A W-2 (or a Wage and Tax Statement) is a form an employer must prepare and send to each employee and the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) at the end of each year. It shows how much the employee earned in wages and tips (if the employee was paid in that manner) and the amount that was withheld in taxes. A missing W-2 does not mean that an employee can’t file their income tax return. Instead, the employee is expected to take steps to get it or file the return using a substitute W-2.
W-2 Employer Deadline
An employer is required to complete and file a Form W-2 for each employee with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The deadline for providing copies of the form to employees is Jan. 31 of the year after the income was earned. For example, W-2 forms for 2020 must be submitted by Feb. 1, 2021, since Jan. 31 falls on a Sunday. According to the SSA, if the W-2 employer deadline happens to fall on a weekend or a statutory holiday, the deadline is extended to the next business day.
If You Don’t Receive Your W-2
Keep in mind that you still have to file your income tax return even if your employer does not provide you with a W-2. You don’t get extra time to file your income tax return because of a missing W-2, either. If you don’t receive your W-2 form, you still have options available to you.
1. Contact the Employer
Speak to someone in the employer’s accounting department. Explain that you have not received your W-2. Ask the employer to provide you with a new one. Request that the form is prepared and delivered to you by the end of February.
2. Ask the IRS for Help
If the W-2 is not provided by the end of February, call the IRS (1-800-829-1040) to ask for help with the situation. The IRS will contact the employer by letter requesting the W-2. Most employers take a request from the IRS seriously and will prepare the W-2 without any further delay at that point.
Before contacting the IRS, take the time to gather the following information. Having it ready will allow the representative to help you more quickly and efficiently.
- Your Social Security number
- The employer’s name, address and phone number
- Your dates of employment (if you left the job voluntarily or were laid off)
3. File a Substitute Form with your Income Tax Return
The employer may not respond to a request from the IRS to send out your W-2. In this instance, you still have an option left: File a Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2. The IRS forwards one automatically to taxpayers who contact the agency regarding employers who have not sent them a W-2.
Use your pay stubs to complete Form 4852. It asks you to list your total wages (including tips) and other compensation you earned during the year. You will also need to include the amount your employer deducted from your pay for taxes.
If You Receive Your W-2 After Filing Your Return
Your employer may send you your W-2 after you have filed your taxes using Form 4852. After checking the W-2 you may realize that you have made an error when you filed your income tax form.
To correct the error, you will need to file Form 1040X, Amended US Individual Income Tax Return. The IRS can take up to 16 weeks to process an amended tax return.
- Social Security Administration: Deadline Dates To File W-2s
- IRS.gov: Form 4852 Substitute for Form W-2
- Nolo.com Legal Encylopedia: What To Do If Your W-2 is Incorrect or You Don't Receive It
- IRS.gov About Form 1040X
- Internal Revenue Service. "About Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." Accessed Jan. 22, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "General Instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3 (2019)." Accessed Jan. 22, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "2020 Form W-2," Page 2. Accessed Jan. 24, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 751 Social Security and Medicare Withholding Rates." Accessed Jan. 22, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Prior Year Products." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "About Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Certificate." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Forms and Associated Taxes for Independent Contractors." Accessed Jan. 22, 2020.
- U.S. Department of Education. "1098-E Tax Form." Accessed Jan. 22, 2020.
Jodee Redmond is a freelance writer, blogger and editor who has been working full-time for over 15 years. She is a graduate of Centennial College and has worked as a tax consultant and a legal assistant. Her previous experience and boundless curiosity is a distinct advantage when writing about such varied topics as income tax, insurance, commercial property, business, construction, addiction, freelance writing and more.