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How to File Taxes without a W-2

Can't find your W-2? File without it or retrieve a transcript from the IRS

If you don’t have a W-2 you may be able to retrieve a transcript or submit a whole new form

For most people, e-filing a tax return is pretty simple. You just plug in the numbers from your W-2 into the tax application, take the credits and deductions you’re entitled to, and -bam! – you’re done. Couldn’t be simpler.

But what happens if you don’t have a W-2? Suddenly things get a lot more complicated. Don’t worry. Here’s what you can do to make sure you get your tax return in to the IRS on time.

The first thing you should do is make every attempt to get the actual document itself. If your employer didn’t send you one, or sent you one that was incorrect, call them up and ask them to send you the correct form. It’s possible they just forgot, or sent it the the wrong address.

If you still don’t have it by February 14, it’s time to take additional action. At this point you should call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and tell them about your missing W-2. They will call your employer and tell them to send you the W-2.

If this still fails to get you a W-2, the IRS will tell you to file Form 4852 [Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099-R, Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc.].

As stated above, you should only complete this form if you absolutely can’t get the original W-2, or if the original is incorrect. Once you complete Form 4852 you should submit it along with your return.

Just as a warning, don’t attempt to avoid or evade your tax liability by improperly taking advantage of Form 4852. You could face some pretty severe penalties including

  • accuracy-related penalties at 20% of the tax that should have been paid
  • civil fraud penalties at 75% of taxes that should have been paid
  • a $5,000 civil penalty for filing a frivolous return

Many people trying to get their refund as soon as possible assume that they can file a tax return without a W-2 using the information from their last pay stub. While technically you can do this, it’s not a good idea.

If it turns out that you file using your pay stub and the information you enter doesn’t match the information on the W-2 on file with the IRS, you will have to file an amended return, which will end up costing you time and money.

Plus, your return probably won’t even be processed until your employer submits all of their required documents to the IRS. Since they aren’t due until January 31 anyway you probably won’t save yourself any time rushing in a tax return completed with information from a pay stub.

If you’re trying to file a prior year return and you’re missing the W-2 from that year, you can retrieve a transcript of your W-2 from the IRS and use that to complete your return.

Photo via Pete on Flickr.

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2 Responses to “How to File Taxes without a W-2”

  1. Michael John Lisardo says:

    Need transcript of W-2 from 2011.

    Address is: 804 S. Canton Dr., Fort Worth, Tx. 76112

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