If you had any significant income for the year, the law requires you to file a tax return. But it can be difficult or impossible to file a tax return if you are missing some key documents such as a W-2 form from an employer. Fortunately, there are a couple of workarounds to the problem. You can get a replacement form from your employer; you can use your final pay stub to approximate your income and withholding for the year; or you can request a replacement form from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Get a New W-2
Your employer has until Jan. 31 to mail W-2 forms for the previous year. So if it's not Jan. 31 yet, don't worry. Your form may be on the way. But if Jan. 31 comes and goes, along with a reasonable time for mail transit, you may need to contact your employer. Some employers will email you a digital copy of your W-2. Others will put it up on a secure website. In other cases, you will have to contact your supervisor or human resources office for a replacement form.
Use Your Final Pay Stub
If your tax situation is simple, you may be able to find the information you need on your final pay stub for the year. This stub should list your gross earnings for the calendar year, along with any taxes withheld for Social Security, Medicare and federal and state income taxes. It may also list how much was withheld from your check to pay for health insurance and Section 125 plans, or cafeteria plans. This may be enough for you to estimate your tax liability, if any, and file a return. The IRS already has your W-2 form on file, which it should have received from your employer. Meanwhile, you can gain time by filing for an automatic extension of the deadline to file your income tax return.
Use a Substitute Form
If you have not received your W-2 form by Feb. 16, you should call the IRS at 800-829-1040. You will need to provide your name, address, phone and Social Security Number. You will need to provide your employer's information as well. You must file your return even if you never receive your W-2. To obtain a replacement form from the IRS, file a form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax statement. Estimate your income and withholding using the method outlined in Step 2. You may experience a delay in getting any refund due while the IRS verifies the information.
File an Amended Return
If you receive your W-2 after you file your return, you can easily amend your return with the more up-to-date information by filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. If you underpaid taxes, there may be a small penalty. However, you will not be penalized for filing a late return if you use Form 4852 and file your return by the deadline.