By January 31st you should receive a Form W-2, Wage, and Tax Statement, from each employer you worked for during the prior tax year.
Form W-2 requires employers to show the total income the employer paid to you and the total taxes they withheld. That is key information to prepare your tax return. Your employer should also provide the same information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Note: This does not apply to freelance workers or independent contractors. Your customers should each send you a Form 1099-MISC if they paid you more than $600. You must, however, report all of your income on your tax return even if you don’t receive a 1099-MISC.
What if You Didn’t Receive Form W-2 From an Employer?
The IRS suggests that you wait a few weeks — until mid-February — before taking any action.
Perhaps the mail was slow, your employer didn’t have your current address, or they went out of business. Some employers provide the wage and tax information electronically, but maybe they didn’t have your correct email address.
Contact Your Employer
The first step in tracking down your Form W-2 is to contact your employer and ask them for it. Confirm they have your current address, especially if it’s different than the address you originally reported. You can follow that same step even if you are wondering how to get your W-2 from a previous employer.
Contact the IRS
If you still haven’t received your W-2 by February 27, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 or visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC). All TACs operate by appointment only. Be prepared to give the IRS this information:
- Your name, address including zip code, Social Security number, and phone number
- Your employer’s name, EIN (check your pay stub), address including zip code, and phone number
- Your dates of employment for this employer
- Your estimate of your total wages and federal tax withheld by this employer. If you have your final pay stub, it should include this information.
The IRS will contact the employer telling them to send you a Form W-2 within ten days and remind them of their responsibilities and the penalties if they don’t comply. That should convince the employer to act quickly. Nobody wants to get in trouble with the IRS.
File Your Tax Return
Whether you owe additional taxes or are due a tax refund, you should always file your tax return on time even if you have incomplete information.
If despite all efforts your W-2 is still missing, file Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Use the information from your final pay stub. If you don’t have it, estimate the information as best as you can.
If you would like to request more time to file your tax return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File. Keep in mind that even if the IRS grants you an extension of time to file your return, you still have to pay any taxes you owe by the original deadline.
What if You Receive a Missing W-2 After Filing Your Return?
Suppose a long-lost W-2 shows up in your mailbox or inbox. If the information on the W-2 differs from the information you reported when you filed, you may need to file an amended tax return. You might owe more or less tax. File Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to make the changes.