As the deadline for the annual filing of Form W-2 comes near, all employees need to prepare their tax returns before the income tax due date. You should be aware of where your tax documents are stored and if you have received them from your employer.


When filling out Form 1040 (Individual Income Tax Return Form), you need a Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement Form). This would come from your employer as they file for income tax and withheld tax reports to the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). Your employer sends copies to the government institution as well as to their employees.


There could be times when a form goes missing, and you should know how to get a replacement W-2 statement. A lost W-2 could be troublesome when filing tax returns and could even cause you to file late, which would result in penalties.


Here are some things you need for you to know what to do if you lost your W-2 form.

What is a W2 Form?

The IRS’ Wage and Tax Statement or Form W-2 records and reports an employee’s income received from their employer. It also includes taxes withheld from the employees’ paychecks throughout a tax year.


If you work for a company and receive a salary, wage, or other compensation equal to or more than $600, your employer should complete a Form W-2 and send it to the IRS. You should also receive a copy of the tax statement form, which you would then use to complete your tax returns when filing Form 1040.


The IRS requires your employer to send out W-2 tax form copies on or before January 31 of every year. This gives you an allowance of around two months of preparation, allowing you to prepare tax returns before the income tax due date on April 15. Information on the tax form would determine if you would receive a refund or a bill.


Along with Form W-3, employers also use the W-2 form to report FICA taxes to the Social Security Administration (SSA) by the end of February. The administration uses the tax information on the submitted forms to calculate the Social Security benefits entitled to each employee.


The IRS also uses the wage and tax statement form to monitor your tax liability. This makes it a valid proof of income for various applications such as SSN Benefits, court proceedings, and federal financial aid for college.


For more information regarding W-2 forms, you can check our article - W-2 wage and tax statement form for small businesses


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You Lost Your W-2. Now What?

Throughout your whole working career as an employee, you might have lost a copy or two of your W-2 form and asked yourself, “How can I get a copy of my W-2 if I lost it?”, “How to get a replacement W-2 form?” or “What to do if you lost your W-2?”.


There is no need to panic, as you do not have the only copy, and there are various ways you could obtain another copy. However, before correcting the mistake, first, identify what went wrong. It could be your own doing if you simply lost your mailed paper copy. It could be your employer’s fault for forgetting or refusing to send you a copy. It could also be that you did not keep records when filing for the past year. Ask yourself what happened before and after receiving your copy of the W-2 tax form.


As with many important documents, the best way to deal with a lost W-2 is simply not to lose them in the first place. However, if you do lose them, there are different options of what you can do to get your hands on a copy of a wage and tax form.

What to Do If You Lost Your W-2

If you lost your W-2, the first thing you can do is simply contact and ask your employer for a copy. You can also download an electronic copy by logging into your payroll account if the employer uploads them into cloud storage. If you are not sure how to get a replacement W-2 from the online payroll system, verify with your employer or the company’s human resources department.


If you have wages and taxes withheld by an employer but lack the W-2 statement, a lost W-2 replacement could be as simple as requesting a duplicate from your employer. However, if the employer refuses or cannot produce a replicate for some reason, you could also request a wage and tax statement form from the IRS.


The agency requires all employers to send all their employee’s tax forms to them. This means that the IRS has copies of your W-2 forms. Although, a requested copy from the IRS does not include state and local information.

How to Get Replacement W-2 If You Never Received It

In some instances, a lost W-2 may not be entirely your fault. You may not have forgotten where you placed the W-2 form, but you just never received it in the first place. This could be due to the employer forgetting or neglecting their duty of sending copies. However, make sure to cover all your bases before accusing your employer or even the government of any wrongdoing.


Check if the employer sent the wage and tax form via mail or if they delivered it online. Verify with your employer which method they used to send it. Additionally, make sure that the form they sent went to the correct address on the day it was supposed to be sent. A wrong address can put you at risk of fraudulent returns or even identity theft.


The IRS does not need to know why and how you lost your form W-2, as the responsibility of securing it and filing tax returns on time falls upon the employee. However, they can still help you to get a copy if necessary.


If you find that your employer simply did not send your W-2, ask them about the situation and request a copy immediately. If they refuse to produce and give you a copy after the mandated deadline by the IRS, you can file a complaint with the IRS, which they need to answer and deal with.


There are also times when the business goes bankrupt, and they simply never sent your tax form even though you fit the requirements to receive a copy. If that is the case, you could always request a copy of your lost W-2 directly from the IRS by also using a form. Never underestimate the importance of a W-2 tax form if you want to have a smooth record with the government.


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How to Get Lost W-2 from Previous Years

Now you may ask what to do if you lost your W-2 from previous years and you need to file for a past tax year. First, let us clarify that keeping tax records is your responsibility and losing them or simply not storing them is your mistake. However, do not fret and dwell on the past, as there are simple remedies you can take to solve the problem.


As earlier discussed, you have the option of contacting your employer first regarding your lost W-2. If you do not longer have means of reaching your old employer, if they went bankrupt, or if a natural disaster destroyed their records, you could always request a copy of the previous W-2s from the IRS.


Even when you file for back taxes, the IRS could provide you with tax documents for any year you worked, provided that your employer filed the correct tax information each year. When you do request a copy of your tax information, the IRS requires you to use a “Request for Transcript of Tax Return” form or simply known as form 4506-T.


Form 4506-T is a form you use to request a form that includes your information from a requested year. After receiving your previously lost W-2 for that year, you may now backfile that tax return and do right by the IRS. Form 4506-T requires you to provide information to verify your identity, such as name, address, social security number, employment dates, and an estimate of the income you earned based on a final paystub.

Filing for an Extension

Now that we have answered the question “How can I get a copy of my W-2 if I lost it?” and determined how to get a replacement W-2, and it still looks like you would not have your tax documents on time, you can request an extension from the IRS. The agency follows a rigorous process, but it could help you under certain circumstances, such as a lost W-2.


When filing for an extension, you need to use Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return). According to the IRS, Form 4868 would automatically give you an extra six months of preparation to fill out and file your tax return.


Please take note that when you request a Form W-2 or any other form, the IRS would require you to provide them estimates of how much you earned from payments in a year and how much tax your employer withheld. Luckily, you can use Real Check Stubs to create a final paystub with accurate estimates for the amounts the IRS needs.

Conclusion

“How can I get a copy of my W-2 if I lost it?” That is a question many employees ask themselves as the deadline for filing tax returns comes near. A lost W-2 could cause trouble for a hardworking employee. Luckily, there are plenty of options you can perform to obtain another copy. 


Depending on the circumstance, you could ask your employer for a copy or even the IRS. However, make sure to cover every possibility before accusing others. Do not put yourself in hot water over a missing W-2. The best way is to never lose the wage and tax form in the first place.


Have a secure and safe place to store all important documents so you are always prepared for any situation. You could also save them into cloud storage for added protection and request copies generated from online check stub makers such as Real Check Stubs.