Never Received W-2 From Former Employer: Here are Tips on How to Get It

Every year millions of American find themselves in trouble during the tax season, whether it’s about filing tax returns or waiting for their refunds. On one side, the taxpayers are making sure that they have claimed all rebates and discounts to decrease their tax liability. At the same time, they are making efforts to file their return with all the required documents.

Some individuals rely on professional tax professionals to file their returns, while others take the help of tax software to file an accurate return. Regardless of the income level, state, city, and tax circumstances, all employed individuals will need a Form W-2 to report their income accurately when filing the tax return.

However, many times it happens that you have left a job from one place during the tax year and joined somewhere else. You are supposed to receive a Form W-2 from your former employer for the tax year. But many people face the problem of not receiving the Form W-2 from the ex-employer. Now, what to do?

We will share the tips and tricks to get your Form W-2, its alternative, or file a return without Form W-2. So let’s get into it.

What is Form W-2?

Form W-2 is the tax form that every employer has to submit to the IRS for every employee he has hired and paid salary in a tax year. Every employer doing a business and paying cash and non-cash remuneration of $600 or higher during a year must file Form W-2. The IRS has set some criteria to define an employer who must file Form W-2 to the IRS.

Form W-2 is pronounced as Wage and Tax Statement, and we can define it as,

The statement issued by an employer to the employee containing the information about the employee’s annual wages and withheld taxes from paychecks for the reporting year is called form W-2. Different parts of the form W-2 contain information like federal withholding tax, social security tax, medicare tax, state and local income taxes, and employee’s gross wages.”

The purpose of the IRS by requiring Form W-2 from the employers is to make sure that withholding taxes and contributions of every employee are reported accurately.

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The Form W-2 also contains information about tip income, dependent care expenses, deferred compensation, contributions, etc., of an employee. It’s a mandatory requirement to file Form W-2 by every employer, submit it to Social Security Administration, and send a copy to the employee.

Why Do Employees Need To Get Form W-2 From Their Employer?

The employer has already mailed Form W-2 to Social Security Administration(SSA). Why the employer has to send the copy to the employee as well?

Well, it’s a lot of work an employer has to do when filing the Form W-2. He is supposed to make six copies of the form. And three out of six copies have to be sent to the employee.


The first copy sent to the employee has to be attached to the Federal income tax return that the employee will be filing with the IRS. The employee requires the second copy of the Form W-2 for attaching to the local or state tax return. The third copy of Form W-2 has to be sent to the employee to keep a record with himself.

So if you’re not sure why an employer has to send Form W-2 to his employee, it’s because the IRS requires an employer to send the copy to the employee. In return, the employee has to attach a copy when filing the tax return.

Many people often wonder if it makes sense if you need to wait for your employer to send you the Form W-2. Why does an employee need a Form W-2 from his former employer?

Here’s the answer.

If you’re filing the tax return for the year when you were working with the previous employer, you will need the Form W-2 from the ex-employer. You need the information of Form W-2 like:

  • Total money earned at the company in the past tax year
  • Annual contribution to a retirement fund
  • Employer contribution to employee health care
  • Amount of federal, state, social security, and Medicare taxes withheld from income
  • Dependent care benefits amount received

When Should Employer Send You Form W-2?

With said that, an employee must have his Form W-2 with him before the income tax return deadline. When should the employer send his employees a filled Form W-2?

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According to the general prescribed practices, an employer must dispatch the Form W-2 to his employees before Jan 31 of every year. There might be a few days delay due to any uncontrollable reasons or transit delays. However, it should not be later than the first quarter of February.

What To Do If You Didn’t Receive Form W-2 From Your Employer?

If your previous employer has not sent you the Form W-2, you must take action within time to avoid delays in filing a tax return for the year. Here are a few options for you to ensure that things are in your hand.

Check Your Email and Mailbox

First things first, be positive about your ex-employer that he would have sent you the Form W-2. If you’re not able to locate your Form W-2, check your email to see if the files have been filtered to Archives or you might have just not checked the notifications.

The second option is to go through your mailbox to check the mail you received in the first half of February. Also, ensure you submit the correct information to your employer.

And if you change the address after leaving the previous job, make the arrangement that you update your address.

If you haven’t received the Form W-2 by Feb 14, it’s time to switch to the next action.

Contact The Employer

Contact the Human Resources Department of your previous employer and inquire about the status of your Form W-2. The HR department might tell you that Form W-2 has already been mailed. Confirm your mailing address if you moved in the past.

Besides, there’re chances that the Form W-2 has been mailed to the wrong address or got lost in transit. Whatever the case, make sure to negotiate even if you have to offer them to pick up Form W-2 in person from the office.

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If your previous company didn’t have an HR department and relied on third-party payroll service providers, call the payroll administrator to make sure that they send you the Form W-2.

Contact The IRS

If you cannot reach out to your employer, you will next contact the IRS and get their assistance on the matter. Your ex-employer may have already filed Form W-2 with SSA, so you can get a copy from there. You can also visit the IRS office personally and get the required information.

However, make sure that you have the following information on hand when contacting the IRS:

  • Your name, address, SSN, phone number, etc.
  • Name of your previous employer, his address & phone number, etc.
  • Estimated wages and federal tax withheld from your income

Once you contact the IRS and ask them about the information, they will try to contact your employer and request Form W-2. Otherwise, they might check with SSA to get a copy of Form W-2 for you.

File Without Form W-2

If the IRS cannot help you get the Form W-2, they will send you a Form 4852. Form 4852 is a substitute for Form W-2 that you will fill when the employer has not issued Form W-2 or issued an incorrect W-2. You have to add the estimated wages and taxes withheld to the best of your knowledge and file your tax return.

Ask For An Extension

If your employer has asked you to take some time to fill out the Form W-2 and send it to you, you might not be able to file your Federal Income Tax Return on time.

Therefore, you can apply for an extension by filing Form 4868 with Form 1040. Form 4868 will automatically give you a six-month extension for filing Form W-2.


You can take any step to make sure that either you have the Form W-2 before the tax return deadline or you go for alternative options available by the IRS. Whatever the option, file your tax return on time to save yourself from any penalties and late filing fines.