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How to File Taxes without a W-2

If you don’t have a W-2, contact your employer. If that doesn't work, you'll need to contact the IRS. Learn more and file your taxes with PriorTax.

It’s easy to lose your W-2 and just as simple to file without it.

E-filing your tax return these days is pretty straightforward. You just plug in the numbers on your W-2 to the online  tax application, take the credits and deductions you’re entitled to, and VOILA! 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. There are steps to take to make sure you get your tax return to the IRS.

Contact your employer

First thing’s first. Make every attempt to get the actual document itself. If your employer didn’t send you one, or sent you one that was incorrect, contact them and request that they send you the right one.

Employers are required to have W-2 forms issued to their employees by January 31. If you still don’t have it by then, 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.

You may need to fill out IRS forms

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 prepared tax 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

Consequences when you file taxes without a W-2

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. Why not? Well, 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.

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.

Then, once you’re ready you’ll be able to save time by preparing your taxes online with PriorTax! The user-friendly tax application makes filing taxes easy!

Prepare and file your late and current tax return today with PriorTax!

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16 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

  2. james Ray Catchings says:

    I need a W-2 from 2013 from Waverly Discount Beverage in Waverly. Ny 14892 My employer has refused to give it to me. 536 Meyers Rd. Summerville,SC29483

    • admin says:

      HI James,

      You’ll need to contact the IRS in order to get your missing W-2 information. To do so, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040. When calling, you’ll need to provide them with your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, the employer contact info and employment information.

      Alternatively, you can file your return without your W-2 and with your tax return you will need to include Form 4852-Substitute for Form W-2. On the form 4852 you’ll be required to enter an estimate of your income and withholding.

  3. devistated says:

    i am unsure of how to file my taxes for 2014 since the only funds i generated where from helping people with their medical cannabis needs, i do not have a w2 as i didn’t have a regular job. but i did receive donations for my help and would like to file taxes so i don’t get into trouble

    • admin says:


      I can understand your confusion. Once you have created an account on Priortax, you will be able to enter your miscellaneous income under the “other income” section tab. Under this section, you will see that you can enter what the income is from and the amount. Please feel free to use our free customer service option as well if you are having any trouble.

  4. linda garcia says:

    My son needs his w2 forms from twenty two years ago .he was having problems with some one using his social security number which was stolen

    • admin says:

      Hi Linda,

      The IRS only offers prior year W-2 copies to taxpayers for the past 10 years. You may want to contact the IRS directly and explain your situation. They should be able to offer further insight on how you can obtain your son’s W-2.

  5. Kay says:

    I worked for a job finder called freshstart in 2013 this company is now out of business and I need my w2 from them in order to file it this year. How or what do you suggest

    • admin says:

      Hi Kay,

      When you are unable to get in touch with a past employer or the company goes out of business, you need to obtain your W-2 form from the IRS. In order to do this, you have two options.
      1. You can request an actual copy with Form 4506. This comes with a $50.00 fee.
      2. You can request a transcript from the IRS with IRS Form 4506-T. This is free of charge and will typically suffice if you simply need the information for your employment income.

  6. Barbara Howard says:

    I need to file my 2014 taxes, but do not have an original copy of my W2. I have a Xerox copy of the original W2. Can I use that?

    • admin says:

      Hi Barbara,

      That is perfectly fine to use! As long as you have the correct information from the W-2, you will be able to report that on your tax return.

  7. LK Higdon says:

    How can I file my 2015 taxes without the paperwork from filing in 2014? I do have the income forms — 1099 — but do not have the previous year’s filing forms, which were submitted by AARP volunteers last year. Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Hi LK,

      You do not necessarily need your previous year tax return in order to file for the current year. However, you can always request a free transcript by mail from the IRS HERE. This will be delivered to you within 5-10 business days.

  8. Marlana says:

    I recently misplaced my W-2 form and I really need to do my taxes as soon as possible. How should I go about getting my W-2 to file for the 2015 work year? Will I be penalized for filing late if I don’t owe taxes, but am simply filing for a refund? I was told that if you do not owe on your taxes, you do not have to file exactly by the deadline, is this true?

    • admin says:

      Hi Marlana,

      If you are expecting to be issued a refund from the IRS instead of owing, then you will not be penalized for filing after the deadline. The IRS allows three years from the tax deadline for a taxpayer to file and claim their tax refund. After three years, you can (and should) still file but your refund will not be issued. In order to locate a copy of your W-2, I suggest contacting your employer who will have a copy on file (or can obtain a copy from your payroll processor). If you are unable to contact your employer, then the IRS can help you. As long as your employer submitted W-2 forms to the IRS (which they are required to do), then the IRS will have the information on file.

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