As technology is becoming increasingly advanced, businesses are rushing to digitize processes. This includes areas such as HR, payroll and tax reporting. While employers have transitioned to electronically issuing W-2 forms to employees, they may still mail paper copies out.
What To Do If You’ve Lost Your W-2
More paperwork can lead to disorganization or worse — lost documents. Whether your W-2 was lost in the mail or just misplaced at home, it can be disturbing trying to figure out how to complete your taxes without it. While getting a duplicate of a W-2 does take a little legwork, it’s possible. Here are three ways to do it before the tax deadline.
- Contact your employer.
- Contact the IRS.
- Check your tax software.
1. Contact Your Employer
Start by reaching out to your employer, who should have a record of your employment history and may be able to issue you a duplicate form. This is the quickest way to receive a copy of your W-2. Make sure to double-check the following before thinking you don’t have your W-2:
- Calendar: Employers are only required to get W-2s in the mail by Jan. 31, so your W-2 may be on its way even if you don’t get it by that day.
- Email: Many employers now provide digital copies of W-2s or electronic access to such forms as tax statements.
Even if you no longer work for them, your previous employer should be able to provide a W-2 for the time you did work there.
2. Contact the IRS
If your employer is unable to help you, your second option is to contact the IRS. For the current tax year, the IRS will reach out to your employer to request your W-2 be sent to you. You will need the following information for verification during your call:
- Personal information: Name, address, phone number and Social Security number.
- Employer information: Your employer’s name, address and phone number.
- Employment information: The dates you worked for the employer, an estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld last year and the last pay stub of the tax year.
Be aware that even if the IRS contacts them, your employer may still not send the W-2 in time for the tax deadline — but if all else fails, you can always file for an extension.
3. Check Your Tax Software
If you use self-prepared tax software, such as Intuit’s TurboTax, you may be able to access a previous year’s W-2 if you uploaded and saved it to your account. You would have had to manually upload the document when filing the previous tax year.
Tax documents do not automatically import every year, so you may need to have personal information handy, such as your Social Security number, phone number or other login information.
Filing Your Taxes Without a W-2
If you try but are unable to get a W-2, you can still file your taxes. To file your tax return on time when you have a missing or lost W-2, use Form 4852, the substitute for form W-2. You can find this form on the official IRS website.
Another option is to apply for an extension to file your taxes. Filing an extension using Form 4868 will allow you to delay filing a return until Oct. 15. Keep in mind, using this option only grants an extension on filing your tax forms, not on paying your taxes. To get an extension, you must still estimate your tax liability and pay the amount due on time.
What To Do for a W-2 Received After Filing Your Tax Return
If you estimated your income incorrectly and filed your 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.
Filing an amended return could impact your refund or even require additional payment of taxes owed. It can also take up to 16 weeks for your amended to return to be processed.
How To Obtain a W-2 for a Previous Year
If you are looking for a W-2 issued by your current employer for a prior year, your employer may be able to provide you with a duplicate copy or access to download it electronically. If, however, you are looking for a W-2 from a previous year for an employer you are not presently employed with, obtaining a duplicate can get a bit tricky.
Some employers use payroll software or third-party payroll companies that allow employees to access payroll information from a secure web portal. Tax documents, including W-2s, are often saved on such sites throughout your tenure, and you may be able to access your W-2 online as a result. Be aware that most employers would direct you to this resource should it be available.
Contact the IRS
For previous tax years, you can also request a transcript copy from the IRS. This option assumes you filed your taxes for the tax year.
The IRS won’t be able to issue an exact copy of your W-2, but it can provide a wage and income transcript. This transcript will contain the federal tax information your employer reported to the Social Security Administration for the corresponding year. Transcripts are available for up to 10 years prior. Allow 10 business days from the day the IRS receives your request to get a copy of the transcript.
Losing a W-2 form is not the end of the world. The first thing you should do is take a deep breath, and then reach out to the current or former employer who issued the form. Most employers provide W-2 forms to their workers by Jan. 31. If you know W-2 forms have already been sent out, your employer might be able to provide you with a duplicate copy. You can also contact the IRS directly for assistance in getting a replacement.
- Can I find my W-2 online?
- Yes, many employers send a digital copy of your W-2, as well as granting digital access to your employee forms, which would include any tax statements.
- Should I be worried if I lost my W-2?
- Losing a W-2 form shouldn't cause you to worry about filing your taxes, as you can reach out to the current or former employer who issued the form, contact the IRS or even check the tax software you filed through for retrieval.
- However, if you suspect your W-2 has fallen into someone else's hands, you might be at risk of identity theft. Take precautions, like signing up for an identity monitoring service, freezing your credit and keeping an eye on your bank accounts.
Sabah Karimi contributed to the reporting for this article.