I started working for a company in December on Dec 10 and I got paid in January because I wasn't on Payroll , my employer deposited the check into my account. I am wondering since there is no W2 associated with my account, should I report it in my 2016 tax filing season or in 2017 as I got paid in 2016? I am in California.

  • What do you mean by "I got paid"? What's the date on the check? W2 are due by the end of the month, so there's time left for the employers to deliver.
    – littleadv
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:19
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    Most people file tax returns on a cash basis, and if you are in that huge crowd, you report income when you receive it. So the paycheck deposited in January 2016 will count as 2016 income. But if you are one of those few who file taxes on a accrual basis, then you report income as you accrue it, and some part of the pay received in January will count as 2015 income. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:20
  • @littleadv The date on the check is Jan 5 2016
    – John
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:22
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    If you got the money in 2016 it is not income in 2015.
    – BrenBarn
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:38
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    You should pay tax in 2016. Meaning, you should pay tax now (as you got the income now) and report it on the tax return for the year 2016 - which you will be submitting in 2017.
    – littleadv
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:44

2 Answers 2


For most Americans the date on the check determines the tax year.

A check with the date of Jan X 2016 will be reflected on the tax forms you will file in early 2017. That also means that the 401K money is also 2016 money, and so is the money for the flexible spending account, or health savings account.

The change of year impacts everybody differently. That last/first check can make a big difference for some people. If you are trying to make sure you deposit the maximum amount of money into one of those accounts, knowing how many pay checks there is in the year is important. It also works the other way, getting an extra check can cause you to over deposit into those accounts.

The taxes for that Jan 2016 paycheck are collected by your employer and periodically sent to the appropriate government office. You are paying those taxes on payday, even though you won't file that paperwork until 2017.


Basically, it will depend on the documents your employer gives you. If your employer gives you a 2015 W-2 then you would claim it as income on your 2015 taxes. If the first W-2 they give you is for 2016, then you claim it on your 2016 taxes.

  • This isn't really true. Employers make mistakes sometimes, in which case you're obligated to request a correction if you see it.
    – user32479
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 14:36

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