There may be times during your career, or when you're working on past personal finance situations, when you need to see a Form W-2 you filed for a particular year. You can contact your former employer or the IRS, or use an online search service. Reviewing how to get old W-2s will help you get the information you need in a timely matter to settle any issues you have.
Consider Also: W-2 Forms: What It Is, Who Gets One & How It Works
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W-2s and 1099s
If you work as an employee, your employer will issue you a W-2 with your previous year's wage and tax information on it. If you work as a contractor, gig worker, freelancer or sole proprietor, one or more of your clients will issue you a Form 1099-NEC covering any money you earned the previous year.
A W-2 lists your gross pay (before any taxes or deductions are taken out) and any taxes and other deductions. Your taxes will include your FICA, state and federal income taxes. Your deductions might include health care and retirement benefits.
A 1099-NEC is a statement of the gross pay you received from a client. Clients do not take any taxes out of what they pay you. For example, if you agree to do IT work for a local small business during the year and charge them $2,400, they'll issue you a 1099 for $2,400. You are responsible for paying all of your taxes on that.
Types of Taxes on W-2s
When you work as an employee, you fill out a Form W-4 when you begin your time at the company. This tells the business how much money to deduct from your paychecks.
You'll see a FICA deduction of 7.65 percent of your gross salary. That goes toward paying your Social Security and Medicare taxes. Your employer will match that amount. You'll also see deductions for federal and state taxes (if you live in a state with state income tax).
When you receive certain (tax-free) retirement and health care benefits from an employer, or sign up for and have certain tax-free voluntary benefits deducted from your paycheck, you'll reduce your tax payments. If you are self-employed, you will pay the entire 15.3 percent of your Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Consider also: Form 1040: What You Need to Know
How to Get Old W-2s
The first – and probably quickest – step for how to get a copy of your W-2 is to contact your previous employer. Tell them what you need, the year for which you need the W-2 provided, your full name and any other information they ask for. If the company has closed or tells you they won't or can't give you a copy of the old W-2, or say it will take too long, do an online search for your W-2.
Companies like TurboTax, ADP and H&R Block offer online search options. This is especially helpful if you're working after hours or weekends and want your W-2 sooner than later. You'll need to fill out information such as the employer's name, your Social Security number and full name. If you use one of these services to do or file your taxes, they might have phone customer service reps to help you.
The surest step for how to find old W-2s is to contact the IRS. You will need to submit Form 4506-T. You can get old W-2s generally up to six years old. You can also request a copy of the income tax return you filed for that year, as well. However, this can take weeks or more than a month to receive.