Filing your taxes on time not only helps you avoid penalties, but you will also receive any refund you're entitled to sooner. However, if you have misplaced or never received your W-2, you can still file your taxes without it. Although your employer has until Jan. 31 to send out your W-2, if you don't receive it by the end of February, you need to either obtain a duplicate from your employer or contact the IRS to look into the matter for you.
First Things First
Many things can happen to your W-2 once it leaves your employer. It can get lost in the mail, your employer could have the wrong mailing address on file for you or he may not have even sent it. Either way, you still need to file your taxes on time. If contacting your employer does not produce a W-2, then you need to contact the IRS. The agency will then reach out to your employer on your behalf to help locate your missing W-2. Sometimes you may not receive your W-2 before you must file. In this case, you can use your last paycheck stub to fill out IRS Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. to complete your tax return on time.
About Form 4852
Your last pay stub of the year contains a lot of the same information you'd find on your W-2, such as year-to-date earnings and any deductions like Medicare or Social Security, 401k retirement contributions as well as any state, local or federal taxes you have paid for the year. You can then take this information to complete Form 4852. Form 4852 is simple to fill out and the information can be easily located directly from your last pay stub. You will need to explain on this form what attempts you made to obtain your W-2, and how you obtained the information you used to fill out the form. After you complete Form 4852, you will then attach it to your tax return. It is important to note, you cannot e-file your return when you need to attach a Form 4852.
Filing Using Your Last Check Stub
If you usually prepare your own taxes, you can still do so using your last check stub along with a completed Form 4852. However, you can also have your taxes prepared for you by a CPA or other qualified tax professional using your last pay stub of the year as a substitute for your W-2. In fact, it may be a good idea to consult with a tax preparer, even if you typically file your own taxes, if you are missing a W-2. You want to be sure that you are filing correctly as any mistakes can incur costly penalties. A tax preparer likely has experience with filing taxes without a W-2 and can ensure that you fill out Form 4852 correctly.
Receiving Your W-2 After Filing
You may need to file your taxes without your W-2, but later receive it. It is important that you double check to see that the information from your W-2 matches what you reported when you filed your taxes. If you notice any discrepancies, then you should immediately file an amended return to rectify this. Incorrectly reporting income could result in an audit as well as penalties.
Tara Thomas is a Los Angeles-based writer and avid world traveler. Her articles appear in various online publications, including Sapling, PocketSense, Zacks, Livestrong, Modern Mom and SF Gate. Thomas has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach and spent 10 years as a mortgage consultant.