If your errant Form W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” followed a path that didn’t lead to your door, you can follow a simple trail to track it down. In a perfect (and simpler) world, your employer issues your W-2, you receive it, and the W-2 supplies the information you need to complete your tax return. When this chain of events is disrupted by the non-delivery or non-receipt of your W-2, it’s up to you to start a hunting expedition.
Wait for the W-2 Issuing Deadline
It’s easy to become antsy when the first of the year rolls around, and you need your W-2 to speed up an anticipated tax refund. You may watch with envy as friends and family members receive their W-2s by mid-January. But try not to become over-anxious and prematurely jump the starter pistol by requesting your W-2 from your employer too soon. The IRS allows your employer the entire month of January to issue W-2 forms to its employees. By January 31, your employer must provide a W-2 directly to you or mail it to you.
What if the Issuing Deadline has Come and Gone?
If your employer doesn’t mail W-2 forms until January 31, the last day of the issuing deadline, allow sufficient time for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver your form in early February. If you still haven’t received your W-2 by the end of the first week in February, ask your employer when it was mailed. You can also ask if your employer would make a copy for you, which is the quickest way for you to move forward. If you’re unable to get a copy this way, and you still don’t have your W-2 by February 15, call the IRS.
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How Can the IRS Help?
The IRS cannot issue a W-2 to you; that is your employer’s responsibility. However, the IRS will contact your employer to request this form on your behalf. When you call the IRS at 800-829-1040, have this information at your fingertips: your employer's name, address and phone number; your dates of employment; your name, address, phone number and Social Security Number; and an estimate of your annual withholding tax, which should be listed on your last pay stub of the tax year.
Should I Wait for my New W-2 Before I File My Tax Return?
As long as you receive your W-2 before the tax filing deadline, you’re good to go. But if the filing deadline is nearing and you still don’t have your W-2, you must file your tax return anyway. The easy fix is to fill out Form 4852, “Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement,” which you can download from IRS.gov. You may not have the exact wage and tax withholding figures to include on this form, but that's okay. The IRS asks only for your best estimate. Use your last annual pay stub to help fill in the blanks that your missing W-2 will eventually supply. When you receive your W-2, if you need to adjust the estimated figures you submitted on Form 4852, file Form 1040X, “Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.”
As an option, you can file Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return,” which allows time beyond the filing deadline for you for you to receive your missing W-2 and submit your tax return.
- IRS: Publication 17 -- How Do I Prepare My Return?
- IRS: Missing Form W-2? IRS Can Help
- IRS: Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement
- IRS: Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
- IRS: Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return