How to Create a W2 From a Pay Stub

by K.A. Francis ; Updated March 15, 2018

If you are missing a W2 and it's preventing you from filing your tax return, you can create a W2 from one of your pay stubs. As long as you have the right form and follow directions, that missing W2 can be replicated. There are several reasons why you might need to file a substitute W2:

  • You misplaced your W2.
  • Your employer didn't send out W2s.
  • Your employer wasn't required to send you a W2. 
  • Your employer sent you a W2, but the information was incorrect.

There are a few steps you can take when figuring out how to create a W2 from a pay stub.

Contact Your Employer

First, get in touch with your employer. According to the IRS, employers have until January 31 to send out W2s. However, if it's the middle of February and you still don't have your W2, call your employer and ask if the W2s were mailed and if so, when. If the employer responds that W2s have been mailed and you still don't have yours, ask for a duplicate W2, or prepare to file a substitute form.

Use Your Last Pay Stub of the Calendar Year

Find your pay stub that includes as much of December as possible. Don't use a pay stub that has hours from January included, as it won't have the all the necessary information. The most important thing you need from the pay stub is the year-to-date information. Using the pay stub closest to the end of the year means the year-to-date numbers are the closest to the amount that would show on your W2.

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Find the Proper Form on the IRS Website

The form used to file a substitute W2 is Form 4852, which can be downloaded from the IRS website. It is also included with most tax preparation software. The form asks for the following:

  • General information: Provide your full name, your address and your Social Security number. 
  • Wages, tips and other compensation: Input your wages, salary and tips on each corresponding line. Use the year-to-date information on your pay stub to fill out this portion of the form. 
  • Taxes Withheld: Record the amount of tax withheld from your pay for federal tax, Social Security, Medicare tax, state tax and local tax. Again, make sure you use the year-to-date totals for this information. 
  • Explanation on how you determined the amounts listed previously: Include a statement regarding how you calculated the amounts you reported above. For example, you could say, "I used the year-to-date information found on my last pay stub for December." 
  • Explanation of your attempts to get a duplicate W2: Let the IRS know you tried to get a duplicate W2 before you filled out this form. A statement such as, "I called my employer to report that I was missing a W2," or "I called and requested a duplicate because I lost the original" should suffice.

File Form 4852 With Your Tax Return

Once you have completed your tax return, file the form just like you would an actual W2. If you mail your return, include the original with your tax return after making a copy. If you file electronically, keep the form in your records and file an electronic copy with your tax return. If you're using tax software, the form should be included in the software.


  • If the employer responds that W2s have not been sent out or doesn't reply at all, contact the IRS. The agency will ask you questions from your last pay stub before contacting your employer.

About the Author

K.A. Francis is a freelance writer with over 20 years experience, and a small business consultant and jewelry designer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and business administration and a Master of Arts in Adult Education. She has written for "The Einkwell," "Windsor Parent," MomsOnline, Writer's Stew, Lighthouse Venture Group and others. Her jewelry design company, KAF Creations, has been in operation since 1998.

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