These days, you probably want to file your taxes as early as possible to prevent identity thieves from filing a false return in your name — but that requires you to have the necessary forms in hand, including W-2 forms.
The W-2 form is one of the most critical tax forms, since it is the summary of your compensation and withheld taxes. Employers are supposed to send W-2 forms to their employees by January 31. Unfortunately, sometimes you find yourself in the middle of February with no W-2 form and an increasing fear that someone is stealing your tax refund while you are patiently waiting for your paperwork. What can you do? The IRS suggests a few straightforward steps.
- Notify Your Employer – Contact your employer and let them know that you need a copy of the W-2 to complete your taxes. Employers have no reason to withhold your W-2, so it is likely a simple mistake such as having the wrong address listed with your employer. Employers or former employers are not obligated to verify your correct address, so it is important to notify them of any address changes.
- Call the IRS – If for some reason your employer is not responsive, you can call the IRS, and they will in turn send a letter to the employer reminding them of their responsibility to you. When you call, you will need to supply your basic information (name, address, phone number, and Social Security number), along with information about your job and employer: the company name, address, and phone number; the dates that you were employed there; and your best estimate of your wages earned and tax withheld. Estimates should be available on your last monthly/weekly pay stub for 2015.
- Use Form 4852 – If you are running too close to the tax filing date of April 18, 2016, you can use IRS Form 4852, "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." Form 4852 requires you to estimate the items that would be in your W-2 form. Again, if you have your last pay stub, this should be relatively easy.
To use Form 4852, you must have notified the IRS about the situation first. You must describe your efforts to obtain your W-2 in line 10 of Form 4852.
These are also the proper steps if you are supplied with an incorrect W-2 and you need to receive a Form W-2c, "Corrected Wage and Tax Statement."
If you do receive your correct W-2 and find that the numbers are different from the form you filed, you may need to file an amended tax return with Form 1040X, "Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return."
You could be missing one other form type that you didn't even know you needed. This is the first tax year when everyone will receive 1095 forms to verify health insurance status for tax purposes.
If you bought insurance through the marketplace, you will receive a Form 1095-A in early February and will need it to file your taxes. 1095-Bs come from your insurer and 1095-C forms cover employer-based insurance offers. You should receive 1095-Bs and Cs by the end of March, but you do not need to submit those with your tax forms — just keep them for reference.
If you are missing any forms by mid-February, take action right away. Otherwise, you may end up asking for a tax extension of six months using Form 4868, "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return." That doesn’t postpone the paying of the taxes, just the filing of the forms, so you’re better off sending the right amount on time.