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Haven’t Received Your Form W-2 Yet? Take These Steps

Your employer should be your first point of contact if your W-2 is late. But if you can’t get ahold of them, you can reach out to the IRS for help.
Tina Orem
Kay Bell
By Kay Bell and  Tina Orem 
Edited by Robert Beaupre Reviewed by Raquel Tennant

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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.

Keep in mind that if you work for a company as a freelancer or an independent contractor, you’ll receive a 1099 form detailing how much you were paid during the year, not a W-2.

When do companies send out W-2s?

Federal law requires employers to send W-2s to workers by Jan. 31 each year, or the next business day 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.

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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 mailbox, 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 your efforts to get a copy from your employer have proved fruitless, it's time to get the IRS involved. Call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 or visit a local taxpayer assistance center (TAC)

Internal Revenue Service. Taxpayer Assistance Center Office Locator. Accessed Jan 8, 2024.
. 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 and request the missing W-2.

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5. File taxes without a W-2

Filing taxes 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 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

If you want to wait for your official W-2, you may need to request more time to file your tax return. Filing Form 4868 will give you an automatic six-month extension to file your 1040. All taxpayers can request an extension online using the IRS’ Free File service

Internal Revenue Service. IRS Free File: Do your Taxes for Free. Accessed Jan 8, 2024.

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 W-2 arrives after you've filed your taxes, you can amend your tax return to reflect the accurate amount.

More from tax filing resources:

Take a look at the 2023-2024 federal tax rates and brackets.

You might have a state tax return to file this year, too.

IRS Free File, MilTax and VITA are just a few options for free tax prep.

See our picks 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.

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