How to Get Your W-2 Forms Online

by Victoria Lee Blackstone ; Updated March 15, 2018
W-2s tell the IRS how much money you earned by working.

In our technologically savvy world, accessing information online is often the norm instead of the exception. If you want to get your Form W-2, “Income and Tax Statement” online, you have several options, but it may not be possible. It depends on the time of year you make your request, your employer's practices and how you file your tax return.

Current-Year W-2 Forms

  • Before the January 31 W-2 issuing deadline. The IRS allows your employer until January 31 to issue your W-2, so you’ll have to wait until after this deadline to receive it (unless your employer provides it to you before then). An employer is required to provide each employee one of the copies in a six-form W-2 packet. Although your employer can transmit your W-2 electronically to other recipients of the copies, such as the Social Security Administration (SSA), the IRS does not require your employer to transmit a W-2 electronically to you. In fact, the IRS gives employers the options of providing W-2s directly to employees or mailing them before the issuing deadline of January 31. 
  • Between the issuing deadline and the tax-filing deadline. If you fail to receive a W-2 after your employee has issued it, you’ll need to get a copy so you can file your tax return. The fastest way to get a copy is to pick it up at your place of business, but if your company’s Human Resources Department or Payroll Processing Department is not located where you work, you may be able to get a copy of your W-2 online by asking if a scanned copy can be emailed to you. If your company's payroll service posts PDF copies of W-2s to employees' online accounts, you can view and print a copy of your W-2 that way. If your employer or its payroll service doesn't provide electronic copies, you’ll have to wait for a mailed copy. If you’ve still not received your W-2 by the tax-filing deadline, submit Form 4852, “Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement” with your tax return.
  • After the current-year tax-filing deadline. If you submitted a paper tax return and attached your W-2 without making a copy for your file, you can get a copy from your employer, your tax preparer, the IRS or the SSA. The online option from your employer is at his discretion in scanning and emailing the W-2 to you; otherwise, you can request a paper copy. If a tax preparer filed your tax return electronically, ask her if you have access to your W-2 information online. You can request W-2 information online from the IRS by visiting IRS.gov and searching for “get transcript online.” You can also visit the SSA at SSA.gov and request W-2 information online by searching for “get W-2.” If you need W-2 information for Social Security purposes, the SSA will give you a free copy. But if you want the information for any other reason, the SSA charges $86 for this service.

W-2 Forms for Past Years

Your employer is required to keep copies of your W-2s for four years, the IRS keeps transcripts for 10 years and the SSA has copies from 1978. The current-year’s W-2 transcript may not be available from the IRS until July.

About the Author

Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper columns. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson University, Blackstone was a University of Georgia Master Gardener Coordinator. She is also a former mortgage acquisition specialist for Freddie Mac in Atlanta, GA.

Photo Credits

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