My wife and I file our income taxes as "Married Filing Jointly". There seems to be a drastic difference on our W-2 forms. She has been at her job for 15 years and her W-2 has changed very gradually and without any confusion (i.e. her wages and withholdings have changed predictably), whereas this is my first year full time at my current position. So I am using her W-2 as the "standard" of correctness.

We both claimed 0 allowances. As far as I know, neither of us withheld any additional amount from our paychecks. However, here is the issue. My W-2 Box-1 "Wages, tips, and other compensation" for 2019 was roughly 1.25 times greater than hers. However, my Box 2 "Federal income tax withheld" was only 1.07 times greater than hers (but my "Medicare tax withheld" and "social security tax withheld" were both closer (as 1.19) to our Box-1 ratio (which as stated above was 1.25)).

She did additionally have pension and health benefits deducted from each paycheck. Even then, why wasn't my amount of Federal Withholdings much higher than it was? Shouldn't my withholdings have been higher, bringing us closer to the 1.25 Box-1 ratio on our W-2 forms? (instead of the observed value of 1.07)

  • Does your wife receive a greater percent of target income as a quarterly or annual bonus? Bonus payout withholding is calculated conservatively.
    – user662852
    Feb 10, 2020 at 4:48
  • @user662852 no she doesn't have a bonus
    – CSSBurner
    Feb 10, 2020 at 12:01
  • @TTT I have 401K payroll deductions - but this is pre-tax so doesn't matter right?
    – CSSBurner
    Feb 10, 2020 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


My W-2 has an Earnings Summary which shows how Box 1 is computed. Apparently yours doesn't.

On my W-2, Box 1 is computed such:

  1. Starts with Gross Pay. Look at your final 2019 pay stub.
  2. Adds Box 12 Type C (Group Term Life Insurance) money.
  3. Subtracts Box 12 Type D (401k) money.
  4. Subtracts "Other Cafe 125" money. Look on your final pay stub for the YTD values of benefits "Excluded from federal taxable wages" and add them up; that's your "Other Cafe 125" money.

You and your wife might have other benefits, but we promise you: what's on your final pay stub matches what's on your W-2, unless your payroll provider really cocked something up (and that's pretty unlikely).

  • 1
    yes it matches but the withholdings seem to be too low for our tax bracket. However I checked this resource - irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15t.pdf - and it seems like the amount is correct. I will need to add additional withholdings via w-4
    – CSSBurner
    Feb 13, 2020 at 12:12

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