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How to Get Your W-2 From a Previous Employer

Mark Steber Chief Tax Officer, Jackson Hewitt Published On June 19, 2019


There are certain documents you need to have to file your tax return – your W-2, also known as your wage and tax statement, is one of them. Under normal circumstances, companies will issue W-2s in January to give you precise information on how much money you made during the past year and the amount that was withheld as taxes on income, Medicare, and Social Security. In most cases, your employer has until January 31 to give you your W-2. This deadline is extended by a few days if January 31 happens to fall on a weekend.

Why Do I Need a W-2?

All employers must file a W-2 for each employee. This document reports the amount of income you earned at that job, as well as your federal, state, Social Security, and Medicare taxes withheld. In addition, your W-2 offers details on other contributions you made during the year, such as those related to your retirement fund and healthcare.

If you have switched jobs, you will need to get a W-2 from your former employer as well as your current employer before you file your tax return. This can be a little confusing at the best of times, but can get even trickier if a former employer doesn’t cooperate.

What If My Previous Employer Refuses To Send My W-2?

If you do not receive a physical copy of your W-2 within a reasonable time, then there are some steps you can take to follow up:

Contact your former employer directly. Reach out to the HR department of your former organization and confirm they have the correct contact information for you. If the organization is a small startup without a formal HR department, then try speaking to your former boss. If there has been an honest mistake, it is likely that a single phone call will clear up the matter.

If directly reaching out doesn’t help, it’s time to contact the IRS. If your former employer does not act on your request for following up on your W-2 or has decided to be incommunicado, then it is time to escalate matters by conveying this to the IRS. Provide the IRS with your previous employer’s Employer Identification Number and the IRS will send them a reminder notice.

It is also possible you have misplaced your W-2 or are wondering about how to get a W-2 from previous years you may have lost. Again, contacting your employer or former employer is the best way to accomplish this task.

What If My W-2 Arrives Late?

If you have reason to believe you will not get your W-2 in time for you to meet the tax-filing deadline, request a filing extension from the IRS. If neither you nor the IRS can get your actual W-2, the IRS will tell you to complete a Form 4852, Substitute Form W-2 and 1099-R. You will need your last pay stub to create the substitute W-2.

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