How to File Taxes without an IRS W-2 Form

You’re all prepared to start your tax return and then realize you’re missing a W-2. Now what?

There is little that is more vexing as you prepare to file your taxes than to realize that your W-2 or 1099 form has gone missing. Sure, it could have just been shuffled about with other papers. If you think this is the case, then stop reading now and go tackle that stack of paperwork on your desk.

On the other hand, if you never received it in the first place, even Spring cleaning can’t help you. Previous and even current employers often fail to observe due diligence when it comes to providing an employee with necessary tax documents. The task of obtaining them can be quite frustrating as a result.

The situation is usually made worse if you are filing a prior year tax return, at which point a company you worked for years ago may simply have ceased to exist.

Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to obtain your income statement. We’ll even let you know how to file without one altogether.

Contact your employer.

I know, I know. It’s easier said than done in some cases. This becomes less of a realistic option as time goes by and you’re trying to file a prior year return. However, if it is possible for you, this is the quickest and simplest way to go about obtaining your W-2 or other income statement.

Contact your employer’s payroll provider.

This is a good option if you just so happen to be a secondary contact for your employer’s payroll provider. For security purposes, this typically won’t be the easiest choice.

Contact the IRS.

As you may know, employers are required to submit W-2 forms to you and the IRS. If you lost your W-2 or believe that your employer only submitted income statements to the IRS, then this is another route you can take to obtain yours. However, if your employer didn’t submit income statements to the IRS at all, then keep reading.

Use Form 4852.

It’s assumed that you can’t file your taxes without a W-2 or other income statement. However, they are not absolutely necessary. You can file IRS Form 4852, which is a substitute for a W-2 or 1099-R, and use it to prepare your tax return. You will need to provide an acceptable estimate of your wages and tax withholding for the year. How in the world are you supposed to guess your income and withholding for the year? Take a look at your last pay stub. This will most likely have your ‘year-to-date’ information. Although this is the least confrontational method that we’ve discussed, it should really be your last resort as it could result in having to amend your return later on.

When in doubt, wait it out.

If you’re stressing about not receiving your W-2 and it’s not even February yet, be patient. Employers are required to issue W-2 forms by the end of January. Give it a few days before typing up your plan of action.



63 Replies to “How to File Taxes without an IRS W-2 Form”

  1. Hello, I’m disabled retired military. Do I still file taxes even if I don’t get a W2 or a 1099R? I do get Social Security along with my retirement pay. I just don’t know what to do because this is my first year filing without a W2. Thanks for any help given.

    1. Military Disability Retirement Pay received as a pension, annuity or similar allowance for personal injury or sickness resulting from active service in the armed forces should not be included in taxable income if any of the following conditions apply:
      You were entitled to receive a disability payment before September 25, 1975;
      You were a member of the military (active or reserves) or were under a binding written commitment to become a member on September 24, 1975;
      You receive disability payments for a combat-related injury. This is a personal injury or sickness that:
      Resulted directly from armed conflict,
      Took place while you were engaged in extra-hazardous service,
      Took place under conditions simulating, including training exercises such as maneuvers, or
      Was caused by an instrumentality of war.

  2. If I file my taxes and I am missing a W2 and I only used one of the two and file my return knowing I will lose money. Will the IRS reject my return for not filing with both W-2 forms?

    1. Your employer sends a copy of all of the W-2 forms that you were issued for the year to the IRS. Therefore, the IRS has a record of the amount of income that you should be reporting for the tax year. If you omit any income from your return and it is accepted by the IRS, they will most likely ask that you amend your return to include all of your income.

    1. Hi Janice,

      If waiting to receive your W-2 form is not an option for you and you are sure about the amounts that are listed on your W-2 for the year, then it is not necessary to have a physical copy in order to file your tax return. Keep in mind that if your calculations are not accurate and you file prior to receiving your W-2, you may need to amend your return to include the corrected amounts once your employer submits them to the IRS.

  3. If I use the form 4852 to do my taxes how do I claim dependants on it? This is my first year filing and my previous employer sent out my w2 to the wrong address and aren’t going to resend it to the correct address..

  4. I need to file my 2015 federal returns but I lost one of my w2 and I have went on the website to get it but I can’t access it it keep saying access denied I called my job that I work for like three months in 2015 but they keep giving me the run around I don’t know what to do I have my 1099 but not the w2 for my second job what should I do

    1. Hi Lashambrea,

      You can request a transcript from the IRS. You can find everything you’ll need to do this on the IRS website HERE. The last alternative that I suggest taking is filing form 4852 to the IRS. This is a substitute for certain wage statements.

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