W-2 Information

By January 31 each year you receive your annual W-2 Form. The W-2 Form will be a 4-up horizontal mailer, folded and pressure sealed. This explains the content of the form.


Each year all Wage and Tax Statements (W-2 Forms) will be sent to the same check address that was used for paycheck distribution. In most cases, this will be the department’s address. For individuals who have separated from the University, their W2 will be sent to their home.


The Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service compares your Social Security Name (listed on your Social Security Card) with the name that is reported on the W-2 Form. For each mismatch, they will fine the University $50.00. If you change your name at the Social Security Administration, you must change your name on file in the Office of Human Resources. You can do this by submitting a Personal Data Form with a copy of your new Social Security Card to the Payroll Office.

Information Included on W-2 Form

Box 1: Wages, Tips, and Other Compensation

  • This is the portion of gross pay that is subject to federal income tax. This box consists of the following components: gross wages, prizes, awards, non-cash compensation, non-qualified moving expenses and automobile expenses (taxable information sent under a separate letter), and other compensation.
  • This amount is less employee contributions to University health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Health Spending Account (HSA), Health Savings Account (HSA), 403(b) retirement plan contributions, 457(b) deferred compensation plan contributions and parking and transit deductions.
  • Other Compensation is the imputed value of life insurance provided to the employee in excess of $50,000 (see explanation in box 12c).

Box 2: Federal Income Tax Withheld

  • This box shows the amount of Federal Income Tax withheld from your "Wages, Tips and Other Compensation" listed in Box 1 or if you elected additional withholdings from your scholarship payments.

Box 3: Social Security Wages

  • Social Security Wages is the amount of pay that is subject to social security tax. The 2012 maximum social security wage base was $110,100.
  • Social Security Wages consist of the following components: gross pay plus other compensation (value of group life insurance in excess of $50,000; items indicated in box 13), and non-cash compensation.
  • This amount is less employee contributions to University health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Health Spending Account (HSA), and parking and transit deductions. Retirement contributions are not excluded from Social Security Tax or Medicare Tax.

Box 4: Social Security Tax Withheld

  • In 2012, the Social Security Tax rate of 4.2%, was withheld on the first $110,100 of taxable earnings. The maximum amount of Social Security Tax an employee must pay was $4,624.20.  If an employee works for more than one employer during the year and had more than $4,624.20 withheld, the excess can be claimed on the individual’s tax return (Form 1040). The employer’s matching contribution is not recoverable.

Box 5: Medicare Wages and Tips

  • Medicare Wages and Tips is the amount of pay that is subject to Medicare Tax. It consists of the same components as Social Security Wages (see above). There is no maximum wage amount on which Medicare Tax is applied.

Box 6: Medicare Tax Withheld

  • In 2012, the Medicare Tax rate was 1.45%, which was withheld on the total Medicare Wages as explained above. There is no maximum to the amount of Medicare Tax an employee must pay.

Box 10 Dependent Care

  • This box shows the total amount of dependent care benefits under the dependent care assistance plan account (FSA).

Box 12

This box is used to report several items each identified with a separate code.

  • Code C
    Value of basic term life insurance in excess of $50,000.00 provided by Northwestern University is considered “other compensation”. This amount is included in Box 1, “Wages, Tips, and Other Compensation”, Box 3, “Social Security Wages”, Box 5, “Medicare Wages and Tips”, and in Box 16, "State Wages, Tips, Etc.".
  • Code E
    Employee contributions to University 403(b) tax deferred retirement plans. This amount is NOT included in Box 1, “Wages, Tips and Other Compensation” or in Box 16, “State Wages, Tips, Etc.”, but is included in Box 3, “Social Security Wages” and Box 5, “Medicare Wages and Tips”.
  • Code J
    Long term disability payments made by the insurance company. This amount is NOT included in Box 1, “Wages, Tips, and Other Compensation”, Box 3, “Social Security Wages”, Box 5, “Medicare Wages and Tips”, or Box 16 “State Wages, Tips, Etc.”.
  • Code P
    Excludable moving expense reimbursements are treated as excludable fringe benefits if (1) the expenses would have been deducted by the employee if the employee paid them and (2) the employee did not deduct the expenses in a prior year. Excludable moving expenses are not reported in Boxes 1, 3, or 5 or 16 of the W-2 Form.
  • Code W
    H.S.A. contribution amounts will be reported in box 12W on your W-2. These amounts are already treated as pre-tax and reduced from taxable compensation reported in Box 1. This means that you should not report your contribution on another line on your 1040 form asking for your H.S.A. contribution.
  • Code DD
    This is a new code for 2012. The amount represents the total cost, both employee and employer components, of University sponsored health coverage and is informational only. 

Box 16: State Wages, Tips, Etc.

  • Northwestern University reports wages to the State of Illinois, Maryland, New York, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia (Washington DC). If you are a resident of another state and are subject to income tax, it is your responsibility to file the appropriate tax returns with that state. For Illinois, Maryland, New York, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, the same payments that are subject to federal income tax are also subject to state income tax.

Box 17: State Income Tax

  • Illinois income tax is a flat 5% of taxable earnings less withholding allowances. The District of Columbia, Maryland and Wisconsin use a table of rates graduated to the employee’s income.

Mailing of W-2

  • Employees who register with Multi-Factor Authentication may choose to receive their W-2 Form electronically, which can be downloaded and printed from within the FASIS Self Service Portal.  Communication will be sent to all employees regarding electronic W-2 Forms each December.
  • If you do not register with Multi-Factor Authentication, or if you do not choose the electronic W-2 option, your W-2 Form will be in the mail by January 31 each year. If you need to visit your tax accountant prior to the issuance of the forms, you may use your final paycheck of the year, which can be printed via FASIS.  Also, if there is a possibility that contributions to your retirement plan exceed the maximum allowable, you should wait for your W-2 Form before visiting your tax accountant.
  • Every year we receive a number of requests for early issuance of the W-2 Forms. We regret that the forms cannot be issued earlier. Each year a number of last minute adjustments must be made prior to the printing of the forms.

If you have any questions, please call the Payroll Division at (847) 491-7362.