What Are My Options If I've Lost My W2 Form?

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As the tax deadline gets closer, it becomes a matter of urgency for you as a taxpayer to find all the documents needed to file your returns. Typically, if you're an employee and not a contractor, you need a W2 form. Sometimes you may have switched more than one job within the tax year or when you work more than one job where you're considered an employee. 

So, what happens if you notice that you can't trace your W2 form and the deadline for filing taxes is fast approaching? The first question that may come to mind is, 'I lost my W2 form, what do I do?' Whether you've misplaced it or you haven't received it yet, you don't need to be alarmed in any way. Fortunately, there are several options available for you.

This article acts as a guide on what to do if you've lost your W2 forms. But first, what has the W2 form got to do with filing your taxes, and why do you need it?

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I lost my W2 form. What should I do?

Although the W2 form is a government form, it's the responsibility of employers to complete and deliver the form to their employees. On the other hand, it's the responsibility of the employees to report their income and wages tax withholdings in the federal and state income tax returns. 

As a legal requirement, your employer should send you the form by January 31 to give you enough time to meet the tax filing deadline in April. Your employer should also send a copy of the same form to the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) directly. If you can't trace your W2, the options below exist.

Because you receive tax deductions from your pay stub, you must file taxes every year. The W2 form is a critical document that validates your earnings for the year. Another name for the form is the Wage and Tax Statement, and your employer is most likely to send it to you at the beginning of each year. 

Also read: Getting A Copy Of A Prior Year W2 Form

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Check online

Your first option should be trying to find it through an online portal. Many employers issue their employees with the W2 form electronically. However, that doesn't always mean that they'll email you a copy for your records and use. Because of cybersecurity concerns, they typically send a link to an online service where you can check and download the form on your own.

Unfortunately, you may fail to see the email because it ended up in your spam folder or was sent to an inactive address. Go through your inboxes first, including your spam folder, and see if you can trace the link. If you can't find it and your employer has an online portal for time cards and paychecks, get the login credentials and see if you might be able to access your W2 form from there.

In addition to the employer sending you a copy of the W2 on email, they send a duplicate to the IRS as well. You can use tax software to generate W2 forms from reputable tax software service providers to import your W2 electronically. You'll receive a notification once your W2 form is available, so you can start filing your taxes. 

Also, if you file your tax through the self-prepared tax software, you might be able to get a W2 form for the previous year. That is if you had uploaded and saved a copy in your account. You need to have uploaded a copy to have it saved in your account. Unfortunately, the W2 form and other tax documents don't automatically import each year.

Also read: What is the Form W2?

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Get in touch with your employer

As earlier stated, losing your W2 form shouldn't throw you into panic mode. If the online search fails to bear fruit, you need to get in touch with the employer who has issued you the form. In most cases, the form is sent to you but can get lost due to a change of address or incorrect address.

If they mailed it to the wrong address, there's a possibility that the postman returned it to them and might be able to trace it. In addition, most employers keep a duplicate copy of the form, and so you can make a copy for your use. 

While you're at it, it's advisable to update your address if you've changed residences to avoid instances of having to worry about losing your W2 form again. Update your email address if you've changed that as well.

 

Contact the IRS directly

Maybe your employer can't help employees replacing lost W2 forms because they're out of business or are unresponsive, and you're unable to get a copy from online portals. You still have the question, 'What can I do if I lose my W2 form?' Another option is to get in touch with the IRS directly and request to be issued with a copy of the form. 

However, the IRS recommends using the two previous options until at least the end of February before raising the issue with them. Contacting the IRS immediately you notice that your W2 is missing can lead to a successful location of the form sent to the employer. If it's traced to your employer, you can pick it up from them. 

When using this option, the IRS assumes that you had filed your returns for the previous year. You'll need to get in touch with the Tax Assistance Centre (TAC), a department of the IRS. You should be able to provide the following information:

  • Your name, Social Security Number (SSN), phone number, address, city, state, and zip code  

  • Your employer's information; Name, phone number, and tax ID if it's available.

  • Duration of employment

  • Approximate wages earned during the tax period, withholding tax, and the time worked during the year. You can get these estimates by gathering the information from your last pay stub of the year.

If the IRS can't trace your W2 form sent to the employer, they won't issue you a duplicate copy. Instead, they'll provide a transcript of your income and wages. The transcript contains all the tax information your employer sent to the Social Security Administration for the year prior.

You can get your income and wages transcripts for the previous 10 years as well. It may take up to 10 days from when you submit the request until you receive the transcript.

Also read: A Full Breakdown of W2 And 1099 Filing Specifications

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File your return without a W2 form

What do you do if you lost your W2 form and the above options are unavailable for you? Well, there's still one more option as you can file your tax returns without the W2. As per the IRS requirements, you need to either file your returns or request an extension. If you've contacted the IRS and notified them of your missing W2 form, you'll be required to fill a substitute form 4852. 

You can easily access form 4852 from the IRS website. If you apply for an extension, the form you need to fill in form 4868 allows you around six more months from the April deadline to file your returns. However, an extension is only for filing your tax return forms and not by any means for delaying paying taxes. 

For an extension to be effective, you'll still need to estimate your taxes due and pay the amount promptly. Also, note that you should make your estimates as accurate as possible. You should also note that any tax refunds filed through estimates can take a long time as the IRS needs enough time to verify the information provided against their records.

 

Applying for a transcript of tax return

Sometimes, you only need specific information on your lost W2 form. But what do you do if you lose your W2 form when you only need certain information from it? You'll need to fill out form 4606-T to get a transcript of your earning information. This is your best option when you only need part of the information contained in your W2 form.

You can also use it to request a transcript of your tax returns for employment verification or personal records. The IRS will need you to provide your names as shown on your tax returns, SSN, your current and past addresses.

 

What do I do if I lost my W2 form but find it after filing returns

When you file your tax returns without your W2 form, there's a possibility of misestimating your income. In this case, you need to make corrections on the return. To amend this, you need to file Form 1040X, the Amended US Individual Income Tax Return. Note that amending your tax return can impact your refund.

Also, you might be required to pay an additional payment if your estimated tax is lower than what you owe. The IRS can take up to 16 weeks to reflect the amendment on your tax returns.

Also read: The Complete Checklist To Prepare For The W2 Form Deadline

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Conclusion

You need not worry too much about a lost W2 form, as you can see from the above. There are several options available for you. 

You have the IRS, your employer, and online portals within your reach. You can even ask for an extension to submit the form that allows you up to six months to trace it. You can also estimate your income, file your returns, and amend the same later when you trace the form. 
Remember that your W2 form is different to the pay stubs that employees usually receive. The W-2 form is like a net earnings pay stub for your employee.

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What Are My Options If I've Lost My W2 Form?
Samantha Clark

A Warrington College of Business graduate, Samantha handles all client relations with our top-tier partners. Read More

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