If you’re gathering your financial documents for the 2017 tax deadline, you might be panicking if you haven’t received a W-2 form from your employer. But you don’t need to fret just yet. You have a few easy ways to access your missing W-2 — or you can go ahead and file your taxes without it. Here’s what to do if you lost your W-2 and are worried about the tax deadline.
Help — I Lost My W-2 Form!
The W-2 is the only form that validates how much income you earned from your employer in the previous calendar year. This form, also known as the Wage and Tax Statement, is sent at the beginning of each calendar year for the previous year — usually by Jan. 31 — so that you have plenty of time to file your tax return by the tax filing deadline. Both you and the IRS get a copy of this form directly from your employer. You can also get your W-2 online.
But what happens if you have a lost W-2 form for the 2016 tax year? The IRS suggests the following:
- Reach out to your employer or former employer. Ask your employer for a copy of your 2016 W-2 because they are legally required to provide you with one by Jan. 31 for the previous calendar year. Verify that your address information is up to date. As for how to get a W-2 from a previous employer, you should follow the same process; contact your former employer to request your W-2 and provide them with your current address.
- Contact the IRS. Reach out to the IRS directly to share an estimate of total wages paid, any federal income tax withheld and contact information if you don’t have a copy of your W-2 forms. You can use your pay stub to calculate these amounts. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and provide the following:
- Name, address, Social Security number and phone number
- Employer’s name, address and phone number
- Dates you worked for the employer
- Estimate of wages and federal income tax withheld
- File anyway — on time. Your tax return is due by midnight on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. If you don’t get your W-2 from your employer in time to file before the tax deadline, you can use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to file taxes without W-2 forms. You’ll need to estimate your wages and taxes withheld as accurately as possible. Your tax return might be delayed while the IRS verifies your estimates, so be prepared for that delay if you’re filing with a missing W-2 and are expecting a refund check this year.
You also have the option to apply for a six-month extension to file your federal tax return. If you think your employer will send the W-2 form soon, you can use Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to request an extension. Doing this can give you more time to pull everything together with the right IRS tax forms so the IRS receives accurate information.
As long as you file your request by midnight on April 18, you won’t be charged a penalty. If you need to file an amended tax return to make a correction, you’ll need to use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
How Do I Find My Lost W-2 Form Online?
In addition to working with the IRS and your employer, you can take steps to search for your W-2 information electronically. Here’s how to get your W-2 online:
- Rapid Tax: This is the authorized IRS e-file provider and also offers free access to W-2 forms online. You can download your W-2 and send it along with your 1040 form as usual.
- Tax Form Management: Formerly known as W-2 Management from TALX, this outsourced service automates the W-2 process. Tax Form Management can print and distribute original statements and also reissue W-2s. As long as your employer is listed in the system, you’ll be able to locate your W-2 by searching for your employer’s name or code. Enter the corresponding ID number and submit it along with your personal information, including the gross amount of your last paycheck. You can then log in to view and print out your W-2.
- Your employer’s intranet: You can check with your employer to see if they’ve set up online access to payroll information, including tax forms and W-2s. You can also find your W-2 online by logging into your company’s payroll portal, if available. Payroll service providers like ADP, Paychex, Intuit and Ceridian, for example, make employee W-2s available online.
If you still want a hard copy, you can get a printable W-2 form from these online sources, too.
Where Can I Find the Tax Forms I Need to File My Taxes?
Now that you know where to find the information you need to file and who to call, here are all the forms mentioned in this article. You can use these forms to ensure your taxes are filed before the April 18 tax deadline.
|If You Want to…||Then You Need…|
|File your tax return with your W-2||Form 1040|
|Use a substitute tax form until you get your W-2||Form 4852|
|File an amended tax return||Form 1040X|
|File for an extension||Form 4868|
Even if your employer hasn’t sent your W-2 form to you on time, you still need to file your taxes by the deadline. Check with your employer first to see if the form is on its way, needs to be reissued or if you can access it online. Otherwise, follow IRS guidelines to file your taxes with a substitute tax form or request an extension so you can file with the original W-2 when you receive it.
Find Out: 50 Tax Write-Offs You Don’t Know About
Jamie Young contributed to the reporting for this article.