How to Obtain the Past Year's W-2 from the IRS

Filing your taxes requires submitting your W2 tax form. Your employer should provide you with this form by the end of January of the present tax year. If you haven’t received a copy of your W2 from your employer, you can obtain the past year’s tax form from the IRS.

Obtaining an IRS W2

You can obtain a copy of your W2 online, or the amount your employer reported to the Social Security Administration, by using the IRS’ Get Transcript service. To register, you will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, filing status and date of birth. You must also give the IRS access to your email account and a mobile phone number which has your name on the account. You’ll also need to provide a personal account number from either a credit card or some type of loan, including a mortgage, car loan, home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Once you are registered, you can download your W2.

If you don’t want to give the IRS access to your email, mobile phone or personal account numbers, you can opt to receive your transcript via mail, although you must wait up to 10 calendar days to receive the IRS W2. When registering for mail service, you need only provide your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. No matter which method of obtaining your W2 you choose, keep in mind that the transcript includes only federal tax information reported by your employer, not your state and local taxes.

Paper Tax Returns

There is one caveat when it comes to obtaining a copy of your W2 tax form. The actual copy is available only if submitted with a paper tax return, which may present a problem as more and more people are choosing to file their taxes electronically. If you fall into the electronic filing category, you must either contact your employer for a copy of your W2 or use the Get Transcript service.

If you used a paper tax return but did not attach your W2 to it, and you cannot or don’t want to contact your employer for a copy, you can use Form 4506T, the Request for Transcript of Tax Return, to receive a copy of your W2. Expect to receive the document within five to 10 days. Make sure to check off the box for the W2 tax form and specify the tax year. You can mail or fax Form 4506T to the IRS.

If you did attach your W2 Form to your paper return and cannot or don’t want to get a copy from your employer, you’ll need to order a copy of your return. That requires a fee and a considerable waiting period. It may take up to 75 days to receive a copy of your return.

2018 W2 Forms and Tax Returns

For 2018, the process for obtaining an IRS W2 is the same as 2017, but the IRS has made changes in the transcripts to guard against taxpayer identity theft. For example, no longer is the entire Social Security number visible. You will see only the last four digits. The IRS protects the taxpayer’s data by creating a Customer File Number, a 10-digit number which appears on Line 5b of Form 4506T. Also, only the final four digits in the phone number, the first four characters of the surname, the first six characters of the street address and the first four characters of a business name appear on the transcript. All money amounts remain visible.

2017 W2 Forms and Tax Returns

For 2017, the process for obtaining a W2 is the same as for 2018.

Warnings

  • You cannot get Form W-2 data from the IRS for the immediately previous year. For example, if you want Form W-2 information from 2012, you have to wait until the year 2014 to request it.
  • The W-2 data you receive will not include your state and local tax information.

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About the Author

A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including PocketSense, Zack's, Financial Advisor, nj.com, LegalZoom and The Nest.