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I was on a postdoctoral trainee fellowship for which I don't have a W2. My pay stub for that month (December 2022, pay stub dated at the end of December) indicates non-zero values for gross pay, net pay, and post-tax deductions. The latter didn't include taxes per se, but rather deductions for health insurance, life insurance, and so on. The pre-tax deductions and employee taxes are explicitly given as $0, which makes sense. For tax purposes, what do I consider "Total Wages Received," the gross pay or net pay? Before the fellowship, I would have tax withholdings based on the net pay, after the "post-tax" deductions that I mentioned are really for insurance. I have a W2 corresponding to the first 11 months of the year when I was a standard employee. I have no 1099-NEC/MISC or other forms.

Also, do I need to explain this situation somehow? I did not file an SS-8 about this.

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    Did you receive a 1099-NEC/MISC or a 1098-T for this income?
    – Stan H
    Mar 25, 2023 at 19:35
  • No 1099-NED/MISC. And no 1098-T since I'm not a student.
    – TaxNovice
    Mar 25, 2023 at 21:19
  • Were you paid this income in 2022 or 2023?
    – user102008
    Mar 25, 2023 at 22:13
  • This was the last month of 2022. For the rest of 2022, I was a standard employee at the same institution.
    – TaxNovice
    Mar 25, 2023 at 22:17
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    @TaxNovice what is the date of the check for the hours worked in December? If it is January it is 2023 income. Does the last stub from the first job match the 2022 w-2? Mar 25, 2023 at 23:47

3 Answers 3

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For tax purposes, what do I consider "Total Wages Received," the gross pay or net pay after "post-tax" deductions that weren't actually taxes?

The gross, although there may be some deductions which are "pre-tax" (i.e.: reduce the taxes). It doesn't sounds like you have those (like 401k deferrals or health insurance). You would usually have something on your payslip that says "FIT Taxable Income" that you'd be looking at, and it would be properly reflected in box 1 and box 3 of your W2.

That said, if you were employed, you should have a W2. I would insist with the employer, this whole situation sounds weird. You could potentially have two separate W2s - one for the first position (the first 11 months) and another for the second (the last month), check if you maybe have them and you've only noticed the first one.


Update from the comments: For post-doctoral fellowships this may be considered a scholarship grant, not a compensation for employment, and as such you wouldn't get a W2 (or any reporting). Example from the University of Illinois. It is still taxable income. See the Tax Topic 421 which provides these conditions for a scholarship to be tax free:

  • You're a candidate for a degree at an educational institution that maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and normally has a regularly enrolled body of students in attendance at the place where it carries on its educational activities; and
  • The amounts you receive are used to pay for tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance at the educational institution, or for fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for courses at the educational institution.
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  • Not weird at all. This is typical for US Government sponsored postdoctoral fellowships. If somebody receives a scholarship, you would not expect that they were an employee of the school. This is the same.
    – user71659
    Mar 28, 2023 at 0:19
  • @user71659 postdoctoral scholarship is taxable income, but are you saying it's typical for them not to have any paper trail? That may be so.
    – littleadv
    Mar 28, 2023 at 0:27
  • Yes, see e.g. Illinois "Unless the PDF is a non-resident alien (NRA), the University generally does not have withholding or reporting requirements for fellowship payments or health insurance payments made to or on behalf of PDFs. "
    – user71659
    Mar 28, 2023 at 0:56
  • @user71659 thanks, added to the answer
    – littleadv
    Mar 28, 2023 at 1:02
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I have been in a few situations where I reprieved multiple W-2 for what I perceived to be a single employer:

  • We were bought.
  • We split the company.
  • And my favorite. We were a small business who changed payroll processors, but in reality the corporate structure was such that we were treated as a subsidiary of the payroll processor to be a part of the group insurance policy.

In the case of the last example it was done late in the year so the payroll covered only one paycheck.

If your pay was small enough several things could have occurred:

  • you didn't have enough pay during the period covered by the new W-2. If the taxable income was low enough (under %600) a W-2 for that period would not have been issued.
  • The pay stub you have shows that no Federal, state or local income tax was withheld. That would mean that the tax table to calculate withholding showed that nothing had to be withheld. If you were having income tax withholding on the rest of your paychecks then this check had to be much smaller than normal.

You didn't mention social security. If none was withheld that means the position was such that no social security had to be withheld because the position was exempt from that. I have seen that on certain government positions, or ones connected to your university.

Another possibility was that the position is a 1099 position and nothing was going to be withheld. If you are under the $600 threshold they wouldn't send you a 1099 for December. The evidence against this is the insurance premium included on that final paycheck.

You need to contact your employer. Either the W-2 is wrong and they need to correct it, or you are missing one, or you have to claim the December income without one, or you are a 1099 employee. If you are a 1099 employee you need to know so that you aren't scrambling in early 2024 when you realize you owe the IRS a ton of taxes that you haven't planned for.

Note: I always check my final paycheck to my W-2 to make sure that everything appears correct. There have been a few cases where I have received a corrected W-2 before it was time to file my return.

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  • Nope, this is normal for US Government-sponsored postdoctoral fellowship grants. You aren't an employee, but receive an "award". It's basically a scholarship.
    – user71659
    Mar 28, 2023 at 0:17
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If you were paid anything, you should get either a W-2 or a 1099. If the employer does not give you one or the other, contact them and ask them for it. If they refuse or brush you off or just don't do it, then you will have to file your taxes with an IRS form 4852. This is basically a form saying "I didn't get a W-2 but here's what it should have said if I had gotten one."

You should also call the IRS and tell them you didn't get a W-2. They will send a letter to your employer warning them that they are required by law to give all employees a W-2.

Note: I just ran into this this year. I followed the whole long route through the IRS phone system until I got to, "If you did not receive a W-2, press 3." So I pressed 3. I then sat on hold for half an hour. When someone finally answered, she told me that her department does not handle missing W-2's and I should call the customer service number. She gave me the number, which was the number I had just called that had taken me to her. I thought maybe I had accidentally pressed the wrong button so I went through the whole thing again and got to the same department, where someone again told me that this was the wrong department. She told me I should call the same number again and "carefully follow the prompts". I told her I had done that twice and both times it took me to her department. I asked if she could give me a direct number to the right department, or transfer me. She said no, she can't do that. So ... the IRS phone system is useless for this. It takes you to the wrong department and there's no apparent way to get to the right department. So I ended up calling the number to make an appointment at a local office, and they transferred me to someone who could actually sort of kind of help. Just saying. Bureaucracy.

Oh, and if you have to use this form, you can't submit your return electronically. You must print it out on paper and mail it in. But I think with most tax software, you could just type in what should have been on the W-2 for the W-2 part, but then instead of attaching the W-2 attach the 4852.

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  • Again, this applies to wages. A postdoctoral fellowship is like a scholarship in that no work is expected in return, you are not an employee, so it is not W-2 or 1099 reported.
    – user71659
    Mar 28, 2023 at 17:20
  • The question refers to "wage income", and he says he got a "pay stub". That implies that this is work done for pay, and he should have gotten a W-2 or 1099. Perhaps the OP misunderstands the nature of the payments himself, I have no way to know if the question mis-states the situation.
    – Jay
    Mar 31, 2023 at 4:20

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