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

IRS Form W-2 spells out how much your employer paid you over the course of the year and how much was withheld for different types of taxes. If you lose your W-2, ask your employer for another copy or see if it’s available through an online system. If you never received the form, contact your employer for help and contact the IRS if you still can’t get a copy of the W-2. If you can’t get a W-2 by the tax deadline, apply for an extension or fill out Form 4852 with your tax return.

I Lost My W-2

If you lose your W-2 form, you can often get another copy from your employer. Contact your human resources department or whoever usually handles payroll, benefits and tax matters and explain the situation. You may be able to receive a physical or electronic copy of the form in person or by email or have another copy mailed to your address of record.

In some cases, you are able to access your W-2 form online through an HR or payroll portal site. If so, you can usually download and print as many copies of the form as you need. Some tax prep software may also be able to automatically import your W-2 form from your employer’s payroll system. It’s generally a good idea to set tax forms aside in a safe place when you receive them.

The IRS also receives a copy of your W-2, and you may be able to ask the IRS to get a transcript of the form to you. Unfortunately, it may not be available in time for the typical April tax deadline.

If you’ve already filed your taxes and have lost the W-2 or other tax forms that you want for your records, you can ask the IRS for a transcript of your return. You will usually have to pay a fee for this service. If you filed online or used a commercial tax preparer, you may be able to get copies of your forms through the tax prep service.

If You Never Receive It

In some cases, you might not receive a W-2 form from your employer. The form could get lost in the mail, an employer could neglect to send it or it could be omitted due to a clerical error.

If this happens, contact your employer for help. You should receive a copy of the form either physically or electronically by the end of February. If you don’t receive the form or you get one from your employer that you know from your records isn’t correct and you can’t resolve the situation on your own, contact the IRS for help. The IRS can contact your employer to ask for a copy.

If you still don’t receive the form, you can ask for an extension if you think it is forthcoming, but you’ll ultimately have to file your return without it if it never arrives. Use IRS Form 4852 and your records of how much you were paid to substitute for the missing W-2 form. Your last paycheck of the year often has the information you’ll need to fill out Form 4852.

If you later discover that the information you put on Form 4852 is incorrect, you should amend your return using IRS Form 1040-X. That form must be filed on paper, not electronically. See the form’s instructions for details.

Tax Year 2018

Various aspects of the tax law have changed for the 2018 tax year, but rules regarding W-2 forms are not among them. Remember that tax rates are changing, though, so if your withholding on your W-2 seems off compared to other years, that may be the reason why.

Tax Year 2017 and Earlier

If you need to amend tax returns for previous years due to a delayed W-2 or for any other reason, remember that the pre-2018 tax tables and other rules still apply to those years, even if you’re amending your return in 2018 or a later year.

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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 and was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism