Can You File Your Taxes Without a W2?

The W-2 is the form most people rely on to file their tax returns, as it shows income and withholding information. Occasionally, you may fail to receive a W-2; however, a missing W-2 is not an acceptable reason for failure to file. There are concrete and approved steps you can take if your W-2 is missing.

  1. W-2 Definition

    • Form W-2 is the document supplied to you by your employer(s) verifying your wages and all taxes withheld for the year. It's one of the keys to filing your federal tax return. The W-2 shows your gross wages as well as your "reportable" wages. Keep in mind that these two amounts may differ. Any 401(k) contributions and certain pieces of insurance that are part of Café 125 are not taxable. These amounts are subtracted from your gross wages for federal income-tax purposes. The W-2 also shows Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as state and local income tax withholdings.

    Employer Obligations

    • Your employer is required to provide your W-2 by January 31 for the previous tax year. Occasionally, these forms are lost in the mail or not forwarded if you've changed your address without notifying your past or current employers. In some cases, employers cease operations and do not follow up on their requirement to provide W-2s.

    IRS Notification

    • If you do not receive your W-2 by February 14, call the IRS at (800) 829--1040. You will need to provide your name, full address, phone number, Social Security number and the dates of your employment. You must also provide the employer's name, address and phone number. The IRS will attempt to contact your employer and secure the W-2. You will also receive a form 4852 from the IRS.

    Form 4852

    • Form 4852 is the IRS-accepted substitute for a missing or incorrect W-2. (It can also be used in the case of a missing/incorrect 1099-R.) If you have contacted your employer and the IRS and have not received a replacement (or corrected) W-2, you may use form 4852 in its place. The IRS requests that you do not file your return with a form 4852 prior to April 15.

      Do not attempt to use this form instead of using a W-2 if you have one. The penalties are stiff. Misuse of form 4852 can lead to penalties ranging from 20 to 75 percent of the taxes owed. A $5,000 civil penalty may also be imposed.

    Final Pay Stub

    • Careful record-keeping on your part can reduce additional work and filing if your W-2 is missing. If you have the final pay stub from your employer, it will contain all of the information needed to complete form 4852, including year-to-date wages and all taxes withheld. Also, any 401(k) contributions and other Café 125 payments will be shown. Without your final pay stub, you must estimate all of these payments, then be prepared to show how you arrived at these figures and wait for IRS confirmation.

    Amending Your Return

    • If you receive your missing W-2 after filing your tax return, you may need to file an amendment. You will only need to amend your return if the information you provided on form 4852 turns out to be incorrect. For example, if your wages and/or withholdings were higher or lower than reported, you must file an amended return using IRS form 1040X. If you used the information from your final pay stub, in all likelihood it will be correct, and no additional filing is required.

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