What to Do About a Lost W-2?

It’s tax season. April 15th, the deadline for submitting individual tax returns, is around the corner. And while you can submit right up until the deadline, there are a few documents you should be collecting. School documents, business receipts, charitable donation records, and of course, (unless you’re a contractor or business owner) the all-important W2. 

What is a W2 Form?

Form W2 is the basis of your taxes. It records your income received from your employer throughout the year, as well as the taxes that your employer has kept from each of your paychecks and sent to the IRS already. This information determines whether you’ll receive a refund or a bill. It’s a pretty important document, to say the least, and any tax return filed with a missing W2 is incomplete — which can result in some hefty penalty fees. 

You can still file your taxes on time with the Form 4852, which is a substitute for a lost W2. You’ll have to estimate your yearly earnings from your final pay stub (if you’re missing that too, use Check Stub Maker’s paystub generator tool) Be careful! Filling out Form 4852 instead of a lost W2 can be tricky and, if you do it incorrectly, it may result in headaches or penalty fees.

I Lost My W2! Now What? 

You’ve got a missing W2. You’re wondering, “how can I get a copy of my W2 if I lost it?” Breathe a sigh of relief; you didn’t have the only copy. How you go about rectifying the slip up depends on what went wrong. There are a few ways this can happen: You could have simply lost your mailed paper copy (your fault), maybe you never received it in the first place (maybe your employers fault) or you’re filing for a past year and didn’t keep records (understandable, but also your fault – you should hang on to your tax documents!).

How Can I Get a Copy of My W2 If I Lost It? 

First things first, contact your employer. They can often immediately send you another copy, which you can then use to file your taxes. If your employer refuses, or for some reason can’t resend your W2, you should contact the IRS directly and request a copy of the form. Your employer is required to send all their employees’ tax information directly to the IRS. This means that while yes, the IRS already has your form W2, you still must file your own taxes. Luckily you can request that the IRS send you their copy, which you can use for filing. 

How Can I Get a Copy of My W2 If I Never Received It? 

Your lost W2 isn’t due to forgetfulness, you just never received it! If you didn’t receive a W2, it’s best to first cover your bases before throwing blame at your employer or the government. The IRS doesn’t care why your form W2 went missing, it is your responsibility to find it and submit your return on time. 

First, check to see if it was mailed or delivered online. If you were expecting it in the mail, check your email inbox. If you were expecting a digital copy, check the post. 

Ask your employer what method it was sent by. While you’re talking with them, double-check that it was sent to the correct address. This is really important, as having an incorrect address on a lost W2 form can put you at risk of identity theft and fraudulent returns. 

If you go through these steps and find that your employer simply never sent you your return, confront them about it and request that they send it quickly. If they refuse to comply after the IRS-mandated deadline, you can submit a complaint with the IRS and your employer will have to deal with them. 

Sometimes, businesses have gone bankrupt and simply never send you your tax documents even though you worked with them that year. If your lost W2 is not likely to find its way into your mailbox, you can always request your missing W2 directly from the IRS. 

What If I’m Filing for a Past Tax Year and Didn’t Keep My W2? 

Not keeping tax records was your first mistake, but we don’t need to dwell on the past. Again, your first option should be contacting your employer about your lost W2, but if you no longer have a way of contacting your old employer, or if they are out of business, don’t worry. Even for filing back taxes, the IRS can provide you with your tax documents for any year you worked, provided your employer was doing things right and submitted your tax information that year. 

When you contact the IRS, you will need to use form 4506-T (Request For Transcript of Tax Return) in order to get your information from that year. That’s right, a form for requesting forms. It is the IRS after all. Once you’ve received your previously missing w2 for that year, you’ll be able to backfile that tax return and square up with the IRS.

When you contact the IRS, they are going to request several things to verify your identity— including your name, address, social security number, dates of employment, and an estimate of wages that you’ve earned from a final pay stub. If you’ve lost your pay stubs from the year in question feel free to use Check Stub Maker’s pay stub generator to estimate your yearly income and tax withholdings. 

File on Time – or File for an Extension

The IRS is a very rigorous institution, but it can be a helpful one, too. If it is really looking like you won’t have your documents on time, you can file for an extension. It’s called Form 4868, and it will automatically give you an extra six months to fill out your tax return. Don’t put your credit in trouble over a lost W2. The best option is to find and use your official W2. Then it’s using the replacement 4852 form to estimate what your W2 would have said. But at the very least, don’t file late. Simply file for an extension to get more time. 

Remember: When you’re requesting a W2 form (or any other form for that matter) the IRS will request estimates of both how much you earned in pay for the year as well as how much was withheld in taxes. You can use Checkstubmaker to create a final paystub and get a highly accurate estimate of both how much you earned and how much your employer would have deducted in taxes. Good luck! 

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