If you had more than one job this year, you hopefully received a timely Form W-2 from each of your employers and filed your taxes accordingly. You should get one W-2 for each job you worked, so if you had two jobs, you'll get two W-2 forms. Life doesn't always go that smoothly, however, so you may have received a W-2 late or simply misplaced one and forgot about it. If so, don't panic. People make honest mistakes on their taxes all the time, and the IRS knows it. You'll have nothing to fear if you catch and fix your mistake promptly.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you forgot about or didn't yet have one of your W-2 forms when you filed your tax return, you can't just wait and add it to your taxes next year. You must instead file an amended return using Form 1040-X.
I Forgot to Add a W-2
The law requires your employer to provide you with a copy of your W-2 by January 31. Sometimes, however, this paperwork gets lost in the mail. Even if you get your W-2 on time, you may get a corrected one after you've filed your taxes. Whatever the reason your W-2 went missing, you need to take action as soon as you receive or find the missing paperwork. Some taxpayers assume that as long as you report your income, it doesn't matter when. However, the federal income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax, and the government expects you to do just that.
As soon as you realize you made a mistake, file an amended tax return using Form 1040-X. This form contains two columns. In one, you will include your tax information as you filed it. In the second column, report the corrected numbers. If you paid less tax than you should have, pay the difference with your amended return. You may have to pay fees and penalties if you're paying the tax late. If the IRS now owes you a bigger refund, they will automatically send it to you after processing your amended return.
When your employer sends a copy of your W-2 to you, he also sends one to the government. This allows the IRS to verify the information that you report when filing your taxes. As a result, the IRS may realize that you forgot to include a W-2 in a tax return. They may catch your mistake before you do. If so, you'll likely receive a letter asking you to file an amended return or clarify why the W-2 wasn't included. In some cases, however, the IRS will fix the mistake for you. In this instance, the IRS will correct your return and automatically adjust your refund or send you a notice explaining what you owe. If the IRS corrects the return for you, you won't have to file a new return unless asked.
If you receive or find a W-2 after you've filed your taxes, remember that your state taxes may need some attention too. Different states have different rules for when and how you must file an amended return, but they all allow you to do so.
Filing an Amended Return in 2018
The IRS gives taxpayers ample time to fix tax mistakes. You have three years from the date you filed your original return to amend it. If you filed your taxes on April 1 of 2018, you have until April 1 of 2021 to file an amended return that includes your missing W-2. In some instances, the deadline is two years after you paid the tax. The IRS will use whichever deadline is later, giving you ample time to fix the mistake.
Filing an Amended 2017 Tax Return
The rules for reporting your W-2 forms and filing amended tax returns did not change between 2017 and 2018. Other tax rules did change, however, and it's important to keep this in mind. Let's say, for example, that you're cleaning out your filing cabinet in 2018. When you do, you come across a 2016 W-2 that got lost in your paperwork, and you realize you failed to report this W-2 when you filed your taxes in 2017 for the 2016 tax year. You still have time to file an amended 2016 tax return, but you must make sure to prepare the return using the tax laws as they were at the time. You would have prepared your 2016 return in the year 2017, so make sure you use the instructions and tax tables printed in 2017 when preparing the corrected return.
- Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. Attach the Form W-2 that has the information you used to file the amended tax return.
- You can only amend a tax return within three years of the filing date for your original return. If you paid tax after the due date, you have two years from that payment to file an amended return.
Michelle earned her accounting degree summa cum laude and has extensive experience in business management and accounting. Entrepreneurship is in her blood, and her work focuses on helping small businesses successfully compete in a big market. Michelle also knows the value of a dollar and enjoys helping readers understand how best to maximize their money and enjoy a healthy financial life. Her work appears Chron's small business site. She has also worked on small business blogs for a national insurance chain.