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Missing W-2: What to do for Tax Returns

February 13, 2013

It’s a good idea to have all your tax documents together before preparing your annual tax return or sending your information to your tax preparer. If you worked as an employee last year, you should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, which employers are required to send by the end of January. We recommend giving your current or previous employer two weeks for delivery.

In some cases, you may not receive your Form W-2 in a timely manner. A number of possibilities may be the cause: it was lost in the mail, sent to the wrong address (especially if you recently moved), etc. So what should you do if, by mid-February, you have not received your Form W-2 from your current or former employer?

The IRS recommends the following three steps:

  1. Contact the employer first. Ask your employer – or former employer – to send your W-2 if it has not already been sent. Make sure your employer has your correct address. If they indicate they sent it some time ago, request a duplicate be sent to your attention as soon as possible.
  2. Contact the IRS. After February 14, you may call the IRS at 800-829-1040 if you have not yet received your W-2. Be prepared to provide your name, address, Social Security number and phone number. You should also have the following information when you call:
    • Your employer’s name, address and phone number
    • Your employment dates
    • An estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld in the tax year, based upon your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if available
  3. File your return on time. You should still file your tax return by the tax return deadline, typically April 15, even if you have not yet received your W-2. File Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, in place of the W-2. Use the form to estimate your income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible. The IRS may delay processing your return while it verifies your information.

If you need more time to file, you can get a six-month extension of time. File Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. If you are requesting an extension, you must file this form on or before the typical April 15 tax return deadline.

If you receive the missing W-2 after filing your tax return and the information on the W-2 is different from what you reported using Form 4852, then you must correct your tax return. File Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to amend your tax return.

Your tax advisor needs to know as soon as possible what documents you may be missing. In addition to the steps listed above, make a note to contact your tax advisor and discuss your missing documents so that you both can plan accordingly.

Additional IRS Resources:

Forms and instructions are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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