How to Recover a Lost W-2

How to Recover a Lost W-2
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When you misplace or lose a Form W-2, you might run into a variety of problems, including a late or incorrect tax filing that can cost you penalties and fines. Fortunately, the process for getting your W-2 isn’t that complicated and you have several options. Reviewing the process for recovering a lost W-2 will help you get your form in the quickest way possible when you need it.

What Are W-2s and 1099s?

When you work for an employer, you’ll fill out a W-4 so that the company knows how much tax to take out of each of your paychecks. At the end of the year, your employer will generate a W-2 for you showing your gross pay, taxes paid and other deductions. Employers are required to get these to employees by January 31.

If you work as a contractor, freelancer or other vendor or supplier to a company, the business might be required to issue you a 1099, showing the amount of money it paid you during the year. Companies that hire you this way don’t take taxes out of your payments, but they are required to report the money they paid you to the IRS.

Contacting the IRS

If you do not receive your W-2 for a tax year by January 31 of the next year (it may have been lost in the mail), the IRS has several methods for getting your form. You can call ​800-829-1040​, or visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Within ​10 days​, the IRS will contact your employer requesting that they re-send your W-2.

You will also receive a copy of Form 4852, which you can use in place of a W-2 when filing your taxes if your employer still doesn’t get you a copy of your W-2 in a timely fashion.

Depending on the time of year (probably not before ​January 31​), the IRS might have a wage and income transcript for you. Read Topic No. 159 on the IRS website for more information. If you are looking for a copy of a previous W-2 that was submitted with a previous years’ tax return, you can request a Form 4506-T from the IRS. The IRS provides W-2s going back ​six years​ (and possibly later).

Contact Your Employer

The quickest way to get a replacement copy of your W-2 might be to contact your employer. If it’s a large company, be prepared to provide information such as your full name, Social Security number, employee number and street address. If you don’t want to wait for the W-2 to be mailed to you, ask for a digital copy you can print. You can also ask if you can visit the company’s office and pick up a hard copy of your W-2.

Use an Online Search Tool

Many companies work with online payroll and tax services companies and provide searchable databases of employee W-2s. ADP, H&R Block and TurboTax have search tools you can use to find old W-2s, or current forms, if they’ve already been submitted by an employer. You’ll need to provide identifying information, including your name, address and Social Security number.