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How to File Taxes without a W-2

Posted by on October 18, 2016
Last modified:
If you don’t have a W-2, contact your employer. If that doesn't work, you'll need to contact the IRS. Learn more and file your taxes with PriorTax.

It’s easy to lose your W-2 and just as simple to file without it.

E-filing your tax return these days is pretty straightforward. You just plug in the numbers on your W-2 to the online  tax application, take the credits and deductions you’re entitled to, and VOILA! Couldn’t be simpler.

But what happens if you don’t have a W-2? Suddenly things get a lot more complicated. Don’t worry. There are steps to take to make sure you get your tax return to the IRS.

Contact your employer

First thing’s first. Make every attempt to get the actual document itself. If your employer didn’t send you one, or sent you one that was incorrect, contact them and request that they send you the right one.

Employers are required to have W-2 forms issued to their employees by January 31. If you still don’t have it by then, it’s time to take additional action. At this point you should call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and tell them about your missing W-2. They will call your employer and tell them to send you the W-2.

You may need to fill out IRS forms

If this still fails to get you a W-2, the IRS will tell you to file 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.].

As stated above, you should only complete this form if you absolutely can’t get the original W-2, or if the original is incorrect. Once you complete Form 4852 you should submit it along with your prepared tax return.

Just as a warning, don’t attempt to avoid or evade your tax liability by improperly taking advantage of Form 4852. You could face some pretty severe penalties including:

  • accuracy-related penalties at 20% of the tax that should have been paid
  • civil fraud penalties at 75% of taxes that should have been paid
  • a $5,000 civil penalty for filing a frivolous return

Consequences when you file taxes without a W-2

Many people trying to get their refund as soon as possible assume that they can file a tax return without a W-2 using the information from their last pay stub. While technically you can do this, it’s not a good idea. Why not? Well, if it turns out that you file using your pay stub and the information you enter doesn’t match the information on the W-2 on file with the IRS, you will have to file an amended return, which will end up costing you time and money.

If you’re trying to file a prior year return and you’re missing the W-2 from that year, you can retrieve a transcript of your W-2 from the IRS and use that to complete your return.

Then, once you’re ready you’ll be able to save time by preparing your taxes online with PriorTax! The user-friendly tax application makes filing taxes easy!

Prepare and file your late and current tax return today with PriorTax!

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49 Responses to “How to File Taxes without a W-2”

  1. Michael John Lisardo says:

    Need transcript of W-2 from 2011.

    Address is: 804 S. Canton Dr., Fort Worth, Tx. 76112

  2. james Ray Catchings says:

    I need a W-2 from 2013 from Waverly Discount Beverage in Waverly. Ny 14892 My employer has refused to give it to me. 536 Meyers Rd. Summerville,SC29483

    • admin says:

      HI James,

      You’ll need to contact the IRS in order to get your missing W-2 information. To do so, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040. When calling, you’ll need to provide them with your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, the employer contact info and employment information.

      Alternatively, you can file your return without your W-2 and with your tax return you will need to include Form 4852-Substitute for Form W-2. On the form 4852 you’ll be required to enter an estimate of your income and withholding.

  3. devistated says:

    i am unsure of how to file my taxes for 2014 since the only funds i generated where from helping people with their medical cannabis needs, i do not have a w2 as i didn’t have a regular job. but i did receive donations for my help and would like to file taxes so i don’t get into trouble

    • admin says:


      I can understand your confusion. Once you have created an account on Priortax, you will be able to enter your miscellaneous income under the “other income” section tab. Under this section, you will see that you can enter what the income is from and the amount. Please feel free to use our free customer service option as well if you are having any trouble.

  4. linda garcia says:

    My son needs his w2 forms from twenty two years ago .he was having problems with some one using his social security number which was stolen

    • admin says:

      Hi Linda,

      The IRS only offers prior year W-2 copies to taxpayers for the past 10 years. You may want to contact the IRS directly and explain your situation. They should be able to offer further insight on how you can obtain your son’s W-2.

