First Person: I Didn't Get My W-2. Now What?

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January 31 has come and gone, and the due date for employers and payers to send out your earning statements has passed. The IRS directs payers to mail out their W-2s and 1099 statements by the end of January, but what happens if they don't?

I'm ready to file my taxes, but I'm waiting for that one last W-2. Weeks are going by, and now I'm well into February and it still has not shown up in my mailbox. What should I do?

Good questions. First, contact your employer. This would seem to be the most logical step, but many taxpayers I speak to have not yet brought this to the attention of their employer. Before the IRS can step in and assist, your employer needs to have the opportunity to correct the matter.

Perhaps your W-2 was mailed, but the address your employer or payroll department has for you is incorrect. Ask your employer to provide you with a copy of your W-2 and allow a reasonable amount of time for your employer to do so.

A word of caution here. Your employer should only be providing you with a copy. Resending another set of W-2s to Social Security will cause a duplicate condition, and, in some cases, it will appear to the IRS that you made double the amount you actually reported. An inadvertent audit could be triggered.

OK, I've called my employer, perhaps multiple times, but my employer still did not provide me with a W-2. It's after February 14; now what? Now it's time to call the IRS. The number you want is 1-800-829-1040. When you contact the IRS, you will need the following:

- Your name, Social Security number, complete address and date of birth

- Your employer's name, address and phone number

- An estimation of your gross earnings and the amount withheld for Federal income tax. Use the year-to-date information from your last paystub, if available.

The IRS will then contact your employer and advise them of their obligation to send you the required earning statement. The IRS will also send you a Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

If your employer still does not comply by mailing out your W-2, and your tax return is due, use Form 4852. Do not wait to file your return and allow the due date to lapse.

The 4852 asks that you estimate all of the information that would be on your W2, including total wages, Social Security and Medicare wages, Federal and state withholding. Attach the form to your 1040.

What if I use this form, and then later I get my W-2 and the information is different?

The instructions for the form 4852 address this:

If you receive a Form W-2, Form W-2c, or Form 1099-R after your return is filed with Form 4852, and the information differs from the information reported on your return, you must amend your return by filing Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

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