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).
Check Employee Portals and Tax Providers
Check your company's online employee portal, as many companies allow you to view and download your W-2 straight from the portal. The University of Colorado, for example, simply requires employees to login, head to the "Resources" tab and then click on "My Info and Pay" to view and download the W-2.
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You can also check with certain tax preparation companies. For example, Intuit TurboTax is able to pull up W-2s from any company they partner with.
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.
Consider Also: W-2 Forms: What It Is, Who Gets One & How It Works
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.
Consider Also: Who Must File Income Taxes?
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 along with your employer's information. You must file your return even if you never receive your W-2. To obtain a replacement form from the IRS, file Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax statement.
You can estimate your income and withholding using your final pay stub and this substitute form. You may experience a delay in getting any refund due while the IRS verifies the information.
File an Amended Return
If you receive your lost 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.