What To Do If Your W-2 is Incorrect or You Don't Receive It

Here are the steps the IRS says you should take if your Form W-2 is incorrect or you don't receive it.

By , J.D. · USC Gould School of Law
Updated by Amy Loftsgordon, Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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.

So, what should you do if you don't get your W-2 by January 31, or it contains incorrect information? Don't worry, this problem is common. The IRS has a three-step approach you should follow.

What Is an IRS W-2 Form?

Again, a W-2 Form summarizes your annual earnings and taxes withheld for federal, state, and local governments. You need this form to complete your tax return. Failure to receive a W-2 from your employer doesn't excuse you from filing your income tax return, nor does it extend the deadline for filing.

Is It Possible for My Employer to Mess Up My W-2?

Yes, it's possible for your employer to mess up your W-2 or neglect to send it. Some employers are bad at bookkeeping, or your employer might have gone out of business or been acquired by another firm. If you moved, your employer might not have your new address.

What to Do if You Receive an Incorrect W-2 Form or Don't Receive It

Here's what the IRS says to do if you get an incorrect W-2 form or you don't receive it.

Step #1: Contact Your Employer

If you find errors on your W-2, contact your employer's payroll or human resources department, tell them about the problem, and ask them to issue you a corrected W-2. Your employer should correct errors on Form W-2 and send a W-2C, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement form as quickly as possible. Tell your employer to send you the W-2 by the end of February at the latest.

Similarly, if you haven't received your W-2 form by the end of January, contact your employer to ask about its status. The W-2 might have been lost in the mail or your employer might have overlooked you when preparing or distributing W-2s. Ask your employer to reissue the W-2 form or tell you how to get it electronically.

Step #2: Call the IRS

If you don't receive the missing or corrected W-2 form from your employer by the end of February, you may call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or make an appointment at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. The IRS will send a letter to your employer requesting that they furnish the missing W-2 within ten days. This tactic often works because most employers take letters 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 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. For this reason, it's a good idea to always save your pay stubs.

Again, even if you don't have a W-2 form and need to file Form 4852, you must file your taxes by the deadline, typically April 15th. Note that when filing a Form 4852 instead of a Form W-2, there might be a delay in the IRS processing your refund while they verify the information you provided.

How Do I Correct My W-2 After Filing?

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. If you're owed a refund, it might be delayed.

Can I Sue a Company for Messing Up My W-2?

Any legal action against an employer for failing to provide a W-2 or providing an incorrect W-2 would typically involve labor or tax authorities rather than filing an individual lawsuit. If by the end of February, your employer hasn't corrected your W-2 or you haven't received it, you can ask an IRS representative to initiate a Form W-2 complaint. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040.

How Do I Get My W-2 From the IRS?

The quickest way to obtain a copy of your current year Form W-2 is through your employer. If you can't get it from your employer and you previously attached it to your paper tax return, you can order a copy of the full return from the IRS, though you'll have to pay a fee. Use Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return.

You can also use Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. Check the box for Form W-2 and specify which tax year you need. Again, if you need a copy of Form W-2, you should first contact your employer.

Also, visit the IRS Get Your Tax Record page to learn about accessing certain kinds of tax records and information online.

Get More Information About Incorrect or Missing W-2s

To learn more, read the following on the IRS website:

Talk to a Tax Pro

If you need more help because your W-2 is incorrect or missing, talk to a tax professional, such as a certified public accountant or a tax attorney. A tax professional can prepare tax returns and provide tax information, guidance, or representation before the IRS.

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