There are a select few people (mostly those who are expecting a tax refund) that submit their tax returns as early as possible. While the rest of us wait for the last minute panic in mid-April (the usual deadline to file taxes) these individuals chase the earliest date you can file, at the end of January. Unfortunately for these worm-chasing early birds, there are certain forms required to file, and there’s little guarantee you’ll have them on the first day of tax season.
The All-Important W2 (or 1099, or K-2)
Most regular employees will need Form W2 to file their taxes. Form W2 simply states your income for the year, as well as what taxes your employer has paid on your behalf, and what they’ve deposited into tax-advantaged accounts like a 401(k) or IRA. Simply put, A W2 tells you how much you earned, and how much you’ve paid in taxes. It has all the information the IRS needs to decide if you’ll receive a refund, or need to pay further taxes.
Self-employed individuals use Form 1099 for this process. It’s similar in that it shows income and withholdings, but a self-employed independent contractor receives a 1099 from each client they serviced throughout the year. If someone is in a partnership, they receive a similar form called Form K-2. These self-employed individuals typically receive these documents around the same time as the Form W2, right at the beginning of tax season.
Great! But When Should I Get My W2?
Employers are required to send your W2 form by January 31st. However, if the business you work for is sending them through snail mail, it could be 10 business days before you receive the copy of your W2. It could take until the second week of February to arrive, soundly defeating your first-day-of-tax-season enthusiasm.
If you want to receive your W2 as quickly as possible, ask if they have an online method of access. This could be as simple as having them email the form to you, or posting it in the same portal they use to manage payroll. Online options are quicker and just as reliable.
It’s Mid-February – What Do I Do If I Still Haven’t Received My W2?
If it’s the 10th of February, it could still be in the mail. If it’s the 17th, not as likely. If you’re concerned about your W2 arriving, check with your employer and verify that it was sent. Also double-check the address it was sent to, and confirm they had the correct information on file. (This is typically the same address shown on your pay stubs.) If they had the correct address, ask them to resend it, through an online format if possible.
If your employer is not cooperating or responding to your requests, things get a little more serious. You should assume the best; most misplaced W2s are simple clerical errors, not an attempt to block you from filing that year’s taxes. However, if after repeated attempts they still are not providing you your tax document, you can contact the IRS. Businesses know when W2s are due, and they should also know that they can be seriously fined for not providing their employees’ tax documents on time.
In the meantime, you should submit Form 4506. This is a request for your tax return, and the IRS will send you the W2 they have on file for you. This will let you file your taxes even if your employer misplaced your tax information. This is all in an extreme case, and it won’t usually come down to these measures.
Wondering when W2s get sent out is perfectly normal for an early-filer, but rest assured that no matter what, you’ll be able to get your taxes done.