How to File Taxes without an IRS W-2 Form

Posted by on November 4, 2016
Last modified:
Lost your W-2 on a messy desk? You can file taxes without a W-2

You’re all prepared to start your tax return and then realize you’re missing a W-2. Now what?

There is little that is more vexing as you prepare to file your taxes than to realize that your W-2 or 1099 form has gone missing. Sure, it could have just been shuffled about with other papers. If you think this is the case, then stop reading now and go tackle that stack of paperwork on your desk.

On the other hand, if you never received it in the first place, even Spring cleaning can’t help you. Previous and even current employers often fail to observe due diligence when it comes to providing an employee with necessary tax documents. The task of obtaining them can be quite frustrating as a result.

The situation is usually made worse if you are filing a prior year tax return, at which point a company you worked for years ago may simply have ceased to exist.

Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to obtain your income statement. We’ll even let you know how to file without one altogether.

Contact your employer.

I know, I know. It’s easier said than done in some cases. This becomes less of a realistic option as time goes by and you’re trying to file a prior year return. However, if it is possible for you, this is the quickest and simplest way to go about obtaining your W-2 or other income statement.

Contact your employer’s payroll provider.

This is a good option if you just so happen to be a secondary contact for your employer’s payroll provider. For security purposes, this typically won’t be the easiest choice.

Contact the IRS.

As you may know, employers are required to submit W-2 forms to you and the IRS. If you lost your W-2 or believe that your employer only submitted income statements to the IRS, then this is another route you can take to obtain yours. However, if your employer didn’t submit income statements to the IRS at all, then keep reading.

Use Form 4852.

It’s assumed that you can’t file your taxes without a W-2 or other income statement. However, they are not absolutely necessary. You can file IRS Form 4852, which is a substitute for a W-2 or 1099-R, and use it to prepare your tax return. You will need to provide an acceptable estimate of your wages and tax withholding for the year. How in the world are you supposed to guess your income and withholding for the year? Take a look at your last pay stub. This will most likely have your ‘year-to-date’ information. Although this is the least confrontational method that we’ve discussed, it should really be your last resort as it could result in having to amend your return later on.

When in doubt, wait it out.

If you’re stressing about not receiving your W-2 and it’s not even February yet, be patient. Employers are required to issue W-2 forms by the end of January. Give it a few days before typing up your plan of action.



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This entry was posted on at 1:26 pm and is filed under Tax Forms | Blog.

45 Responses to “How to File Taxes without an IRS W-2 Form”

  1. Teaoni bond says:

    I filled out my information for a tax return and have two dependents for 2011,but its showing me an amount that I know can’t possibly be right. Will be going in to the office on Austin hey today to see if they can Neil me

  2. Kevin Trussell says:

    I did my taxes on Jan 30 checked on IRS were is my refund today Feb 16 says received but still not processed i got 10,000+ due to me have a house payment filed joint with wife when can i expect to get my refund .

  3. gratissex says:

    I think your share is useful to me thnx for that.

  4. Donna says:

    I submitted 3 previous years tax return with no 1099 just an estimate of my income. Will I still get a refund or will it be returned to me?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Donna,

      If you estimated your income amounts because you were supposed to receive a 1099 at the end of the year but didn’t then your first step would be to contact your employer or the IRS for transcripts. Each time a 1099 (or W-2) is prepared by an employer, a copy is submitted to the IRS as well. In your situation, if the amounts that you reported on your tax return are way off, then the IRS will be able to pick up on that and possibly reject your return. You will be contacted via mail if this happens. You can resubmit your tax returns with the exact amounts once you have received this information from either your employer or the IRS.

      • Nicole Davis says:

        I have worked for the last 3 years for my
        mothers small business I run errands and make minimal money p/t She does Does not have me as a employee because she only uses me in emergency and she always just wrote down the days times and amounts I had a child in 2008 and one in 2014 I just filed my taxes for myself in 2016 head of house with 2 dependents ( My childrenMy sons father We were not married ) passed away in 2014. My question is When i had someone do my taxes this year I only got 5093 and It was for my the thimgs I bought and sold . Now for 2014+2015 What are the thibgs I need to get the biggest refund child tax credit, additional tax credit, EITC, doctors expenses , babysitters ? What is the minini
        um amount I need to show I made to get all possible credits and how much are they? 2015 and 2014

        • Pertaining to the credit that you receive from the IRS, this should only help assist you in the year with the income that you earn overall. The child tax credit, as well as your EIC credit, is dependent on how much you make in the year. Because you are single and head of household your threshold is $75,000 until your credit is reduced. For the EIC there are multiple brackets depending on your salary. For the additional child tax credit, the highest amount that you can claim per child is only up to $3,000 dollars.

  5. Derek says:

    I can’t find my 2015 W2. I filed my Federal in 2015 but completely forgot to do the State. Contacted my employer and they cannot help me. I’ve asked multiple times and their answer is they cannot provide any employees that info. Also can’t provide me with a copy of my last paystub of 2015. Don’t understand that at all… I need to get this taken care of ASAP. What is my next best option?

