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 worked my last for over a year and had to quit because I caught them not paying the hours I worked. I called Corporate about it and no one ever got back to me. I called my old boss there today 02/06/2018 and told her that I have not gotten my W-2 in the mail and I can’t do it myself because they never sent me one pay stub. What do I do if I already know they will not send me my W-2? on the phone she pretty much said to me “sorry not sorry”. I tried calling the IRS and they said they can’t help me until after Feb. 15th. I was googling on what I should do next and I found this page… this is my last resort.

  2. Hi, I had 2 separate employers in 2016 that I worked for as an “employee”. By “employee”, I mean that I was required to arrive and leave at stated times and I turned in timecards, not requests for payments. However, these employers did not issue w2’s or 1099’s. How do I go about reporting my income?

    1. You must first determine if you were an employee or if you were self-employed.
      As an employee, you should have received a W-2 income statement from your Employer. If you did not, you can contact the company’s HR department for a copy of your W-2 form or you can request a Wage transcript from the IRS.

      If you self-employed and you did not receive a 1099-MISC, you can report the cash amount that you received as payment.

    2. If your employers paid you an annual salary of over $600 dollars, they are mandated by the IRS to issue an income statement to you. In order to avoid late filing, you may wish to address this with your employer or contact the IRS as soon as possible. You can also request an income tax transcript from the IRS to ensure whether or not they have your income statements on file. If not, you may want to proceed with filing your income as self-employed with income earned not reported on a 1099-MISC>

      1. I requested a transcript and was sent a letter saying ‘no record of return filed.’ I only worked one month in 2017 and was unemployed 10 years prior to that. My employer refuses to release my W-2 to me and I have NO WAY of getting it from them.

      2. Julianne,
        This letter means you did not file for a specific tax year. You may contact the IRS directly over the phone to request an IRS transcript for any tax year at 1800-829-1040.

  3. What should we do if we filed our 2013 taxes and got rejected for incorrect names on the e-file now the e-file is closed out cuz it’s more than three years we want to refile but we can’t obtain the W-2s that we filed on the e-file with what is the best thing to do the quickest route to obtain copies of the W-2s that were used to efile because they can’t be found anywhere and can’t get copy from TAXact apparently after 3 years so we have looked everywhere and they are no where to be found. Can someone please tell us what to do? The tax payer, Allen, is disabled and ccollected disability at THAT time, now is 65 and collects from regular social security instead of the social security disability office. ALL OF the w -2 forms + were ALL FILED ON APRIL 15TH 2014, E -FILED THRU TAXACT, BUT REJECTED DUE TO THE NAMES OF THE DEPENDANTS DIDN’T MATCH WITH THE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS SO TAXES FOR THAT YEAR WERE REJECTED. THEN COULDN’T FILE BECAUSE OF ALL of the W-2 forms are ALL MISSING AND NEEDED TO REFILE! CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL US WHERE OR HOW TO GET ELEMENTARY TYPE OF INFORMATION / HELP IN- ORDER

    1. In order to obtain your prior year income information, it is best to contact the IRS for an income transcript for the specific year. Through the IRS website you will be able to access instructions on how to retrieve your information for filing.

  4. I am missing Copy B of W2 to file with federal taxes. Will the IRS accept Copy 2, the city or local filing copy? I did request a copy from IRS, but it says (taxpayer copy) through the middle of page. I’m confused. Am I supposed to cut this copy and send top half as the top half does reflect the bottom portion, or should I just send Form 4852?

    1. Hello Dee,

      If you are mailing in your return, you can mail your your federal return, Form 1040 along with 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.) and copy the W-2 statement provide by the IRS and mail that to the IRS.

    1. Freelance work (Non-employee income) is self-employment income that needs to be reported on a Schedule C form. Form 4852 on the other hand is for employees who cannot retrieve their W-2 statement from their employer.

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