  5. Kay says:

    I worked for a job finder called freshstart in 2013 this company is now out of business and I need my w2 from them in order to file it this year. How or what do you suggest

    • admin says:

      Hi Kay,

      When you are unable to get in touch with a past employer or the company goes out of business, you need to obtain your W-2 form from the IRS. In order to do this, you have two options.
      1. You can request an actual copy with Form 4506. This comes with a $50.00 fee.
      2. You can request a transcript from the IRS with IRS Form 4506-T. This is free of charge and will typically suffice if you simply need the information for your employment income.

  6. Barbara Howard says:

    I need to file my 2014 taxes, but do not have an original copy of my W2. I have a Xerox copy of the original W2. Can I use that?

    • admin says:

      Hi Barbara,

      That is perfectly fine to use! As long as you have the correct information from the W-2, you will be able to report that on your tax return.

  7. LK Higdon says:

    How can I file my 2015 taxes without the paperwork from filing in 2014? I do have the income forms — 1099 — but do not have the previous year’s filing forms, which were submitted by AARP volunteers last year. Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Hi LK,

      You do not necessarily need your previous year tax return in order to file for the current year. However, you can always request a free transcript by mail from the IRS HERE. This will be delivered to you within 5-10 business days.

  8. Marlana says:

    I recently misplaced my W-2 form and I really need to do my taxes as soon as possible. How should I go about getting my W-2 to file for the 2015 work year? Will I be penalized for filing late if I don’t owe taxes, but am simply filing for a refund? I was told that if you do not owe on your taxes, you do not have to file exactly by the deadline, is this true?

    • admin says:

      Hi Marlana,

      If you are expecting to be issued a refund from the IRS instead of owing, then you will not be penalized for filing after the deadline. The IRS allows three years from the tax deadline for a taxpayer to file and claim their tax refund. After three years, you can (and should) still file but your refund will not be issued. In order to locate a copy of your W-2, I suggest contacting your employer who will have a copy on file (or can obtain a copy from your payroll processor). If you are unable to contact your employer, then the IRS can help you. As long as your employer submitted W-2 forms to the IRS (which they are required to do), then the IRS will have the information on file.

  9. Amber says:

    My boyfriends job mailed his w-2 for 2016 but he never received them he asked for anothet copy but they refused to give him one but they said the can make a copy from a printer for him can he use that to get his taxes for 2016

    • admin says:

      Hi Amber,

      He shouldn’t have a problem with a copy of his W-2. His tax preparer only needs the information reported on the W-2.

  10. Tiana says:

    I need my W2 form from 2014. I don’t know how to file taxes, never did it before. My job at the time was Sam’s Club Princeton NJ 08540. I don’t know what to do. Help please.

    • admin says:

      You can request a transcript of your wages online from the IRS. Click here if you wish to do so. However, the IRS wage transcript does not include your state information. You will be required to contact your state authority for your state amounts.
      Once you have gathered your information, you can return to to get started on your return. We provide free customer service support if you need additional assistance.

  11. Brett Perretta says:

    Is it possible to file for taxes without a W-2 form, I didn’t work but I’m on wprlsmanscomp from accident and have 3 kids, any help will be greatly appreciated.

    • admin says:

      Hello Brett,

      Worker’s compensation is non-taxable according to the IRS and it is not considered earned income so it will not qualify you to file your income tax return.

  12. buffy says:

    Being audited for not filing in 2011. I cant remember what temp staffing service i worked for. Is there a way i can get a copy of my w2 from the irs even though i didnt file

  13. Sweetart says:

    If I have to file for 2011 what year do I need for the w2

    • admin says:

      You need to report your information from your 2011 W-2 income statements. Once the tax year is 2011, you must reference your corresponding 2011 W-2.

  14. Sandy says:

    My daughter-in law did not receive a W2 form from a previous employer. The company is no longer in business and she does not have her last pay stub. She has contacted the owner of the business and they said they would send her one. She never received it and now they want answer her phone call. What is the best thing to do to file taxes?

    • admin says:

      You can request from the IRS, a copy of your income transcript that will contain all of your federal information to file a federal return. However you must also request from your state an income transcript as well. This is because only the State Income Transcript contains the state information.

