If you know us at all, you know we’re Team File Taxes Early. We’re early birds when it comes to tax season, and we always recommend the same from you. So if you’re anything like us, around February is when you start getting anxious.
One major hitch: Your W-2 hasn’t arrived yet.
In most cases, your tax forms will arrive in the mail by the end of January—but we all know things happen. You may have changed address, your employer may have had an internal processing error, and the Post Office may have simply misplaced the item. The truth is a lot of issues can get in the way of you receiving your tax documents on time.
What should you do if your W-2 hasn’t arrived in the mail yet? Or what if you accidentally misplaced your tax documents since receiving them?
Our first advice is the most important. Don’t worry.
Missing tax documents are actually a lot more common than you may realize. They are so common, in fact, that the IRS already has advice listed on their site. Take a few steps and you’ll ensure you have all the documents you need to get started on your taxes. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to filing a perfect tax return!
The IRS has a list of recommendations for anyone missing tax documents, and who are we to suggest you go against their advice?
In the event you haven’t yet received your W-2 by now, here’s what you should do—straight from the IRS:
Like we mentioned, most lost W-2s can be traced back to a mailing address or clerical issue. You may have moved since you filled out your form, or the 1 you wrote looked a bit too much like a 7. In other cases, your company just may be a little bit behind the ball, so their team has taken until the end of January to mail out tax paperwork!
If you haven’t received your tax forms by mid-February, your first move should be to contact your employer. Mention you haven’t received your tax forms, and inquire into the status and your information on file. If there’s an error, this is where you’ll find it!
So you contacted your employer—you’ve even followed up—but you still haven’t received your W-2 by the end of February. In this case, the IRS recommends you contact them. The number you’ll want to call is 800-829-1040.
When calling the IRS, you need some information to confirm your identity:
A missing W-2 isn’t a valid reason not to file your taxes on time. However, you can opt to file an extension, which will give you an extra six months to file.
Filing on Time:
If you’re missing your W-2, use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. The IRS will need to verify your information, so this option may take a little longer than filing via the traditional forms.
Filing for an Extension:
If you’d just like a bit more time to file, apply for a six-month extension. You can do this through most tax software or tax prep services. Important reminder: If you need to pay taxes, an extension won’t affect when you need to pay, which is still April 15th.
You’ve filed (and paid, if necessary) by Tax Day. But a few days later, your W-2 finds its way into your mailbox. It’s time to amend your return.
Even if your estimate was pretty close to correct, you should still handle the difference and ensure the IRS has the updated information. You’ll need Form 1040-X.
Let’s say you’re missing forms from your bank, broker, student loan financier, or another asset entirely. Lucky for you, you can typically take the exact same steps you did with your employer and contact them to correct your information or resend your forms.
You can prevent some of the hassle by going paperless. Most banks and online stock trading platforms have online portals through which you can update your account information, and many of those offer a “paperless” option. This will ensure you can access your documents via email or on their website!
A missing tax form isn’t the end of the world, just some extra hassle. However, if you start your tax filing process early enough in the year, you’ll have more than enough time to fix any errors, get a new form, and file on time!
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