How to File Taxes with a Missing W-2

| January 12, 2011

It’s time to prepare and file taxes, but something is missing. How can a taxpayer file taxes without having the appropriate W-2s?

Diligent taxpayers begin compiling their tax information at the beginning of the year in an attempt to prepare and file their taxes in a timely fashion. Most tax-related forms are mailed and received by taxpayers by the end of January. On a few occasions, all papers are received by the first week in February. The tax preparation process can begin once all of the papers are received.

Missing W-2

What happens if an employer does not mail the W-2 before the end of January as stipulated by the Internal Revenue Service? Even worse, what happens if the employer has gone out of business and they never mailed the W-2?

Here’s how to go about getting a W-2 from an employer who is no longer doing business:

  1. Make every attempt to contact the former employer. Even though it is no longer doing business, make an honest attempt. Send a certified letter with a return receipt request to its last known operating address. This letter will serve as proof that there was a serious attempt made to get the outstanding W-2.
  1. Assume it will be impossible to obtain the missing W-2 and begin compiling any tax information from old pay stubs. The last known paycheck from the defunct employer will contain the most up-to-date annual salary and tax withholding information.
  1. Contact the Internal Revenue Service. If February 15th rolls around and still no W-2, then call the IRS for help. Before calling the IRS, be sure to have all of the necessary identification information such as employer’s name, last known address, employer ID number. In addition to having the employer’s information, be armed with the employee’s information such as name, address, and social security number. The government will do its best to track down the missing W-2.
  1. Get a copy of IRS Form 4852. The title of Form 4852 is “Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1009R, Distributions Form Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRA’s, Insurance Contracts, etc.” which will serve as a W-2 substitute. Use this form while the government tracks down the missing W-2.
  1. File the necessary taxes by the tax due date. Even if the W-2 from the defunct employer was never received, use Form 4852 and submit everything on time. The Internal Revenue Service does not view a missing W-2 as a reason not to file taxes by the deadline.
  1. Submit an amended tax form if the W-2 is received subsequent to having filed the year’s taxes. Form 1040X entitled “Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return” is the government’s form to use for filing an amended tax return.

One way to be prepared for such a situation is to be aware. If an employer is having financial problems and rumors of business closure begin to float around the workplace, it is important to begin saving pay stubs. It will come in handy when recreating the year’s annual salary and tax holdings when completing Form 4852.

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Category: Taxes, W-2

About the Author ()

Felicia A. Williams is a wife, mother, freelance writer and owner of Tidbits About Money.

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