Imagine – you are ready to file your taxes when you realize you do not have all your tax forms. You may be wondering how to file your taxes without a W-2. While there are alternative ways to file your taxes without a W-2, the IRS recommends obtaining a copy of your tax form to file. Keep reading for details on the different steps you can take to retrieve a copy of your W-2 and what your options are if you do end up filing without a W-2.
What is a W-2?
A W-2 is a tax form summarizing an individual’s earnings and taxes withheld throughout the year. Employers typically issue it to their employees by the end of January and it outlines wage and salary details. Whether you are a full-time employee, part-time worker, or even a freelancer withholding taxes throughout the year, receiving the information reported on your W-2 form is necessary for filing income tax returns.
Learn more: What is a W-2 Tax Form? Here’s What it Means
If your employer doesn’t send you a W-2 by the Jan. 31st deadline, you have several options for how to obtain a copy of your W-2 and how to file taxes without a W-2:
1. Contact your employer
First, reach out to your employer to request a copy of your W-2 if it hasn’t arrived by the end of January. If they can’t find it, they can usually request it from their payroll provider. This is also an excellent time to verify your employer has your correct address on file.
2. Access a copy of your wage transcript
If you cannot contact your employer or if they can’t find your W-2, you can request one from the IRS. Depending on the time of year, the IRS may have your federal wage information in the form of a wage transcript. This alternative tax document allows you to file taxes without a W-2 as it provides the same information reported on your original form.
Accessing a copy of your wage transcript from the IRS is a straightforward process that can be done online. Visit the IRS Online Account to get your tax records.
The IRS will verify your identity to ensure the security of your information. After completing the verification process, you can view, download, and print your wage transcript directly from the website. You may also refer to Topic No. 154 for more information regarding what to do if you are missing your income forms.
3. Contact the IRS
Suppose your wage transcript is not available online. Consider contacting an IRS representative directly to file a W-2 complaint. This will allow the IRS to:
a) Send a letter to your employer requesting they provide the W-2 AND
b) Send a letter to you with instructions for Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement
You can call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 or make an appointment to visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC). Have the following information on hand before calling or visiting the TAC office to help expedite the process:
- Your employer’s or payer’s name and complete address including ZIP code
- Your name, address including ZIP code, and social security number
4. Fill out Form 4852,Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement
If you are still unable to get a copy, you can still file your taxes without your W-2! As mentioned above, the IRS offers Form 4852 as an alternative to Form W-2. You can use this form to estimate your income and tax withholding percentage and file your return.
Reference your last paystub of the calendar year to fill out the form. If you fill out this form and then eventually receive your W-2, you will likely be required to file an amended return to update your return with the most accurate figures.
TaxSlayer makes it easy to file taxes without a W-2. Our step-by-step guide shows you where to enter Form 4852 using TaxSlayer.
Read also: Do You Need to File an Amended Return?
5. File for an extension on time to file
You may be in a position where you know your W-2 is on the way, but you won’t receive it in time to file by the tax deadline. In this case, you can file Form 4868 for an extension on the tax filing deadline.
The most important thing to note about Form 4868 is that it is an extension on the time to file, not time to pay. If you file for an extension on the filing deadline, you should still estimate your taxes and pay your anticipated tax bill by the tax deadline.
If you don’t expect a tax bill, filing an extension may be advantageous. This would allow you time to collect your tax forms, file with the most accurate numbers, and avoid filing an amended return. See if filing a tax extension is right for you.
Can I get my W-2 directly from my payroll provider?
Most likely not. For legal reasons, payroll providers are not allowed to discuss sensitive personal information unless you are considered an authorized person on the company’s account.
How do I get my W-2 if my employer went out of business?
If your employer is no longer in business, contact them anyway. They may be able to receive tax information from their former payroll provider.
My former employer was acquired by another company. Who has my W-2?
If you transitioned to the new company through the acquisition, the new company would take on the responsibility of your former employer. The new company will issue a W-2 that reflects the entire year. If you left prior to the acquisition, your former employer will be responsible for issuing your W-2.
If you do not receive a W-2 from either company, you should contact the new company to inquire about the next steps. The reporting responsibility may vary depending on the acquisition agreements.
In either circumstance, both organizations would have had quarterly reporting requirements to the IRS. If both companies are unable to provide you with the form, contact the IRS to make a formal request for tax documents.
Do I get an automatic extension if my W-2 is not delivered on time?
Unfortunately, even if your W-2 was not delivered on time, you are still responsible for requesting an extension by the tax deadline (typically Apr. 15th). Filing an extension gives you more time to complete your return (typically due Oct. 15th). If you are waiting for your W-2 or other forms and the tax deadline is approaching, filing an extension is most likely your wisest option.