Employers are supposed to provide all their employees with a copy of a completed IRS Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, by January 31. This form is used to report wages, tips, and other employee compensation to the IRS and state tax agencies, as well as the amount of employee Social Security and income tax withheld. You need this form to complete your tax return.
What should you do if you don't get your W-2 by January 31 or it contains information that is wrong? Don't worry, this is a common problem. Some employers have lousy bookkeeping, or your employer may have gone out of business or been acquired by another firm. The IRS has a three-step approach you should follow.
Step #1: Contact Employer
First, you should contact your employer, tell them about the problem, and ask them to issue you a new or corrected W-2. Tell them that they should issue the W-2 by February 14 at the latest.
Step #2: Call the IRS
If you do not receive the missing or corrected W-2 form by February 14 from your employer, you may call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and ask for assistance. After February 14, the IRS will contact the employer for you and request the missing W-2. This often does the trick, since most employers take phone calls from the IRS seriously.
Before you call the IRS, be prepared to provide the following information:
- your name, address, and phone number
- your Social Security number
- the dates of your employment, and
- your employer/payer's name, address, and phone number.
Step #3: Use IRS Form 4852 to File Your Return
If you still don't receive the W-2 you need from your employer, you may prepare a substitute W-2 yourself to file with your tax return. To do this, you must complete and file with your return IRS Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2 or Form 1099-R. The IRS automatically sends you a copy of this form along with a letter containing instructions when you make a phone call as described in Step #2 above.
To complete Form 4852, you'll need to list your total wages, tips, and other compensation you received from the employer, as well as the amount of taxes it withheld from your pay and sent to the IRS. You can use your pay stubs to figure this out.
If you receive the missing or corrected Form W-2 after you filed your return and you discover you made a mistake on your Form 4852 that you need to correct, you'll need to file an amended tax return for the year using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.