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W-2 Form

What to Do If Your W-2 Is Missing or Lost

Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) is a tax document that you receive annually from each of your employers. First, your employer submits Form W-2 to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once the SSA has processed it, the tax information is transmitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Why You Need IRS Form W-2

You need your W-2 in order to file an accurate income tax return (Form 1040) with the IRS. When preparing your annual return, you will use your W-2 form to report your earnings and any taxes withheld from that income. If you had more than one employer during the year, you will use multiple W-2 forms to complete your taxes.

Employers are required to provide W-2s to their employees by the end of January every year. (For example, you should receive your 2018 W-2 by January 31, 2019.) You may be given your W-2 in person at work, or you might receive it by mail – in which case you should be on the lookout around this time. Remember that it is important to retain copies of your tax returns and any supporting documents.

How to Replace a Missing or Lost W-2

First, don’t panic! Many people go through this each year. If you don’t have your W-2 by mid-February, here’s what you can do:

Contact Your Employer

The first course of action should be to ask your employer directly for a copy of your W-2 form – the human resources or payroll department usually handles this type of paperwork. If they can mail it to you, make sure they have the correct mailing address.

Contact the IRS

If you get no response from your employer by February 14, you can call the IRS for support (1-800-829-1040). The IRS will reach out to your employer on your behalf, which may help motivate them to respond. You’ll need to provide information to the IRS when you call, including:

  • Your name, address, Social Security Number (SSN), and phone number
  • Your employer’s name, address, and phone number
  • The dates you were employed
  • An estimate of your wages and any federal income tax withheld for the year – this should be based on your last pay stub, or Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) for federal employees, if you have it

What If You Still Haven’t Received Your W-2?

While it’s frustrating, you still have some options even if you don’t get your W-2 from your employer.

File Your Tax Return On Time!

Remember that you have until April 15 to file your taxes (or request a tax extension) whether or not you receive your W-2. Therefore, you should still plan on filing and paying your taxes by the original due date.

File a Substitute W-2 (Form 4852)

If you’ve exhausted the above options and still haven’t received your W-2, you can use Form 4852 (Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement). You will need to estimate your income and federal tax withheld – as close to accurate as you can – and attach Form 4852 to your tax return. Keep in mind, there might be a delay in processing your tax refund while the IRS verifies your information.

File a Tax Extension

If you don’t think you’ll have your Form W-2 by the filing deadline and you don’t want to use a substitute form, you can apply for a tax extension to avoid IRS late fees and penalties. An extension will give you 6 extra months to file your return, however, it does not give you more time to pay your tax balance. You will need to file an extension application (Form 4868) and pay any tax due by the original deadline (April 15). You can easily request an extension online and pay your taxes at the same time.

File an Amended Return (Form 1040X)

If you decide to file your tax return using Form 4852 as a substitute and then you receive your actual Form W-2 after you’ve filed, you will need to compare them. If the information on your actual W-2 is different from what you reported with Form 4852, you will need to correct your return. You should do this by filing Form 1040X (Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) with the IRS.

Order a Transcript or Copy of Your Form W-2

Do you need a copy of your W-2 from a previous year? You can get a transcript of your reported income from the IRS, but an actual copy of your W-2 can only be obtained if you submitted it with a paper tax return (Form 1040).

Wage and Income Transcript

This transcript shows the federal tax information that your employer reported to the SSA. It contains data from information returns that the IRS receives – including Forms W-2, 1098, 1099, and 5498. It’s available for up to 10 prior years, though current tax year data may not be ready until July. You can request a Wage and Income Transcript online using the IRS Get Transcript tool, or with Form 4506-T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return).

Copy of Form W-2

If you can’t obtain a copy of your W-2 from your employer and you previously submitted it with your paper return, you can order a copy of the full tax return from the IRS. Use Form 4506 (Request for Copy of Tax Return), but note that there is a $50 fee for each return.

If you e-file your taxes online or you didn’t submit your W-2 with your 1040 paper return, you can request a transcript from the IRS. Otherwise, you will have to reach out to your employer or contact the SSA for a copy of your W-2 form.

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