two months after they reach age 19, whichever is first. If your child is still going to be in school at age 19, you'll want to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/schools.

Q: Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments paid only to disabled or blind people?

A: No. In addition to people with disabilities or blindness, SSI payments can be made to people who are age 65 or older and have limited income and financial resources. For more information, read our publication, Supplemental Security Income, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html.

Q: Can I get an estimate of my retirement benefit at several different possible ages?

A: Yes. We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to test different retirement scenarios. This online tool will give you retirement benefit estimates based on current law and real time access to your earnings record. The Retirement Estimator also lets you create additional "what if" retirement scenarios. It's even available in Spanish at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador. You can test even more alternatives at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/calculators.htm.

Q: If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?

A: No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse's Social Security benefit amount. When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. Couples are not penalized simply because they are married. If one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits (40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. Learn more about Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Q: When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, are benefits payable on that person's record?

A: Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:

* A widow or widower — unreduced benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60.

* A disabled widow or widower — as early as age 50.

* A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased's child who is under age 16 or disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits.

* Unmarried children under 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted children.

* Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.

* Dependent parents age 62 or older.

Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivors benefits. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.

Kay Louder is the district manager of the Social Security office in Gainesville.

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