    • Hi Derek,

      Since you have previously received your W-2 form, you are in a better situation than most. In your case, you can be pretty sure that your employer has submitted the employee W-2 forms to the IRS. In that case, you can contact the IRS directly and they should be able to assist you with your W-2 information.

    • Hi Derek,

      Since you have previously received your W-2 form, you are in a better situation than most. In your case, you can be pretty sure that your employer has submitted the employee W-2 forms to the IRS. In that case, you can contact the IRS directly and they should be able to assist you with your W-2 information.

  6. Lashambrea says:

    I need to file my 2015 federal returns but I lost one of my w2 and I have went on the website to get it but I can’t access it it keep saying access denied I called my job that I work for like three months in 2015 but they keep giving me the run around I don’t know what to do I have my 1099 but not the w2 for my second job what should I do

    • Hi Lashambrea,

      You can request a transcript from the IRS. You can find everything you’ll need to do this on the IRS website HERE. The last alternative that I suggest taking is filing form 4852 to the IRS. This is a substitute for certain wage statements.

  7. Chasity Herrington says:

    If I use the form 4852 to do my taxes how do I claim dependants on it? This is my first year filing and my previous employer sent out my w2 to the wrong address and aren’t going to resend it to the correct address..

    • Hi Chastity,

      Form 4852 will be filed in addition to your tax return (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, OR 1040X). You will not claim your dependents on Form 4852 but they will be claimed on your Form 1040.

  8. Janice says:

    Can I still file my taxes if my employer has not submitted my w2 forms to the IRS???

    • Hi Janice,

      If waiting to receive your W-2 form is not an option for you and you are sure about the amounts that are listed on your W-2 for the year, then it is not necessary to have a physical copy in order to file your tax return. Keep in mind that if your calculations are not accurate and you file prior to receiving your W-2, you may need to amend your return to include the corrected amounts once your employer submits them to the IRS.

  9. angel says:

    If I file my taxes and I am missing a W2 and I only used one of the two and file my return knowing I will lose money. Will the IRS reject my return for not filing with both W-2 forms?

    • Your employer sends a copy of all of the W-2 forms that you were issued for the year to the IRS. Therefore, the IRS has a record of the amount of income that you should be reporting for the tax year. If you omit any income from your return and it is accepted by the IRS, they will most likely ask that you amend your return to include all of your income.

  10. Kevin D. says:

    Hello, I’m disabled retired military. Do I still file taxes even if I don’t get a W2 or a 1099R? I do get Social Security along with my retirement pay. I just don’t know what to do because this is my first year filing without a W2. Thanks for any help given.

    • Military Disability Retirement Pay received as a pension, annuity or similar allowance for personal injury or sickness resulting from active service in the armed forces should not be included in taxable income if any of the following conditions apply:
      You were entitled to receive a disability payment before September 25, 1975;
      You were a member of the military (active or reserves) or were under a binding written commitment to become a member on September 24, 1975;
      You receive disability payments for a combat-related injury. This is a personal injury or sickness that:
      Resulted directly from armed conflict,
      Took place while you were engaged in extra-hazardous service,
      Took place under conditions simulating, including training exercises such as maneuvers, or
      Was caused by an instrumentality of war.

  11. Abby says:

    I’m trying to help my sister in law file her taxes, but she worked at a strip club all year and they don’t give w-2’s. So how should I go about helping her do her taxes?

    • If your sister was paid on a W-2 income statement, but never received it from her employer, she can request a transcript of her wages from the IRS here in order to prepare her tax return.

      If your sister’s employer does not pay their employees on W-2 income statements, but instead pays in cash or on a 1099-MISC, then your sister can report her self employment income to the IRS on a Schedule C. Rapidtax expertly handles W-2 income and Self employment business income. Click here to get started today.

  12. Nichole Hewitt says:

    My 20 yr old daughter and 22 yr old son in law just moved in with me. They immediately completed change of addresses in the middle of January. She has hasn’t received her 3 W-2s yet. He is missing his also. I am a USPS employee and am certain the change of addresses were filled out correctly. They do not have paystubs or any experience in this matter. Please HELP!!

  13. Kenny says:

    I cut grass in the neighborhood we stay. They pay me with cash, how can I file my taxes? I have a 12 year old daughter that im claiming so I should get money back def want to file

  14. DIXIE says:

    Hi. I started a job back in November. My job automatically done one exemption, married. It’s just my husband & I, both of us work. When I get 80 hours, I make 634. No taxes are taken out. I don’t want to owe taxes. How do I claim on my w-4 form. And are exemptions and allowances the same thing or different. It can get confusing.

    • The higher amount of allowances you claim will result in you being exempt from being taxed more. You can discuss with your employer on changing the number of allowances you would like to claim on your W-4, and the lower the value, the more taxes you will have end up being withheld from your payroll check throughout the year. The advantage of this is that you are more than likely due a refund at the end of the tax year for over payment of taxes rather than having a tax liability by the new tax season cycle.

