Understanding your Forms W-2 and 1042-S

Each year, employees will receive a Form W-2 that provides details of prior year earnings, taxes withheld and other miscellaneous data (such as taxable cost of group term life insurance, cost of employer sponsored health coverage and contributions to retirement or tax deferred savings plans.)

Employees and/or students that are foreign nationals, will receive a Form 1042-S. A Form 1042-S is a year-end federal tax document given to a non-resident alien who received wages that were exempt from federal and state tax withholding by a tax treaty and/or received a non-qualified taxable scholarship. In certain instances, foreign nationals may receive both a W-2 Form AND a Form 1042-S for the same tax year.

W-2 Sample

Box 1: Wages, Tips, Other Compensation. This is your total taxable wages for federal income tax purposes. This figure includes your regular wages, bonuses, and any taxable fringe benefits (such as education benefits greater than $5,250), rewards and recognition, gifts, taxable moving expenses, as well as the taxable value of group-term life insurance in excess of $50,000 (see box 12, below). The amount in Box 1 will generally be the “YTD Gross” under the Summary section of your final payslip, minus any pre-tax deductions such as health/dental/vision insurance, flexible spending accounts and retirement and tax deferred savings plans, etc. The “YTD Gross” is the sum of the Year to Date (YTD) amounts under Hours and Earnings.

Box 2: Federal income tax withheld. This amount represents the total amount withheld from your paycheck for federal income taxes.

Box 3: Social Security Wages. This represents income subject to Social Security tax. There is a Social Security wage base each year and once you earn up to that amount, you no longer will have deductions for Social Security tax. Social Security wages are reduced by pre-tax deductions such as health/dental/vision insurances, parking and flex spending but not reduced by your contributions to a retirement plan (403b or 457.) The only applicable exceptions are University students working at the University while enrolled at least half time and attending classes, as well as nonresident alien employees visiting the U.S. for a limited period on F-1, J-1, M-1 or Q-1 visas and performing services to carry out the purpose for which such visas have been issued.

Box 4: Social Security Tax Withheld. This amount represents the total amount withheld from your paycheck for social security taxes. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2%, and a matching amount of 6.2% is paid by the University. The only applicable exceptions are University students working at the University while enrolled at least half time and attending classes, as well as nonresident alien employees visiting the U.S. for a limited period on F-1, J-1, M-1 or Q-1 visas and performing services to carry out the purpose for which such visas have been issued.

Box 5: Medicare Wages and Tips. This represents income subject to Medicare tax. There is no maximum wage base for Medicare taxes. Medicare wages are reduced by pre-tax deductions such as health/dental/vision insurances, parking and flex spending but not reduced by your contributions to a retirement plan (403b or 457.) The only applicable exceptions are University students working at the University while enrolled at least half time and attending classes, as well as nonresident alien employees visiting the U.S. for a limited period on F-1, J-1, M-1 or Q-1 visas and performing services to carry out the purpose for which such visas have been issued.

Box 6: Medicare Tax Withheld. This amount represents the total amount withheld from your paycheck for Medicare taxes. The Medicare tax rate is 1.45%, and a matching amount of 1.45% is paid by the University. Once you earn $200,000 annually, there is an additional .9% that the employee pays which makes a total of 2.35%. The only applicable exceptions are University students working at the University while enrolled at least half time and attending classes, as well as nonresident alien employees visiting the U.S. for a limited period on F-1, J-1, M-1 or Q-1 visas and performing services to carry out the purpose for which such visas have been issued.

Boxes 7 and 8: Social Security Tips and Allocated Tips. This is not applicable to University employees.

Box 9: Blank; Field not used.

Box 10: Dependent Care Benefits. This amount represents any amount reimbursed for dependent care expenses through a flexible spending account. The University must report the pre-tax amount paid into a dependent care flexible spending account as part of the University’s Benefits Plan. Only dependent care benefits are reportable in this box.

Box 11: Nonqualified Plans. This is not applicable to University employees.

Box 12:

  • 12 C - Taxable Cost of GTL. The calculated value of group-term life insurance in excess of $50,000 that has been added into Box 1 as “other compensation”.
  • 12 E - Section 403(b) Salary Reductions. This represents your total elective deferrals to TIAA/Fidelity retirement plans.
  • 12 G - Section 457(b) Contributions. Any amount that you contributed to the Commonwealth’s Tax Deferred Savings Plan.
  • 12 P - Excludable Moving Expense Reimbursements. Non-taxable moving expenses for which you were reimbursed directly (not included in taxable wages in Box 1).
  • 12 DD – Cost of Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage. This is the cost of your employer sponsored health coverage. The amount reported is not taxable. This figure includes both the employee and the employer paid health insurance premiums and is for informational purposes only.

