Thousands of taxpayers who have received W-2
forms indicating that they're dead need not check their pulses.
They're very much alive, and so are the forms.
The Internal Revenue Service announced Friday that taxpayers can
go ahead and send those forms in with their returns without
correcting them. If they've been corrected, that's OK too.
The errors, which cropped up in places from Saratoga Springs,
N.Y., to El Paso, Texas, appeared in Box 15 of the W-2 the form
that describes annual earnings, how much taxes were paid, and so
on. Box 15 is used to indicate such items as deferred compensation,
pension plan coverage, or a deceased person.
Apparently, according to the IRS, when the number of items in
Box 15 was reduced from seven to five, some employment tax software
developers overlooked this change or used printing specifications
that gave incorrect spacing between the items.
The problem is not related to the Year 2000 computer glitch, IRS
spokesman Don Roberts said.
Earlier this week, reports began to surface that thousands of
employees around the country had an "X" printed in the box
showing them as deceased.
"One of the local funeral directors even called me up to offer
a special group rate," said J. Michael O'Connell, mayor of
Other places were the mistake was reported were Dickson, Okla.;
Muscogee County, Ga.; New Mexico State University; and Fargo, N.D.
The IRS isn't sure how many taxpayers have been affected, but
officials say the errors won't affect the processing of the tax
return or the amount of any refund. The IRS says it will not impose
any penalties and employers don't have to notify the agency.
"When the IRS later matches employers' W-2 data with employees'
tax returns, it will take steps to avoid contacting taxpayers about
this matter," an IRS statement says.
But just to make sure people don't panic, the IRS adds that
companies should "alert their employees to the error and reassure
them" that everything is all right.