How to Get W-2s Without Going through the Employer

What happens when a W-2 form goes missing? A missing W-2 form can put a wrinkle in your plans to file your taxes on time. It's important to note that a missing W-2 form is not considered a valid reason for not filing. You're still responsible for filing your taxes even if you can't locate your W-2. However, you do have the option to file for a tax extension if you don't think you'll be able to pull together everything you need in time to file by the April 15 deadline.

If you're looking to get your W-2 without going through an employer, you have some options. Take a look at the fastest way to get your W-2 without asking an employer.

What's Included on a W-2 Form?

Your W-2 is a form that's completed by your employer that tracks all of your earned wages and withheld taxes for the year. It also covers any tips, 401(k) contributions and health premiums. You should expect to receive a W-2 for your 2020 taxes in 2021 if you were an employee during 2020. If you worked as a contractor, you can probably expect to receive a Form 1099-NEC instead.

Will the IRS Give You a Copy of Your W-2?

The preferred way to get a copy of your W-2 is to simply ask your employer. You may even be able to get your W-2 from your employer without technically "asking" them for a copy if they definitely issued one. Here's why:

  • When employers send W-2s electronically to employees, they also submit them to the IRS.
  • Most online tax software can import your W-2 if it was sent to the IRS.
  • It's also possible that an electronic version of your W-2 got lost in your email spam folder. Do a quick search in your email for "W-2" or "tax information" to see if it's stuck somewhere if you don't have access to tax software.

You're not stuck if these tips don't solve the problem. You can still ask the IRS directly for your W-2 information. In fact, this might be your only option if your employer has gone out of business. The IRS may be your only resource if your employer simply didn't send a W-2 for the year.

If you can't get in touch with your employer to get a W-2, you can reach out to your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC). The IRS will use your name, Social Security number, estimate of wages and estimate of federal income tax withheld to try to help you. Bringing along your paycheck stubs from the tax year in question can be helpful because wage and withholding information will all be visible.

You may need to file Form 4852 with your tax return if the IRS is unable to get your employer to comply. Form 4852 is considered to be a valid substitute for a W-2 in cases where W-2s are not sent by employers.

Request a Wage Transcript From the IRS

Another option is to request a wage and income transcript from the IRS. This transcript will contain all of the federal tax information that your employer has reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

There are a few things to know about this option. First, an IRS wage transcript does not contain any information regarding your state or local tax information. Secondly, wage transcripts typically aren't available until July of the following year. However, you can request wage and income transcripts going back ​10 years​.