Box 13. The “Retirement plan” block must be checked if you contributed to any of the University’s tax deferred options, or if you were a participant in the University’s Optional Retirement Plan or the Commonwealth’s defined benefit plan through the Virginia Retirement Service (VRS). Thus, all University Employees who fall into this category will have an X in this block. By checking the “Retirement plan” block, an employer notifies the IRS that an employee’s eligibility for a deductible Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) is limited.

Box 14. Other – This box may be used by an employer to report any additional tax information (e.g. taxable auto allowance.)

Box 15: State/Employer’s State ID Number – This box simply reports the University’s state and state identification number for taxation purposes.

Box 16: State wages, tips, etc. – This amount represents the total amount of taxable wages earned in that state.

Box 17: State Income tax – This amount represents the total amount of state income taxes withheld from your paycheck for the wages reported in Box 16.

Box 18, 19 and 20: Local Wages, Local Income Tax and Locality Name – This is not applicable to University employees.

W-2 FAQs

When will I receive my W-2 Form?

W-2 forms will be mailed out by the deadline of January 31. If you have enrolled in the on-line version (preferred method), you can have access to the W-2 form almost two weeks prior to that date.

How do I sign up to receive my W-2 form electronically and opt out of a paper copy?

  1. Click on the “SSTL” button on the HR home page (even if you don’t use a timesheet, this will get you to Employee Self-Service)
  2. Log in using your SSTL (Integrated System) password
  3. Choose UVA Employee Self-Service
  4. Choose Personal Information
  5. Click “Update” under Basic Details
  6. Click “Next”
  7. Click “Next” again
  8. Click “Update” under Self Service Preference for Person
  9. Choose “No” from the drop-down menu next to “Paper”
  10. Click “Apply”
  11. Click “Next”
  12. Click “Submit”

You will see a confirmation that states “Your changes have been applied.”

How do I receive my W-2 Form if I am no longer employed with the University?

You will have access to Self Service for a period of 13 months after your departure from the University. You may login and access your W-2 form within that timeframe. If over 13 months, please contact the UHR Service Center at 434.982.0123 to request a copy. You are welcome to come to our office to obtain the copy, ask for it to be faxed or mailed to your home address after providing us with the last four digits of your social security number. Due to security reasons, we may not e-mail a copy of the W-2 form.

Why doesn’t the amount in Box 1 (Wages, Tips and Other Compensation) agree to the total gross earnings on my last payslip of the year?

The W-2 Box 1 amount represents the federal taxable wages. Federal taxable wages are Gross Earnings minus pre-tax deductions such as health/dental/vision insurance, parking, retirement and TDSP and FSA Medical and Dependent Care.

Why doesn’t the amount in Box 3 (Social Security Wages) agree to the total Gross Earnings on my last payslip of the year?

The W-2 Box 3 amount represents taxable wages that are subject to Social Security taxes. This differs from your Gross Earnings because there are certain deductions that reduce your Social Security taxable wages such as the pre-tax medical/dental and vision insurance, pre-tax parking deduction, FSA Medical and Dependent Care. Retirement and Tax Deferred Savings Plans do not reduce your Social Security taxable wages. There is also a cap on Social Security taxable wages each year. Employees who have earnings in excess of this cap will no longer have a deduction for social security tax for the remainder of that year.

Why doesn’t the amount in Box 5 (Medicare Wages) agree to the total Gross Earnings on my last payslip of the year?

The W-2 Box 5 amount represents taxable wages that are subject to Medicare taxes. This differs from your Gross Earnings because there are certain deductions that reduce your Medicare taxable wages such as the pre-tax medical/dental and vision insurance, pre-tax parking deduction, FSA Medical and Dependent Care. Retirement and Tax Deferred Savings Plans do not reduce your Social Security taxable wages. Medicare Taxable Wages do not have a cap amount in the year.

Where can I find explanations of the boxes and associated codes found on the W-2 form?

The explanations of these codes can be found on the reverse side of your W-2 form.

Why don’t I have any Social Security or Medicare Wages reported on my W-2 form?

Students of the University who are enrolled on at least a half time schedule are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes. Certain foreign nationals on specific visas are also exempt from these taxes.

My address is not correct on my W-2 Form. Do I need a corrected W-2 form?

No, address changes do not require a corrected W-2 form.

Are all days worked in December included in my current year’s W-2 form?

For tax reporting purposes, wages are reported when they are paid, rather than when they are earned. Any December days worked and not actually paid in that month are considered earnings in the new year.

My salary is higher this year than the prior year yet my W-2 earnings are less this year. What could be the issue?

