What to Do If You Lost Your W-2

Here's how to get a new copy of your lost W-2.

You’re ready to file your tax return, but then it hits you: “I lost my W-2 form.” Retrieving a lost W-2 does take a little legwork, but you’ll need it to file your taxes — it’s considered the official method for reporting wages from a job.  Read on to find out how to get a copy of your W-2 form and gather essential information about this common IRS tax form.

What to Do If You’ve Lost Your W-2

Ask your current or former employer to re-send your W-2 if it’s lost. If you haven’t received the form by the end of February, contact the employer and request to have your form sent to you via mail again. Some businesses allow you to get your W-2 online, but many do not. Ask yours if getting your W-2 online is an option, but be aware that they most likely would have already provided instructions on how to get a copy had this been the case.

Related: What Is a W-2 Form?

Contact the IRS

If you still don’t have your form on hand by the end of February, call the IRS taxpayer helpline at 800-829-1040. The Internal Revenue Service will need the following information:

  • Your name, Social Security number, phone number and address
  • The name, phone number and address of your employer
  • The dates you were employed there
  • Your estimated wages and taxes withheld for the tax year you’re filing; consult your pay stub for this info, if necessary.

The IRS will reach out to the employer for you by letter to ensure you get a copy of W-2 forms.

Mark Your Calendar: Tax Year Dates You Need to Know 

How to File Taxes Without W-2

If you’re still unable to get your W-2 after taking the aforementioned steps, you can still file your taxes. To file your tax return on time, make use of a solution to your missing or lost W-2 problem: Form 4852, the substitute for Form W-2. You’ll find the form at the official IRS website.

Another option is to ask for an extra six months to file. You can do so by e-filing your request or by using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

What to Do for a W-2 Received After Filing Your Tax Return

If you estimated your income incorrectly and filed your tax return based on that information, you’ll need to correct the return. Amend your return using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Amending your return might change the amount of your refund or account balance, but it is necessary to correct the information. Be aware that it can take up to 16 weeks for your amended return to be processed.

How to Address a Lost W-2 and Identity Theft

If you’re concerned about security issues related to your lost W-2, head to the Federal Trade Commission’s website on identity theft for guidance. The site gives specific next steps to take, as well as links to sites where you can report your issue or obtain free copies of your credit report.

More on Taxes

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Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article. 

About the Author

Sabah Karimi is an award-winning writer with more than 10 years of experience writing about personal finance, lifestyle topics, and consumer trends. Her work has appeared on U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, MSN, and other mainstream publications. She was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and CBS News about her work as a freelance writer early in her career and now works with a variety of clients.