Can You File Taxes Without a W2?

Updated on April 9, 2024

At a Glance

  • You can file taxes without a W-2 if you lost the form or didn’t receive it; ask your employer for a copy.
  • If unavailable, use Form 4852, the “Substitute for Form W-2,” to request information about withheld wages and taxes.
  • Complete the form using documents like a final pay stub or estimate your earnings.
  • While you can file electronically without submitting a W-2 copy, it’s important to keep it safe for potential audits or other situations.

The W-2 is an Internal Revenue Service tax form that the U.S. uses in order to report the wages paid to workers, as well as the wages that are withheld from them. When you have to file your taxes, you must prepare some paperwork, and the W-2 is an important form that needs to be submitted. But what happens when you do not find your W-2, either because it never showed up or because you lost it?

If you’re in this situation, you may be wondering “Can you file taxes without a W2?” Well, you can find out the answer and more in the following paragraphs.

Can I Still File Taxes without My W-2?

Filing your taxes is possible even if you do not have a W-2. The form is usually needed if you have a job and wish to file a tax return. The W-2 will be offered by the employer. But if you ended up losing the form or you did not even receive it from the employer, you can always ask them for a copy.

There may be situations when getting a copy of the W-2 is not possible though. In this case, you can proceed by filling out Form 4852. This is the “Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.” With this form, you will request information regarding your withheld wages and taxes.

In order to complete Form 4852, you should have some documents with you like a final pay stub. In the absence of such a document, you can estimate your earnings and complete the form. If possible, you should check your local VITA site and find out if it can help you out during this process.

The Legality of Filing Without Your W-2

If you file electronically, you will have no problem filling your taxes without having your W-2. However, you still need the information from the W-2 in order to accurately do your taxes. Some of the things you will need are:

  • Medicare tips and wages
  • Your social security tips and wages (separately)
  • The identification number of the employer
  • The address and name of the employer
  • How much of the federal income tax is withheld
  • The total wages of the employer, including tips and different other compensations
  • The withheld social security tax
  • Withheld state income tax
  • Withheld Medicare tax
  • Any withheld local income taxes

Although it is not necessary to submit a W-2 copy when you file electronically, you will have to enter the information found on this form. It is still very important to make sure your W-2 stays in a safe place because you may need it at some point. For instance, it may be required for background checks, for an audit, or other similar situations.

Keep in mind that you will have to produce the W-2 and other documents in case of an audit. They will allow you to show evidence of your income, as well as withholding. If you are unable to show that you entered those numbers in good faith, you may end up dealing with legal problems.

The employer is the one who should file the W-2 form with the Social Security Administration. This has to be done before the end of January. Also, the information will be shared by the SSA with the IRS. This is how they will be able to tell whether you and your employer reported different numbers, in which case an audit will take place.

How to File Taxes Without a W-2

Do you have to file your taxes soon but you don’t have a W-2? Well, there are still ways to file your taxes, and here is how to do it:

1. Try to Obtain a W-2 from Your Employer

You should try to obtain the W-2 for 2020 from your employer first. Go to the leadership of the company and speak to them in order to find out if W-2s will be offered to every employee. W-2s can be obtained for employees even by a company that is not in business anymore. Its former payroll provider can help arrange to get these forms.

But if you cannot reach out to someone from the company or they do not want to offer W-2s to employees, you may have to take a different route.

2. Get the W-2 from the IRS

If getting the W-2 from your employer isn’t possible, you should attempt to go to the IRS and ask them for it. They might be able to help you find the W-2.

In order to do this, you should contact the IRS at 800.829.1040. You’ll have to offer them your personal information, as well as the name and address of your employer. They will then try to find a W-2 copy. Even if you got no tax information from your employer, the IRS may have received it.

3. Complete Form 4852

When the W-2 cannot be obtained from the employer or the IRS, you can still file your tax return with IRS Form 4852. So, all hope is not lost. The form can be downloaded from the official IRS website.

Use a copy of your latest pay stub to complete the form accurately, and then attach the 4852 form to the 1040 or a different tax form. Next, you should send it to the IRS.

4. Make Sure to File on Time

You should file the tax return on time, even if you did not get a W-2. Ensure you do not reach the deadline without filing the income taxes.

Filing Taxes Without a W2 FAQ

You may still have some questions regarding the W-2. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions that you may need an answer for:

When Am I Supposed to Get My W-2?

The SSA should receive W-2s from the employers before the end of January. Therefore, employees should get the form either on that day or earlier. But if the employer decided to mail it to you the same day as the deadline, you may receive it a few days later.

What If I File by Mail?

A copy of the W-2 will be necessary if you decide to file your taxes by mail. Even if you send the return without the form, the IRS will certainly send you a letter asking for this document. If you don’t have it, you can try getting a copy of it from your employer. You can also file form 4852.

What If I Am Unable to Get a W-2?

If you cannot get a W-2, either because your employer doesn’t want to give you one or because the document doesn’t arrive, you should reach out to the IRS. By doing this, you will get them to contact your employer for a solution.

But if this doesn’t solve anything, you can still file your income taxes by filling out form 4852.

Read More

Final Thoughts

Not having a W-2 will not stop you from filing your income taxes. You can try to get a copy of it, and if you’re unsuccessful, you can still apply using form 4852. Make sure you file your taxes on time to avoid any unwanted consequences.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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