You should ensure that your pre-tax deductions (eg. Health insurance, retirement, etc.) have not changed drastically from one year to the next. Also check to see if you received any type of bonus in the prior year that would have increased your total gross pay. If you did not receive a bonus in the current year as well, that would make it appear that you earned less in the current year despite having a higher base salary.

I am a current employee and have misplaced my W-2 form and the deadline is approaching to file my tax return, can I get another copy?

No reprints will be provided to current employees because an identical W-2 reprint can be downloaded from Employee Self Service.

Who do I call if I have questions on my W-2 Form?

If you could not get your question answered by reviewing the W-2 FAQ section, please contact the UHR Service Center at 434.982.0123 or askhr@virginia.edu.

Who do I call if I am expecting a Form 1099?

The Payroll Department does not handle Forms 1099. You need to contact Procurement Services at 434.924.4212.

What if I am not employed by the University but work at the UVA Health Systems and have a question on my Form W-2?

Please contact the Health Systems Service Center at 434.243.3344.


1042-S FAQ’s for Foreign National Students/Employees

What is a Form 1042-S and when should I receive it?

A 1042-S is a year-end federal tax document given to a non-resident alien who:

  1. Received wages exempted from federal and state tax withholding by a tax treaty; and/or
  2. Received a non-qualified taxable scholarship (Any amounts received for incidental expenses or by a non-degree candidate are taxable scholarships. Incidental expenses include room and board, travel, and expenses for equipment and other items that are not required for either enrollment or for attendance, or in a course of instruction).

The 1042-S has an income code, which describes the type of income being reported. In certain cases, you may receive a W-2 in addition to a 1042-S. The form is typically mailed at the same time as the W-2. The 1042S will be postmarked no later than March 15.

I did not receive my 1042-S. How do I get a copy of my 1042-S?

If you know that you should have received Form 1042-S but have not received it, please email HR Compliance and Immigration Services at immigration@virginia.edu.

Am I considered a “nonresident alien” or a “resident alien” for tax purposes?

U.S. tax law categorizes people as residents or nonresident aliens for tax purposes, which is not necessarily the same as residency according to immigration law. Residents for tax purposes follow the same rules as U.S. citizens, but there are special rules for nonresident aliens for tax purposes. There are also special rules that apply specifically to F-1 students, J-1 students and scholars, and H-1 employees who are nonresident aliens for tax purposes. For more information, please contact HR Compliance and Immigration Services 434.924.1377.

Why is my residency status for federal income tax purposes important?

For tax purposes, U.S. residents and non-U.S. residents are taxed differently, so it is important for you to determine your residency status. Non-U.S. residents are only taxed for income acquired during their stay in the U.S.

I am a foreign student at the University on an F-1 visa. I work for my department part-time and also receive monthly scholarship payments. Do I receive a W-2 for these payments?

You will be issued a W-2 and/or Form 1042-S from the University. If you had a tax treaty that is unlimited in the amount exempted from withholding and no taxes are deducted from your payroll checks you will receive only a 1042-S. If your tax treaty is limited in the amount that is exempted from withholding and you were paid over that tax treaty limit with taxes deducted, you will receive both a Form W-2 and a Form 1042-S. If there is no tax treaty, all of your wages are reported on a Form W-2. Your scholarship payments are reported on the Form 1042-S rather than Form W-2.

I am a foreign national on a J-1 visa employed at the University as a Research Associate. Why don’t I have any Social Security or Medicare wages reported on my Form W-2?

Nonresident alien employees visiting the U.S. for a limited period on an F-1, J-1, M-1 or Q-1 visa and performing services for which such visas have been issued are exempt from Social Security and Medicare tax withholding.

I am a researcher in H-1B status. My colleagues who are also researchers are not paying Social Security taxes. Why do I have to?

U.S. Social Security and Medicare taxes apply to all compensation for employment services in the United States unless an exception is available. There is an exception for nonresidents in F-1, J-1, M-1, or Q-1/Q-2 status under Section 3121(b)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code. Your research colleagues qualify for this NRA FICA exception if they are J-1 researchers and are still nonresidents for tax purposes. There is no Code exception for H-1B status individuals.

I have been in the United States over 5 years as a student. Am I exempt from FICA?

A student in F-1 or J-1 Student status will become a resident alien in their 6th and subsequent calendar years if they meet the 183-day residency formula. Resident aliens do not qualify for the NRA FICA exception. However, foreign students are eligible for the Student FICA Exception under the same rules that apply to U.S. citizen students.

Who do I call if I have questions regarding Form 1042-S?

Please contact Compliance and Immigration Services at 434.924.1377 or immigration@virginia.edu.