Whether you have to pay additional taxes when you file your tax return this year or you’re already planning how you’ll spend an anticipated tax refund, the arrival of your Form W-2, "Wage and Tax Statement," pushes you one step closer to either outcome. As an hourly wage-earner or salaried employee, you rely on your employer to send you a W-2. There are numerous reasons why you may not receive a W-2 from a former employer, but you have strategies for obtaining it.
Losing your W-2 isn't a catastrophe. If you have misplaced your W-2 from a former employer or did not receive one at all, your first step should be to contact them directly and ask for a copy. In the event that you cannot make contact, you should notify the IRS of your issue and seek their assistance.
Why Didn't I Receive my W-2?
Your former employer may be “former” because you moved too far away to continue your employment there. Even if you filled out a change-of-address form at your local U.S. Post Office to have your mail forwarded, your W-2 may have gotten lost in the shuffle. You may have simply found another job. Or you may not be working for your former employer because the company is no longer in business. Regardless of the reason you didn’t receive a W-2, track it down by first going to the source – your former employer.
Employer W-2 Deadline
Although most taxpayers receive their W-2 forms by the end of January, you may not receive yours until February. IRS tax law imposes a January 31 deadline by which an employer must furnish W-2 forms to employees either directly or by mail. If your employer mails W-2s on the deadline date, allowing for timely delivery through the
Contact Your Employer
If the first week in February has come and gone, contact your employer and request a duplicate form. Confirm that the employer has your correct mailing address before asking that the form be mailed to you. If your former employer's place of business is within driving distance, you can also ask the employer to provide a duplicate form to pick up at the place of business. If your employer does not produce your W-2 form, or if you cannot contact your employer because the company is no longer in business, ask the IRS to intervene.
Contact the IRS
If you do not receive your W-2 by February 15, the IRS will contact your former employer on your behalf to request it. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to give this information:
- Your name, address, phone number and Social Security Number
- Your former employer’s name, address and phone number
- Your dates of employment
- Your estimated yearly tax that was withheld, which you’ll see on your final pay stub
What If I Still Don't Receive my W-2 by the Tax Filing Deadline?
Even if you do not receive your W-2 before the tax filing deadline, you must still file your tax return on time. Attach Form 4852, “Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement,” to your tax return. You'll estimate your missing W-2 information on this form. You can also file an extension by using Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.” Download both these forms from the IRS website at IRS.gov.
Corrections to Your Tax Return
If you receive your W-2 after you file your tax return, and the estimated information you submitted on Form 4852 differs from the actual information on your W-2, you’ll need to correct your tax return. File an amended tax return by using Form 1040X, “Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.”
- IRS: Missing Form W-2? IRS Can Help
- IRS: Form 4852
- IRS: Form 4868
- IRS: Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
- Internal Revenue Service. "About Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." Accessed Nov. 2, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. "Deadline Dates To File W-2s." Accessed Nov. 2, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "2020 Form W-2." Accessed Nov. 2, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Social Security Wage Base Rises to $142,800 for 2021.” Accessed Nov. 2, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Employee Reimbursements, Form W-2, Wage Inquiries." Accessed Nov. 2, 2020.
- If you have your last paycheck stub of the year with a year-to-date section, you can use this as a last resort, but first try the steps above to get your tax information.
Victoria Lee Blackstone was formerly with Freddie Mac’s mortgage acquisition department, where she funded multi-million-dollar loan pools for primary lending institutions, worked on a mortgage fraud task force and wrote the convertible ARM section of the company’s policies and procedures manual. Currently, Blackstone is a professional writer with expertise in the fields of mortgage, finance, budgeting and tax. She is the author of more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.