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IRS Forms

How to Get Your W-2 From a Previous Employer

Mark Steber

Chief Tax Information Officer

Published on: June 19, 2019

There are certain documents you need to have to file your tax return and your Form W-2, also known as your wage and tax statement, is one of them. Companies are required to issue W-2's no later than January 31 so you can file your tax return and the IRS can verify your tax return includes all your income and withholding. The deadline is extended by a few days if January 31 falls 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 and can be 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 by mid-February, 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 you are unable to reach them, then it is time to reach out to the IRS. Provide the IRS with:

  • Your name, address, Social Security number and phone number.
  • Employer’s name, address and phone number.
  • Employment dates.
  • Estimate of wages and federal income tax withheld in 2020. Use a final pay stub for these amounts

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 after mid-February, 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.

About the Author

Mark Steber is Senior Vice President and Chief Tax Information Officer for Jackson Hewitt. With over 30 years of experience, he oversees tax service delivery, quality assurance and tax law adherence. Mark is Jackson Hewitt’s national spokesperson and liaison to the Internal Revenue Service and other government authorities. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), holds registrations in Alabama and Georgia, and is an expert on consumer income taxes including electronic tax and tax data protection.

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