A W-2 employee, also known as a W-2 worker, is an individual who is classified as an employee by their employer according to the tax regulations of the United States. The term "W-2" refers to the IRS form W-2, which is used to report an employee's annual earnings and the amount of taxes withheld from their paycheck to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
When you are a W-2 employee, your employer is responsible for withholding federal income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes from your paycheck. They also provide you with a W-2 form at the end of each tax year, summarizing your total earnings and the amounts withheld for taxes. You use this W-2 form when filing your federal and state income tax returns to accurately report your income and calculate any refunds or taxes owed.
W-2 employees generally have their work hours, job responsibilities, and work conditions determined by their employer. They may also receive additional benefits such as health insurance, retirement contributions, paid time off, and more, depending on their employment agreement and the policies of the company.
In contrast, individuals who are not classified as W-2 employees may be considered independent contractors or freelancers. Independent contractors typically receive a 1099 form instead of a W-2, and they are responsible for paying their own taxes, including estimated quarterly taxes, and they usually don't receive benefits provided to employees.
It's important to note that employment classifications and tax regulations can vary by country and region, so the specifics may differ outside of the United States.