As the 2017 tax deadline approaches, many U.S. taxpayers begin gathering all the documents they need to file their taxes. So what would you do if you realize that, among all of your files, you’ve either misplaced or have never received your Form W-2? You could always panic, but luckily, this isn’t necessary as there are easy ways to either gain access to the missing W-2 or file your return without it.

Steps to Take If You’ve Lost Your W-2

For most tax filers, the W-2 is a critical piece of information that validates income earned throughout the tax year. The form, also known as the Wage and Tax Statement, is one that your employer sends you near the beginning of each calendar year.

By law, businesses are required to mail these forms by Jan. 31 in order to give filers ample time to meet the April 17, 2018, income-tax filing deadline. Your employer is also required to send a copy of the form directly to the IRS.

So what do you do if you realize that you’ve lost your W-2? According to the Internal Revenue Service, there is a list of options to consider:

1. Contact Your Employer

If you think you haven’t received your W-2, it’s not too late to contact your employer; let someone in your HR department know and inquire if and when it will be mailed. It’s possible that the form was mailed but was returned to your employer due to an incorrect or incomplete address.

2. Contact the IRS Directly

Another option is contacting the IRS directly. The agency suggests contacting it at 1-800-829-1040 if you don't receive your form by Feb. 14. When you call, be prepared to provide your name, address, city, state, zip code, Social Security number, phone number and the following:

  • Employer’s name, full address and phone number
  • Dates of employment
  • An estimate of wages earned, federal income tax withheld and dates worked for your employer during 2017. These estimates can be acquired by looking at the year-to-date information from your final 2017 pay stub.

By contacting the IRS directly when you realize your W-2 is missing, it might be able to locate the form that was already sent by your employer with enough time to forward it along.

3. File Your Return Without a W-2

Whether you have your W-2 or not, the IRS requires that you file your return or request a tax extension by April 17, 2018. If you have already contacted the IRS about your lost return, the agency asks that you fill out IRS Form 4852, which serves as a substitute for Form W-2.

You will need to attach Form 4852 to your 1040, estimating income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible. The IRS warns that taking this route could result in a delay in your refund since it will need time to verify the information you’ve provided.

If your W-2 arrives after you’ve already filed your return using Form 4852 and you realize your wage and tax withheld details are wrong, you can amend the return. By filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, you can report the correct information to the IRS.

How to Get Your W-2 Online

Aside from working with the IRS or your employer, there are a couple of websites that could help some employees locate their W-2 information electronically.

The first website, Tax Form Management, is an outsourced service from TALX Corporation (Equifax Workforce Solutions) that automates the W-2 process, including printing and distributing original statements and reissuing W-2s. It requires a few steps to gain access to a W-2 if your employer is listed in its system.

To get started, search for your employer name or code on the homepage. After locating your employer, retrieve its ID number. This number, along with some of your personal, secure information such as the gross amount of your last paycheck, will allow you to login.

Once you’ve logged in, you can select to view your W-2 online or print it. It’s good to note, however, that not all employers are linked to this service.

You can also get your W-2 forms electronically if you use Turbo Tax or H & R Block. Both companies have W-2 finder services that link to their systems.

Finally, you can check with your employer to see if it has a website that allows workers to access their W-2s online.

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