Why Would I Ever Choose an Electronic W-2 Over Paper?

Due to IRS regulations, employees must actively consent to receive an electronic-only W-2. Here are several reasons why doing that is worth your time.



January is just around the corner, which means end-of-year W-2s will soon be delivered to a mailbox near you.  

Or will they?  

In an increasingly digital world combined with inflation that has impacted everything from the price of rice to postage stamps, most companies now offer digital W-2s. “But I prefer a paper W-2 over an electronic W-2!” you exclaim.  

Lucky for you, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires you to actively consent to receive an electronic W-2. This means that your company cannot provide you with an electronic W-2 in lieu of a paper W-2 without your consent. 

While this may be your personal preference, there are several arguments for choosing an electronic W-2 over a paper version. Are any of them legitimate? Let’s break them down.  

Concerns of Mail Theft 

I know what you are thinking. “Nobody is going to steal my mail.” Yes, the odds are in your favor that your mail will be perfectly safe. However, the USPS arrests thousands of mail and package thieves each year and has reported as many as 1.7 million cases of mail theft a day. 

While larger packages are typically viewed as prime targets for theft, many criminals (which may also include postal service employees) could be after your identity to open credit card accounts, apply for loans, and/or sell your information to other fraudsters. And where most mail pieces do not include sensitive information, your W-2 identifies: 

  • Your legal name and address 
  • Your Social Security Number 
  • Your employer’s name and address 
  • The wages you earned last year 

Add to that the distinguishing look of all W-2s to make them obvious of what is inside, and now you realize why your W-2 is also a prime target.  

As much as you trust your local post office and delivery staff, theft is in every industry. But even with the most trustworthy of staff, honest mistakes happen. Mail pieces are sometimes mishandled, dropped, lost, delayed, or even delivered to the wrong address. There is also the chance that you may forget to update your personal information in your company’s records after moving. What will the new tenants do with your W-2 if mail forwarding or return services have expired?  

Yes, odds are that your paper W-2 will arrive safe and sound in your mailbox. But the threat of losing your personal information, whether intentional or unintentional, is much riskier than Santa’s packages being stolen from your porch. 

Digital W-2s Provide Quicker (and more convenient) Access 

While the IRS requires W-2s to be postmarked by January 31, your W-2 may not physically be in your mailbox by January 31. Why not? Because by the time your W-2 arrives in your mailbox, it has gone through a process of being printed, sorted, folded, inserted into an envelope, postmarked, sent to the post office, and finally delivered. Your W-2 information will be available in your company’s online system several days or weeks before receiving it in the mail.  

In the event you misplace your W-2 (which is hopefully nowhere for a criminal to easily find and steal), you can easily retrieve a new W-2 statement online. And, in most cases, your W-2 forms will be accessible online for multiple years, making it easy to retrieve old data without having to dig through your filing cabinet. 

Your Digital W-2 Can be Printed! 

If your primary reason for choosing a paper W-2 to be mailed instead of consenting to receive a digital W-2 is because it is easier to reference a paper W-2 when filing taxes, good news. All digital W-2s are printable! You can print and reprint it as many times as necessary; just remember to properly dispose of any extras to prevent identity theft. 

Providing Consent to Receive a Digital-Only W-2 Does Not Take Long 

While you may have a case that actively consenting to receive an electronic W-2 takes more effort than doing nothing, the effort required is not time consuming. Simply contact your HR manager to learn how to provide your consent. 

For Stratus HR client employees, providing consent to receive a digital W-2 is easy: 

  1. Log into the Stratus System 
  2. Click the Green “$” sign 
  3. Select “Taxes (W2 info)” on the left-hand side 
  4. Click the blue “Edit” button 
  5. Select “Please provide my W2 Electronically” 
  6. Save your selection 

For questions about this process, please contact your certified HR expert.  

Are There Other Reasons to Choose Digital over Paper? 

While there may be other reasons to request an electronic W-2 over paper, such as helping the environment by minimizing paper and print usage, the most important is that of protecting your personal data. Take a few minutes to consent to receiving your digital W-2 and rest easy about any concerns mentioned above. 

If you are not a current Stratus HR client and would like to outsource administrative items like issuing W-2s and offering advanced HR technology to provide your employees with 24/7 access to their payroll data, please book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly. 

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