Each year, employers are required by law to send your W-2 by January 31. This form includes all taxable wages paid to you during the previous year, as well as the taxes withheld. The form will be sent in either digital or paper form. A copy is also sent to the IRS. If a business fails to send out the form on time, it may face steep fines. Sometimes, however, the form may go missing or get lost in the mail after the business has sent it out. If you have a lost or missing W-2, there are several things you can do to ensure you have the information you need to file your taxes.

Contact Your Current or Previous Employer

Whenever you have a missing W-2, the first thing you should do is contact your employer and request a copy be sent to you as soon as possible. Employers are legally required to keep your forms on file for a minimum of four (4) years. Be sure that they have your correct address. If you haven’t updated the address on file and fail to put in a change of address with the United States Postal Service, the form will be returned to the sender.

Contact The IRS

On the rare occurrence that your employer is unable to provide a copy of your W-2, you may also call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Be sure to have the following information on hand:

  • Social Security number
  • Your employer’s name, address, and phone number
  • Your dates of employment
  • An estimate of how much you were paid and the federal taxes withheld. You can typically find this on your final pay stub for the year.

Once the IRS verifies your identity, they’ll send out a copy of your W-2 so you can file your taxes.

Prepare a Substitute W-2

Another option for a lost or missing W-2 is to complete Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage, and Tax Statement. This can be done using your final pay stub or your best estimate. Keep in mind that using Form 4852 may delay processing times and any tax refund due since the IRS must verify all information. If you receive your W-2 after filing Form 4852 and determine the information you provided was inaccurate, you’ll need to file an amended tax return. Failure to make any corrections could put you at risk for an audit, as well as penalties and interest if you owe taxes.

File on Time or Request an Extension

Failure to receive your Form W-2 is not an excuse to file or pay your taxes late. If you need more time to gather your information or complete a substitute form, you can always request a filing extension by using Form 4868. This will give you an additional six (6) months to file. Just be sure that you make the request before the tax filing deadline or you risk being hit with a Failure to File penalty.

You can also get an extension by paying all or part of your taxes due. Simply indicate that the payment is for an extension using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or a credit or debit card. This way you don’t have to file a separate extension request and you’ll receive a confirmation number for your records. Remember, if you owe taxes, you must pay them by the original filing deadline. If you don’t pay on time, you’ll be subject to penalties and interest, as well as potential collection actions.

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