Can I Do My Taxes without a W-2?

Don't let a late W-2 hold up your tax return.

Don't let a late W-2 hold up your tax return.

If you didn't get a W-2 tax form from an employer, contact your employer to get a copy or check your online workplace portal if you have one. If you still can't get a copy, contact the IRS for help. You're still obligated to file taxes using your own records if you don't get a copy of the form, and you must amend your tax return later if your information turns out to be wrong.

Tip

If you can't get a copy of your W-2 form, you still must file taxes. Use IRS Form 4852 and your own records to indicate your employer, how much you made and how much was withheld for taxes.

Tracking Down a Missing W-2

The W-2 tax form spells out how much you made from your job and how much was withheld for federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare taxes and any state and local taxes. Your employer is required to send it to you each year, and you must file it with your taxes or include the information in your return if you file digitally. If you're an independent contractor, you will likely receive Form 1099-MISC instead.

If you don't receive a W-2 from your employer early in the new year, contact your employer to inquire. You may be able to get a second copy printed at work or mailed to you at home. If you have an online human resources or payroll portal, log in to it to see if your W-2 is available to download or print out. Some tax software can also automatically import W-2 forms from certain payroll processors, so this may be an option as well.

If none of this works, you can contact the IRS for help. The IRS will reach out to your employer on your behalf and remind the company of its obligation to send you the form.

File Taxes Without a W-2

If even contacting the IRS doesn't help you get a copy of the tax form, you still must file your taxes. You can use an IRS form called Form 4852 to replace the missing W-2. You can also use this form if your W-2 is wrong and you can't get your employer to correct it. Enter your employer information, how much you were paid and how much tax was withheld. Often, you can find this information on your last paystub of the year. You can also use this form if you're missing a form saying how much you earned from retirement pay.

You can also ask the IRS for an IRS wage and income transcript, showing any W-2 information furnished to the agency. Unfortunately, these forms may not be available until July, which may be too late to file taxes.

You're also required to indicate on the form what you did to try to obtain your W-2 and how you obtained the data you provided. If you later discover the information you put on Form 4852 or anywhere else on your tax return was incorrect, file an amended tax return. You can do this using IRS Form 1040-X. This form must be filed on paper and mailed to the IRS.

Tax Law Changes for 2018

The tax law changes for 2018 don't affect what to do if you don't receive a W-2 nor do they affect employer obligations to send the form to you. Remember that tax rates are changing for 2018, so if your withholding numbers look different from previous years, they may still be correct.

2017 and Earlier Tax Years

If you are filing an amended return for an earlier year because of a missing W-2 form for 2017 or for any other reason, you should use the tax laws and forms from that tax year to figure out how much tax you owe. Do not use tax forms from 2018 for earlier years.

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About the Author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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