What Do I Do If I Lost My W-2 & Records to File Income Taxes?

It is possible to file a tax return without a W2.

It is possible to file a tax return without a W2.

As the tax deadline looms closer, stress mounts on CPAs and taxpayers alike. For many individuals, tax time becomes a desperate attempt to make sure you have all the right documents. If you find yourself missing a W-2, 1099 or other relevant document, take a few simple steps to either replace the missing form or file your return without it.

Notify Your Employer

All companies and organizations which have employees or hire independent contractors are required by federal law to issue either a W-2 or a 1099 to those workers on or before January 31 for the previous work year. If you have not received your tax documentation by the middle of February, or if you have misplaced the documents, contact your employer. In most cases, this is the easiest method to replace a lost W-2 or 1099. Companies can reissue a W-2 or 1099 usually within a day or two of the request, depending on corporate internal processing procedures. Similarly, if you are missing documents for any other income, such as gains from investments, contact the appropriate authority to get replacement copies.

Notify the IRS

If you have made attempts to contact your employer regarding the missing tax documentation and have not received the replacement forms, or the company is no longer in business and you have no way of contacting the owners, it's time to notify the IRS to see if it can locate records of the documents. The IRS will need to know the full name of your employer and your dates of employment. You must also provide your contact information, including your name, Social Security number, and a valid phone number. If possible, have your final pay stub of the year handy, which should include your year-to-date income and withholding. This will speed up the IRS investigation process.

File Your Return

Even if you have not received your replacement W-2 or 1099, you should still file your taxes by the filing deadline. For most years, that deadline is April 15. However, if April 15 falls on a weekend or federal holiday, the filing deadline is the next business day. This will prevent you from facing fines and penalties for a late return. You must substitute Form 4852 for the missing W-2 or 1099. You can use the end-of-year pay stub to generate the information requested on this form or, if you make the same amount every paycheck, you can estimate your full-year income and taxes based on earlier pay stubs. Make sure your estimates are as accurate as possible because you will still be responsible if the IRS determines an underpayment was made. If you are missing documents from other income sources, you might be able to estimate your income by looking at monthly or year-end statements.

Extensions and Amended Returns

In the event you are not able to file your tax return by the deadline date, you must file for an extension using Form 4868. This will grant a six-month extension with the new filing deadline of Oct 15. However, if you filed your return by the deadline and later discovered an error, you must file an amended return using Form 1040X. This will allow you to amend your return if you receive your W2 after your initial filing.


About the Author

Based in central Georgia, Louise Bennett has been writing professionally since 1999. Her business, financial and career articles have appeared in hundreds of print and online publications. She received a bachelor’s degree from Columbus State University. An avid reader, Bennett is currently working on her first novel.

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