  15. Juan says:

    I am retired, don’t have/didn’t get a W2, how can I file my taxes? I only have a social security form

    • admin says:

      Hello Juan,

      Based on the information provided, it seems like the only form of income was from Form SSA-1099. You may use our website to file your taxes. report all forms of income corresponding to the Income type.

  16. Milo Safley says:

    How’s things?, sometimes I get a 400 site message when I browse this website. Just a heads up, cheers

    • admin says:

      Thank you for informing us Milo, if you are still experiencing these problems when attempting to view our website, it would be best for you to use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

  17. Annie Brown says:

    I filed my taxes this year and they are holding my refund because i didnt file taxes the year before but how do i get the w-2 from 2015? do i contact my empolyer or just fill out the form provided above?

    • admin says:

      Hello Annie,

      In order to retrieve your W-2 from the year 2015, you will need to contact your previous employer. If your previous employer does not have this W-2 available for you, you may also request an income transcript from the IRS on the IRS website.

  18. clean says:

    I’ve learned seᴠeral juѕt right stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. You have placed a lot of effort into creating this excellent informative web site.

  19. pink says:

    i was wondering how can i file my taxes if i don’t get a W2 from my employer? i get paid cash and don’t get and pay stubs

    • admin says:

      Your employer must issue you a W-2 if you are considered an employee of the company. However, if you are considered a self-employed individual, then you will need to file a Sch C for self-employment income earned through the year. You may want to confirm with your employer, on whether or not they took our FICA taxes. If they did, request that a W-2 be issued for you.

  20. David Warren says:

    I was fired from my job and never got my last paycheck. But I have the paycheck stub from the week before. Can I use that with the 4852 form?

    • admin says:

      Form 4852 is only to be used as a substitute after you’ve exhausted all other means of obtaining Form W-2. You can try to contact the HR department of your old employer and request your W-2 information. Another option would be to request a transcript of your wages from the IRS. I do not advise you to file your return based on your paycheck information.

  21. Carolina F Farrar says:

    I have problem to print my W-2 because Walmart change there program everytime I put our employer code number and my SS number, my pin they put me right away about my information I put all my information still not getting the copy. It’s really prostrated to get the w-2. How can you help me about this even our HR can’t help us.

  22. Raju says:

    My employer has refused to give w-2,I have my paychecks.Is it possible to file tax return with the pay checks

    • admin says:

      In this case, it is advised to contact the IRS or visit the IRS website to request an IRS transcript to ensure that you are reporting you’re income correctly.

  23. Bobby says:

    You can expect a refund,around,the end of April,most likely,some time in May?..

  24. rhodes says:

    I filed IRS taxes from 13 and 14 with the IRS transcripts. But don’t have the W2s for those years. I have contacted the companies of those years for these W2s and they are not available. I have gone to the 2 states involved. And the states say they don’t have the information until I file my taxes. I need this information for these years and don’t know how to find it. Will the 4506 get a copy of the W2s from those years? Would those be sent in from the employer?

    • admin says:

      Employers issue W-2s. However, if you cannot obtain a W-2 for any tax year, an IRS transcript will give you a detailed summary of each W-2 you received. Use the IRS transcript to prepare your tax return.

  25. sovannah says:

    i went to file taxes for the first time this year & it says im claiming 3 people already, who do i call to get it fixed?

  26. Misty says:

    What if my employer told us in april we need to file extension becuz he didnt have the w2’s ready yet, and now its october and he saying he still hasnt prepared the w2’s and dont know when he will have them ready, what do I do? Bcuz my extension is only till the 15th, I had direct deposit and dont have any paycheck stubs either.

    • Manisha Hansraj says:

      Hello Misty,
      We’re sorry to hear about your situation. If you want to file right away, download and file Form 4852 (Substitute for Form W-2) with your tax return based off of your last paystub information. You will need to estimate as closely as possible. If you receive your W-2 after filing, you will have to amend your tax return with Form 1040X if any off the amounts are off. Another way would be to contact the IRS and provide you and your employer’s information to see if they can locate a W-2 on file or prepare Form 4852 for you; as the employer files any income statements to the IRS first.

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