How to File your Income Tax Return Without Your W-2

How to File your Income Tax Return Without Your W-2
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Can you file taxes without a W-2? You shouldn’t have to, but you can.

Your employer is responsible for providing a vital piece to your tax-return puzzle by issuing you Form W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement.” Without this form, you won’t have the information you need to file your tax return, and your anticipated refund may seem unreachable.

Remember that if you don’t file your return because your W-2 is missing, you will likely be facing a stiff penalty. This seemingly complex dilemma is easily resolved by filing a substitute form as a replacement W-2.

File Taxes Without W-2

You can download Form 4852 from the IRS website at and easily file taxes without a W-2. IRS Form 4852, “Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement,” serves as a placeholder for a missing Form W-2.

Using your last pay stub to file taxes, estimate as closely as possible the tax information that should be on your W-2, and transfer these figures to Form 4852. After that, you can attach Form 4852 to your tax return and submit it before the tax filing deadline.

When Can You File Taxes Without Your W-2?

You may feel a sense of urgency to file your tax return as soon as the calendar turns to a new year. However, you must first allow time for your employer to provide your W-2 before the IRS issuing ​deadline of Jan. 31​. Although employers may have W-2s ready before this date, they are allowed the entire month of January to produce them.

Even if your employer is no longer in business, you’ll have to wait until the ​first week of February​ to see if you receive your W-2. If you don’t, call your employer to check the delivery status.

Check With Your Tax Preparer

In many cases, your tax preparer may actually be able to access a copy of your W-2. H&R Block, for example, has a free W-2 Early Access service. The service is easy to use and in just three steps, you could have an electronic copy of your W-2.

First, you'll need to search for your employer in the database using either his name, the company's name or the employer's Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). Second, you'll need to follow the prompts to request a copy of your W-2. Third, you'll need to pick up the W-2 from your nearest H&R Block storefront.

Note: Should your employer not have uploaded the W-2 in the database at the time of your search, you can put in a request to be notified by email when he or she does finally add it.

Call the IRS for Help

Before you automatically file Form 4852 as a substitute for your W-2, call the IRS at ​800-829-1040​ ​after Feb. 15​, and a representative will contact your employer on your behalf to request the missing W-2.

If you receive the W-2 before the tax filing deadline, you won’t have to file Form 4852, and it may also prevent you having to file another form to correct your tax return. If the filing deadline is looming, go ahead and file Form 4852 so you don’t run the risk of missing the deadline and paying a penalty.

Correcting Your Tax Return

If you receive a copy of your W-2 after you have attached Form 4852 to your filed tax return, you can correct any mistakes to the estimated figures you submitted using Form 1040-X, “Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.” You can also download this form from