Ready to file your tax return but can’t find your W-2?
If you realized you lost a prior year W-2, there’s still hope. The process to get a copy of a W-2 can be fairly simple. In order to receive a copy of your prior year W-2, you have three options. After requesting the W-2 , create an account and start preparing your late tax return on Prior Tax.
Option #1: Get your W-2 from previous employer.
The easiest way to get a copy of a lost W-2, is to contact the employer who issued it. The payroll department of your employer (or former employer) should be saving important tax information, such as W-2s. Ask for the W-2 to be sent to you. This process is pretty simple and shouldn’t take much time.
Option #2: Get your W-2 from employer’s payroll provider.
Have you asked your employer for your W-2 and noticed that he mentally added the task to the very bottom of his To-Do list? If you know that your employer (or past employer) uses a payroll provider instead of calculating payroll in-office, skip the middleman and give the company a call yourself. When you call, be prepared to verify your SSN or employee number as they may ask for it. While speaking to the payroll provider, you may want to confirm the following:
- Specify the year of the W-2 form that you need sent to you.
- Verify the address they have on file for you. This is the address they will mail your W-2 to.
- Ask how long it will take for them to mail your W-2 form.
Option #3: Get your W-2 from the IRS.
If contacting the employer who issued the W-2 is not an option, contact the IRS and request form 4506. This alternative will take time and money. However, it’s better to receive the copy of the W-2 and file your prior year tax return rather than doing nothing and not filing.
What you should know when requesting previous year W2 forms from the IRS:
- The IRS keeps copies of past W-2s (and all tax documents under your Social Security Number) from the last 7-10 years.
- The W-2s are not available from the IRS until one year after they were filed.
- You will need to fill out Form 4506 (be sure to write clearly and sign).
- The service fee is $50 for each request. Checks can be made out to “The United States Treasury”.
- The address to send form 4506 and check to will be listed on the second page of the form. Be sure to send both the form 4506 and check to this address.
- You will have to wait up to two months (or perhaps longer) for the IRS to process your request and send you the copy of your W-2.
Get Started Filing Your Prior Year Tax Return
It’s pretty clear that contacting your employer (or previous employer) for the copy of your W-2 is the best option. However, maybe you never want to speak to a previous employer again or instead, have no way in contacting the employer. Whatever the case may be, the IRS will issue you copies of the W-2 for previous years.
Once you receive the copy of the W-2, you can then use the information provided and start filing the previous year tax return.
Updated February 2016
Photo via Helga Weber on Flickr