How to Prepare Taxes With Your Last Pay Stub

Use your pay stub to file your taxes if you don't have a W-2.

Use your pay stub to file your taxes if you don't have a W-2.

A W-2 is that little piece of paper your employer sends you each January so you can document your earnings on your tax return. W-2s sometimes go missing, but you don’t need to worry. The Internal Revenue Service has a form for you to use in that situation. With the correct form and your last pay stub of the year, you can still prepare and file your tax return.

Form 4852

If you don’t receive a W-2 in time to prepare your taxes, or if the W-2 is lost, damaged or incorrect, you can download IRS Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, from the IRS website. On the pay stub from your final paycheck of the year, you must locate entries for your year-to-date wages, payroll taxes withheld, and related information. Use this information to complete Form 4852.

File Your Return

Once you’ve completed Form 4852, prepare your tax return just as you would if you had the missing W-2. Sign Form 4852 and attach it to your tax return. File your return by the deadline, which is usually April 15, to avoid a late filing penalty. If you just can’t get everything ready in time due to the missing W-2 or for some other reason, go to the IRS website and file for an automatic six-month extension.

Amended Return

When and if the missing W-2 turns up or your employer sends you a replacement, compare it to the information from your last pay stub that you entered on Form 4852. If there is a discrepancy and you owe more in taxes or are due a larger refund, you must file an amended tax return using IRS Form 1040-X.

Replacement W-2

The easiest solution for a missing W-2 isn’t to use your last pay stub. The best option is to get a replacement W-2 if you can. The IRS directs taxpayers to contact their employer immediately if you have not gotten a W-2 by January 31 and ask for a replacement. If the replacement does not arrive by February 14, contact the IRS. Provide your name and Social Security number along with your dates of employment. You also need to provide your employer’s name, address, phone number and employer identification number. The IRS will send a letter to your employer requesting that you be given a replacement W-2.


About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

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