  15. Donna Byers says:

    I filed federal income tax for year 2013 but forget to file state return.Cant find my w2 and employers say they can’t help me.irs can only give me federal not state info.state office say they don’t have it either.whst should I do because until I file my 2013 state return they are withholding my 2015 federal refund.

  16. joanna says:

    how do i file for freelance work, where i was not given a tax form by any of my clients? is it form 4852? thanks

    • Freelance work (Non-employee income) is self-employment income that needs to be reported on a Schedule C form. Form 4852 on the other hand is for employees who cannot retrieve their W-2 statement from their employer.

  17. Dee says:

    I am missing Copy B of W2 to file with federal taxes. Will the IRS accept Copy 2, the city or local filing copy? I did request a copy from IRS, but it says (taxpayer copy) through the middle of page. I’m confused. Am I supposed to cut this copy and send top half as the top half does reflect the bottom portion, or should I just send Form 4852?

    • Hello Dee,

      If you are mailing in your return, you can mail your your federal return, Form 1040 along with Form 4852 (Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc.) and copy the W-2 statement provide by the IRS and mail that to the IRS.

  18. Dana says:

    What should we do if we filed our 2013 taxes and got rejected for incorrect names on the e-file now the e-file is closed out cuz it’s more than three years we want to refile but we can’t obtain the W-2s that we filed on the e-file with what is the best thing to do the quickest route to obtain copies of the W-2s that were used to efile because they can’t be found anywhere and can’t get copy from TAXact apparently after 3 years so we have looked everywhere and they are no where to be found. Can someone please tell us what to do? The tax payer, Allen, is disabled and ccollected disability at THAT time, now is 65 and collects from regular social security instead of the social security disability office. ALL OF the w -2 forms + were ALL FILED ON APRIL 15TH 2014, E -FILED THRU TAXACT, BUT REJECTED DUE TO THE NAMES OF THE DEPENDANTS DIDN’T MATCH WITH THE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS SO TAXES FOR THAT YEAR WERE REJECTED. THEN COULDN’T FILE BECAUSE OF ALL of the W-2 forms are ALL MISSING AND NEEDED TO REFILE! CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL US WHERE OR HOW TO GET ELEMENTARY TYPE OF INFORMATION / HELP IN- ORDER

    • Tax Advisor says:

      In order to obtain your prior year income information, it is best to contact the IRS for an income transcript for the specific year. Through the IRS website you will be able to access instructions on how to retrieve your information for filing.

  19. Yvee says:

    Hi, I had 2 separate employers in 2016 that I worked for as an “employee”. By “employee”, I mean that I was required to arrive and leave at stated times and I turned in timecards, not requests for payments. However, these employers did not issue w2’s or 1099’s. How do I go about reporting my income?

    • You must first determine if you were an employee or if you were self-employed.
      As an employee, you should have received a W-2 income statement from your Employer. If you did not, you can contact the company’s HR department for a copy of your W-2 form or you can request a Wage transcript from the IRS.

      If you self-employed and you did not receive a 1099-MISC, you can report the cash amount that you received as payment.

    • If your employers paid you an annual salary of over $600 dollars, they are mandated by the IRS to issue an income statement to you. In order to avoid late filing, you may wish to address this with your employer or contact the IRS as soon as possible. You can also request an income tax transcript from the IRS to ensure whether or not they have your income statements on file. If not, you may want to proceed with filing your income as self-employed with income earned not reported on a 1099-MISC>

      • Julianne says:

        I requested a transcript and was sent a letter saying ‘no record of return filed.’ I only worked one month in 2017 and was unemployed 10 years prior to that. My employer refuses to release my W-2 to me and I have NO WAY of getting it from them.

        • Julianne,
          This letter means you did not file for a specific tax year. You may contact the IRS directly over the phone to request an IRS transcript for any tax year at 1800-829-1040.

  20. Megan says:

    Hello, I worked my last for over a year and had to quit because I caught them not paying the hours I worked. I called Corporate about it and no one ever got back to me. I called my old boss there today 02/06/2018 and told her that I have not gotten my W-2 in the mail and I can’t do it myself because they never sent me one pay stub. What do I do if I already know they will not send me my W-2? on the phone she pretty much said to me “sorry not sorry”. I tried calling the IRS and they said they can’t help me until after Feb. 15th. I was googling on what I should do next and I found this page… this is my last resort.

  21. Tiffany says:

    I have a question to ask. Is there away you can find out thru the IRS what was reported to them thru an former employer before you file taxes?

  22. Julianne says:

    What if you were only at your job for 4 weeks(1 month) and only received two pay checks? What if your employer did not report wages and you no longer have pay stubs for some reason? How can you fill out a form 4852 when you don’t know your wages at all? How is it still the responsibility of the former or current employee if their employer violates the law by not reporting wages? Kind of unfair. Everyone doesn’t keep up with pay stubs.

    • Danielle says:

      I need to know this too. My employer has never given me a pay stub and will not give me one still. The IRS gave me a 4852 form but I have no idea how to fill it out.

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