How to Find a W2 Form

by John Kibilko ; Updated July 27, 2017

There are numerous ways to find your W2 form or to get a copy of a W2 from a previous year. Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) is used to report employee wages and tax-withholding amounts. W2s also are used to report FICA taxes to the Social Security Administration, which in turn reports relevant information to the IRS. Employers are required to provide employees with W2 statements containing the previous year’s income and tax data by January 31 each year. If you need an old W2, you can request copies or transcripts from various sources, by phone, mail or online.

Step 1

Contact your employer or former employer. Businesses and other employers are required to keep files of W2s for a minimum of three years and, with electronic file-keeping systems, most employers keep records for much longer. You can be charged up to $30 for a duplicate of your W2.

Step 2

Call your tax preparer if you used one for the year in question. Again, you may be charged a fee, although such a policy isn’t good for repeat business.

Step 3

Write to the Social Security Administration, or visit their online website. Free copies are provided for Social Security-related matters. Other requests cost $30 per each year requested. You need to fill out IRS Form 4506 (Request for Copy or Transcript of Tax Form) and mail it to the SSA. You’ll need to include your Social Security number, the exact name that appears on your Social Security card, any different names shown on your W-2, your mailing address and telephone number, the year or years for which you need W2 copies and the reason for your request.

Step 4

Contact the IRS. Although the IRS doesn’t keep physical copies of W-2 for any years except the current one, it does maintain W-2 information for the previous 10 years. Complete IRS Form 4506 to receive an entire copy of your tax return — which is the only way to receive a copy of your W2 from the IRS. There is a $57 fee per tax-year request. You also can file Form 4506-T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return) to obtain W-2 information for free. This is not a W2 form, but a transcription in synopsis form of the information contained within your W2. This version may or may not be acceptable for your purposes.

Step 5

Contact your appropriate state agency if you’re a state employee. Most states provide copies of W2s to public-school teachers, state troopers, elected officials and all other state workers free of charge. Some cities also offer the same service. New York City, for example, allows city workers to access the NYCAPS (New York City Automated Personnel System) online service to obtain W2 copies. New York charges $3 for any W2 requests more than three years old.

Tips

  • Your current (previous year’s information) W2 may be available online if your employer provides this service. Some employers even send employee W2s electronically via email or as a web-site posting. You’ll need either your company name or the employer code to access your W-2.

    Form 4506-T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return) may not contain all your income data, but it will show the minimum amount you need to report on that year’s tax return. You can reconstruct your salary information on Form 4852 (Substitute W-2). Attach the form to your tax return when you file the return for back taxes.

    All fees quoted are as of this writing in October 2010.

About the Author

John Kibilko has been writing professionally since 1979. He landed his first professional job with "The Dearborn Press" while still in college. He has since worked as a journalist for several Wayne County newspapers and in corporate communications. He has covered politics, health care, automotive news and police and sports beats. Kibilko earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Wayne State University.

Photo Credits

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