If you need an IRS form W-2 to file your federal income tax return but never received it, you don’t need to panic. You can try to track it down from your employer, contact the IRS, or file a substitute form. If you need more time to locate the missing information, you can also file an extension.
Tax season has a way of sneaking up on most of us every year. Even if you’re well organized, you might go to gather up your paperwork and realize you are missing a W-2 form from an employer. Fortunately, if this happens, you have some options.
If it’s early enough in the year, your employer may not have sent it yet. But if it was lost in the mail or something else went wrong, you can try to track it down. It could be as simple as the form getting lost in your spam folder.
If you can’t find the form before the deadline (around April 15th), you can file a substitute form with an estimate of your wages and withholding information. We break down all of your options below.
What is a W-2 form?
An Internal Revenue Service Form W-2 is called a Wage and Tax Statement. It is completed by your employer and shows your total wages for the year and the taxes withheld. The wage and tax information can include:
- Income tax (federal, state, and local)
- Social Security
It may also contain information about:
- Contributions to a 401(k)
- Contributions to a health savings account
- Premiums your employer pays for health coverage
According to the IRS, every employer who pays remuneration, including noncash payments of $600 or more for the year for services performed by an employee, must file a Form W-2 for each employee.
A W-2 usually looks like this, and you might receive several copies of it to use for filings or your records.
When is the deadline for form W-2?
Employers have until January 31 to issue W-2s to employees. But they may wait until this date to mail the forms, so you may not receive your W-2 until early February.
Who receives a W-2?
You will receive a W-2 if you are an employee, not a contractor. Independent contractors receive a different form (1099-MISC). The main difference between the two forms is that contractors do not have taxes withheld. They have to save money to pay their income tax, plus Social Security and Medicare taxes, usually in quarterly estimated payments.
What to do if you did not receive a W-2
It can be stressful to realize that you did not receive a W-2, especially if you’re approaching the tax deadline. But you don’t need to worry. Try taking these steps.
If it’s still January or early February, your employer may have mailed your W-2 and you just haven’t received it yet. If it is later than that or you want to get a jump start on your tax return, you can move on to contacting your employer.
Search your email
A lot of tax information is now digital, and your employer may have sent your W-2 by email or through an online portal that you need to access with a password. It might sound obvious, but check your spam folder just to make sure any related emails didn’t end up there.
If you use a tax preparation software like Turbo Tax, you may be able to import your W-2. Depending on the software you use, the program may even alert you when your W-2 is ready to download.
Call your company
If you can’t find any information in your email, your next step is to contact the payroll or human resources department of your employer. You can find out how they distribute the W-2s and you can ask them to issue you a new one.
Don’t forget to contact all employers who owe you a W-2. If you have a previous employer who you haven’t received a W-2 from, make sure they don’t have the wrong address on file. The same goes for your email address.
Contact the IRS
If you’re unable to get your W-2 from your employer, you can contact the IRS by phone at 800-TAX-1040. The IRS will contact your employer or payer and request the missing form.
You will need to know:
- Your name, address, Social Security number, and phone number
- Your employer’s name, address, and phone number
- The dates you worked for the employer
- An estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld — you can use your final pay stub to figure these amounts.
Calling the IRS can be an ordeal with long wait times, so be sure to set aside plenty of time to sit on hold. You could also make an appointment at your nearest Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC). Use the office locator to find an IRS office near you.
What if you don’t get your W-2?
If for some reason your employer can’t send your W-2 by the tax deadline, you still have a couple options of filing your taxes on time.
1. File your return without the W-2
If you’re unable to get a W-2 from your employer in time to file by the April due date, the good news is that you can file a Form 4852 instead. This is called a Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. You will have to estimate your wages and withholding as best you can. Hopefully it is clear from your final pay stub what those amounts should be.
2. File an extension
Fortunately, if you need more time to gather information from your employer, it is easy to file an extension. You can use the IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You can even e-file the request.
Keep in mind, though, that an extension does not give you extra time to pay any taxes you may owe. You could potentially have to pay penalties or interest when you do finally file.
3. File a form 1040-X (amended return)
If it turns out that your last pay stub did not have the correct information or your actual W-2 shows different numbers than what you estimated, you will need to file an amended return. This is also easy to do with a form 1040-X. Again, this form can be filed electronically, or you can use an online tax preparation service.
What happens if I haven’t received my W-2 by January 31?
You may need to wait a little longer, just to make sure the form is not in the mail. After that, contact your employer and then the IRS.
Can I look up and access my W-2 online?
That depends on how your employer distributes W-2s. If they use an online portal, you should be able to look it up online. If you use tax preparation software, they may be able to import your W-2 automatically.
How long should I wait for my W-2?
If you haven’t received your W-2 by mid-February, you should probably contact your employer and start the process of trying to track it down.
Can an employer be fined for not sending W-2?
Employers can be fined if they don’t send you a W-2. The fine is $50 per form for the first 30 days and then it goes up after that. If a business has a lot of employees and they forget to mail the tax forms, those fines can really add up.
- Don’t worry if you didn’t receive your W-2 and you need to file your tax return. You can contact your employer and ask for a copy.
- If you can’t get your W-2 from your employer, you can contact the IRS toll free by phone and they will try to get the missing form.
- If that doesn’t work, you can file your tax return without the W-2 and use a substitute form to estimate your income and withholding.
- You can also file an extension to get more time to track down your W-2.
- If it turns out the information on your substitute for form W-2 was wrong, you can file an amended tax return to correct it.
View Article Sources
- Haven’t received your Form W-2 yet? The IRS can help — IRS
- About Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement — IRS
- About Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2 — IRS
- About Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return — IRS
- About Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return — IRS
- What is Backup Withholding? — SuperMoney
- 1099 vs. W2 vs. W9: Key Differences — SuperMoney
- W2 vs. W4 vs. W9: Important Differences — SuperMoney
- How to Get Your W-2 from a Previous Employer — SuperMoney
- How to File Taxes Without a W-2 — SuperMoney
- Best Tax Preparation Firms | August 2022 — SuperMoney