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. I no longer work for my previous employer and I haven’t received my w2 said it was mailed how do I got about getting it if it has been lost

  2. how do i file previous taxes without w2s and have np checkstubs i was dumb and didnt realize i had to file taxes cause i didnt make that much but i learned i should go back and do them to be on the safe side since i was always told to file exempt what do i do

  3. I haven’t received W-2 from my employer. They had an accountant do the paystubs and checks. There is no employer tax numbers on my stub. I’ve contacted the employer 3 times and she says the accountant will not return her messages. The business closed in June . What do I do?

  4. i have my 2 w2s and im missing one but i have my last final pay stub with all earnings, can i proceed with filing my taxes or should i search and retrieve the final w2?

  5. Is it ok to file your taxes without submitting one of multiple W2s. I have 3 W2’s, I have filed 2 of them on TurboTax and I was wondering if I can go ahead and file my taxes without the other W2?

    1. Hello Tyler,

      You are required to report ALL of your income statements to the IRS. This means that if you have already filed the two W-2’s to the IRS, excluding the one W-2 and your tax return was accepted, you will need to file an amended tax return (Form 1040X) to the IRS. Your amended return will need to include the W-2 statement you didn’t report. Otherwise, the IRS will send you a notice in the mail for the additional taxes that you owe and you may face penalties in the long run.

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