How to Obtain W-2 Forms If the Company Went Bankrupt

by Grace Ferguson

Your employer has until Jan. 31 of the current year to give you a Form W-2 for the prior tax year. If your employer filed bankruptcy without supplying you a W-2, the Internal Revenue Service recommends taking specific steps to get the original form or a substitute. If you need W-2s for prior tax years, you can get them directly from the IRS.

Contacting Your Employer or Its Representative

When an employer goes bankrupt, the company might be liquidated -- in which case, operations stop and employees are most likely to be laid off -- or it might keep operating under the bankruptcy court’s protection. If either situation applies to you and you do not receive your Form W-2 by Jan. 31, contact your employer for the form. If necessary, contact the bankruptcy court for the appropriate federal judicial district to see if an attorney is assigned to your employer’s case. If so, the attorney should be able to provide you with a W-2.

Contacting the IRS About a Current W-2

If you do not receive your W-2 by Feb. 14, call the IRS and explain that your employer is in bankruptcy or the company has folded. The agency will investigate the issue with your employer. It will also send you a substitute for Form W-2 -- a Form 4852 -- for you to file your tax return in case you do not receive a W-2 from your employer before the filing deadline. If applicable, complete Form 4852 using your last pay stubs for the year. Attach the form to your completed tax return and send the documents to the IRS. Forward a copy of Form 4852 to your local Social Security Administration office as well so you’re credited for any Social Security and Medicare taxes that you paid.

Obtaining Prior Year W-2 Transcripts From the IRS

If you need W-2s for prior tax years and cannot get them from your employer, you can order free transcripts directly from the IRS. The transcripts have most of your original W-2 data, excluding state tax information. You may order transcripts through the IRS website, by calling the agency or by completing and mailing Form 4506-T. Free transcripts are available for up to 10 prior tax years. It takes the IRS up to 10 business days to process requests for transcripts.

Ordering W-2 Photocopies From the IRS

If you need an actual photocopy of a past year’s W-2 from the IRS, you must order a copy of your full tax return, which includes all original attachments and applicable state tax information. To request a copy of your tax return, complete and mail Form 4506 to the IRS. As of date of publication, a fee of $50 per return applies. It takes the IRS up to 60 calendar days to process requests for copies of tax returns.

About the Author

Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.