When Should I Receive My W-2 Form?
31, Dec, 2018
When Should I Receive My W-2 Form?
Author - Phil Baker

Keen to get a jump start on your taxes? You can't get started without your W-2 form. Your W-2 tax form details the amount of taxes withheld by your employer during the previous tax year. Your employer holds onto it until the last day of the tax year, and then sends a copy to both you and the IRS. A W-2 form goes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but it details both your federal and state tax liability.
You need it to file any tax forms. Given that the tax deadline is in April, employers must send out the W-2 form in good time so that both you and the IRS have a chance to get everything taken care of in time. When do W2s get sent out? Keep reading to find out when you'll get your form W-2 and what to do if it never arrives.

When Do W-2s Get Sent Out?

The tax year ends on December 31st - the last official day of both the calendar and official tax year. You won't get your W-2 before the end of the year because it must reflect all your wages. When do you receive a W-2 form? Expect your W-2 form to come in the mail between January 1st and January 31st of the new year.
Keep in mind that the form must be postmarked by the 31st. You may not receive your form until the first week of February depending on the date it was sent, your address, and the speed of your local delivery service. Employers are allowed to request one thirty-day extension for filing. If you did not receive the form by the end of January, your employer might have asked for more time from the IRS.
When you do receive your form, be sure to check it for inaccuracies. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), some of the most common mistakes on these forms include:

  • Missing or miswritten Employer Identification Number
  • Missing or incorrect employee names and details
  • Crediting wages after an employees death
  • Using abbreviations or titles
  • Incorrect Medicate wages
  • Incorrect tip reports

You can find a full list of errors in the General Instructions portion of Forms W-2 and W-3.

Who Gets A W-2?

Employees of companies who earn more than $600 during the tax year receive a W-2 from their employer. The IRS requires employers to both send them a copy and to furnish you with a copy. If you are a contractor, irregular employee, or made less than $600 from that employer last year, then you may not get a W-2. In those cases, the IRS expects you to fill out a 1099-MISC form.

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What To Do If You Don't Get Your W-2

The IRS sets a deadline of January 31st of the new tax year to receive W-2 information. All companies must mail W-2s by that date. Even businesses that closed up their shops must make file as well. If your employer shuttered last year, they must send your paperwork on time. If your form is not yet in your hands by February 15th, you need to follow up.
Your first port of call when hunting down your W-2, is your employer. They keep records of their paperwork and can let you know when it was mailed to give you an idea of where to expect it. Sometimes, your employer sent out the paperwork, but it appears the form got misplaced or even lost in the mail. If you believe this to be the case, ask your employer to issue you a new one.
In most cases, getting a copy is as simple as filing a request with your HR department. It is legal for an employer to charge you a fee to issue a second copy of the W-2 if you lost or misplaced it. However, if you never received the W-2 and your employer wants to levy a significant fee to issue what would otherwise be your first copy, you can report them to the IRS. An employer is not allowed to charge you for access to your tax information.

What If You Still Can't Get A W-2?

In rare cases, employers fail to honor your request. If your employer doesn't issue a new one or you're unable to get in touch, contact the IRS. The IRS can help you after February 15th. To request your form, you'll need to provide as much information as possible about the employer.
You'll need:

  • Your employer's operating name
  • Your employer's legal name
  • Employer Identification Number
  • Address

You can find all this information on the previous year's W-2 forms or even on your paystubs. The IRS will also want to know your details. Give them your best estimates based on your paycheck:

  • Total salary
  • Taxes withheld
  • Personal data (name, SSN, address, etc.)

With enough information, the IRS should be able to honor your request promptly. If even the IRS cannot send your W-2, then you still have a final option.

How To File Your Taxes Without A W-2

If neither your employer or the IRS provides you with a W-2 by tax day, then you have to go through the manual process of compiling your data. To file taxes without a W-2, the IRS requests the use of Form 4852, which is a substitute for a W-2. You'll fill out Form 4852 based on the information on all of your paystubs from the tax year in question.
Although most employees do receive their W-2, you should keep your paystubs in case you do end up needing to file Form 4852. Additionally, it's good to compare your paystubs against what's on your form W-2.

Keep Everything For Three Years

When do W-2s get sent out? You'll find it in your mailbox by the end of January or at least by February 15th. Once you get it, hold on to it. The IRS recommends keeping all your records for three years after you file your return, just in case.
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