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You’re ready to file your taxes — except for one thing: You’re still awaiting an IRS Form W-2 from an employer.
Each January, companies issue W-2s to inform workers, and Uncle Sam, of the amount of money the worker made during the previous year and how much in income, Social Security and Medicare tax was withheld. If you file without all of your W-2s, it could delay processing of your return — and the arrival of any refund.
Federal law requires employers to send W-2s to workers by Jan. 31 each year, or a few days later if the end of the month falls on a weekend. If you're still waiting on your earnings statement, here are six steps you can take.
1. Check your calendar
If you’re expecting a refund, you probably want it as soon as possible. But technically, your employer meets the Jan. 31 delivery date requirement as long as it gets your W-2 in the mail by Jan. 31. If your company didn't drop your W-2 into a U.S. Postal Service box until the very last day of the month, it could still be on its way to you during the first days of February.
2. Search your email
Many companies now give workers electronic access to company documents, including tax statements. While most won't actually email your W-2 because of security concerns, they will send you an email notice that you can go to the company's employee portal and download your earnings statement. If that message hasn’t appeared in your inbox, check your spam folder.
3. Call your company
If you’re well into February and there's still no W-2 in your email or mail box, it's time to touch base with your company's payroll or human resources department. Your employer might have the wrong address for you and your W-2 may have bounced back as undeliverable. In that case, correcting your address and asking your employer to reissue the document can solve the problem.
4. Contact the IRS
If you find yourself deep into February without your W-2, it's time to get the IRS involved. If your efforts to get a copy from your employer have proved fruitless, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 or visit a local taxpayer assistance center (TAC). During that call or visit, you'll need:
Your name, address, phone number and Social Security number.
Your employer's name, address and phone number.
The dates you worked for the employer.
An estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld last year. Your last pay stub of the tax year should have these amounts.
With this information, the IRS will contact your workplace about the missing tax document.
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5. File without a W-2
Filing without a W-2 will slow down the processing of your return, but that might be preferable to waiting for your company to get you another copy.
It's also an option if your employer went out of business and you can't track it down to request W-2 data. In this case, you can submit a Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, with your return. This document asks you to estimate your wages and taxes withheld last year. Again, your final pay stub can help provide these figures.
6. Request more time to file
An extension only gives you more time to file your tax forms. It is not an extension to pay any tax you owe. You must estimate how much tax you owe and include that amount with Form 4868. Interest and penalties may apply if you pay less than what you actually owe, so take your estimate seriously.
Regardless of which approach you take, file your return or extension request by the tax-filing deadline. If your official earnings statement arrives after you've filed your taxes, you can amend your tax return to reflect the accurate amount.
More from tax-filing resources:
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IRS Free File, MilTax, and VITA are just a few options for free tax prep.
See our picks for this year and how much they cost.
See what forms you have to fill out and what an extension really gets you.
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See how these retirement plans can cut your tax bill.