How to Get Your W-2 Forms From Previous Employers
October 03, 2023
For a regular taxpayer, knowing how to get your W-2 form from your previous employer is a must to ensure you file your taxes on time.
Nothing is more frustrating than missing tax deadlines and potentially facing penalties simply because your last employer sent your W-2 form late or, worse, refused to send it for whatever reason.
We created this article to serve as your guide to getting copies of your W-2 forms from your past employer. You will also learn about alternative IRS tax forms you can use in case you are unable to retrieve your wage and tax documents.
- The three easiest ways to get a W-2 form from a previous employer include requesting to have your form sent via email, contacting the payroll department, and seeking assistance from the IRS.
- Use Form 4852, a substitute for Form W-2, in case of a non-receipt of W-2 forms. File Form SS-8 for misclassified employment, and use Form 1040-X for amended tax returns.
- Employers are subject to face penalties if they fail to distribute all tax records to employees on or before January 31st or until February 15.
Why & When Do You Need Your Previous W-2 Forms?
Here are the different reasons why you need to learn when and how to get W-2 forms from your previous employer.
Your previous W-2 forms come in handy during tax season because they serve as your reference in reviewing all wages paid to you by your employer, as well as the total taxes withheld from your salary.
Even if you work more than two jobs, it is crucial to receive copies of your W-2 forms from all your employers to avoid discrepancies in your taxes and earnings.
Let’s say your employer, or one of your employers, did not withhold enough of your earnings to pay for your taxes. As a result, you may end up owing the government taxes or face potential penalties if you fail to address your tax obligations on time.
When applying for loans, you can use your W-2 form as an alternative document to prove your income if you are unable to retrieve copies of your pay stubs.
How to Get a W-2 Form From Your Previous Employer
There are a few different ways to get Form W-2 from your previous employer, which includes contacting the IRS or the payroll department of your ex-employer.
But first, we need to emphasize that employers are required by law to issue W-2 forms to both their current and former employees. There are also corresponding penalties for employers for not sending W-2 forms.
This is important for you to know and potentially use if needed when reaching out to your previous company.
Let’s now discuss the different ways to acquire your Form W-2 from your last employer, one by one:
#1. Send a Request Email to HR
The first step you can take is to reach out to the human resources department of your previous work via email and request that they send your Wage and Tax Statement forms to you electronically.
In your email, include your full name, your previous position in the company, and the duration of your tenure at your last job. Indicate the purpose of your email—to request copies of your W-2 form.
If possible, include your employee number or Social Security number to verify your identity and employment.
Once you have sent your request email, check your inbox from time to time. It is possible that the human resources department of your last employer may have additional clarifications or request some key information to certify your employment details and secure your files.
#2. Contact the Payroll Department
Aside from sending a request email to the human resources department, you can also get your W-2 from your previous employer by contacting their payroll department. Alternatively, you can also reach out to your former employer’s third-party payroll service provider.
Contact them and request to have your forms sent either through your email or mailing address. Make sure to provide them with your updated mailing address to prevent losing your documents in the mail.
#3. Contact the IRS
You might be wondering how you can get your W-2 form from your previous employer if they refuse to grant your request. Well, your last resort is to request your W-2 form with the assistance of the IRS.
You can contact the IRS toll-free hotline at 1-800-TAX-1040 (1-800-829-1040). Or, you can visit the nearest taxpayer assistance center in your area.
The IRS will contact your previous employer in your place and help get your Form W-2 from your last employer.
Note that you must prepare and provide the following information to the IRS:
- Your name, address, and contact information
- Your Social Security Number
- The name, address, and contact details of your previous employer
- The exact dates of your employment in your last job
- An estimate of the total amount of wages you received and the federal income taxes withheld from your income in the past year
What to do if Your W-2 Form is Late
If your W-2 form is late, the first thing you must do is contact your former employer as soon as possible.
Inform them that you haven’t received your Wage and Tax Statement. It is possible that your former employer either miscategorized you as an independent contractor, misplaced your files, or, worse, has a disorganized filing system for their current and past employees’ records.
IRS Deadline and Enforcement
There is a fixed deadline for distributing W-2 forms that all employers must follow.
The IRS mandates all employers to distribute W-2 forms to all their current and previous employees on or before the 31st of January each year or until February 15 at the latest.
Employers who fail to meet the deadline for distributing Form W-2 will face penalties depending on how much time has passed since they missed the deadline and the number of missing forms they failed to furnish or file.
In case you’ve reached out to your old employer, and they have not sent your W-2 on or before February 15, call the IRS hotline and report the incident. In response, the IRS will send a letter to your employer with instructions to send your Form W-2 within ten days of receiving the letter.
What if you still did not receive W-2 even after the IRS sent a letter?
Use your last pay stub and other proof of income, such as bank statements and deposits, to file your taxes instead. You can also create your own W-2 form, fill out the IRS substitute W-2, or use Form 4852.
What to do if Your W-2 Form is Incorrect
Receiving a W-2 form with incorrect information can be stressful because it adds to your tax filing to-do list.
Let’s say you were able to get your W-2 from your last employer but noticed errors such as your name being misspelled, anincorrect Social Security number, anincorrect surname (if you recently divorced or got married), or an outdated address.
Fortunately, there are countermeasures you can take in case you find any of the following mistakes in your Form W-2:
Errors in Your Personal Information
For errors in your name and Social Security number, the fastest way to resolve these mistakes is to reach out to your former employer and ask them to make the necessary corrections.
If your last employer mistakenly filled out your form with your old address, you can submit your Form W-2 alongside your Form 1040, provided that your Form 1040 now contains your updated address.
Miscategorized by Your Employer
A more complicated error you can encounter when it comes to acquiring your W-2 form is finding out that you have been miscategorized by your former boss as an independent contractor.
This type of mistake causes more work on your part because you might end up owing the full tax rates for both your Social Security and Medicare taxes. You may even lose your eligibility for W-2 employees, such as worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits.
If you think that you have been misclassified by your former employer, file IRS Form SS-8—Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding.
Once you file Form SS-8, the IRS will ask follow-up questions involving your employment, particularly the nature of your work and your work arrangement in your last job.
The IRS will then contact your employer and compare the information you have provided with the data provided by your former boss.
Another step you can take if you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor is to file Form 8919—Uncollected Social Security and Medicare Taxes. The said form is used to keep misclassified employees from paying over half of their FICA tax rates on their own.
Fake W-2 Form
Although uncommon, it is possible to receive a fake W-2 form, particularly if your last employer is involved in any suspicious or illegal operations. In the event that you suspect or receive a fabricated Form W-2, report it immediately to the state tax agency in your area.
What to do if You Don’t Receive Your W-2 Forms
If you end up not receiving your W-2 forms, you won’t be able to file your W-2 form and avoid incurring penalties.
Here are the steps you have to take if you did not receive your W-2 form:
Check that your employer sent the form to the correct address. Communication is key, and your former employer should be your first point of contact for any discrepancy or delay in receiving your Form W-2.
If it so happens that your Form W-2 was sent to the wrong or to an outdated address, allow an extended time for your last employer to retrieve and resend your tax form.
You can also seek the assistance of the IRS through their hotline or file Form 4852. The IRS may also help if you are trying to get your W-2 from a previous employer that is already out of business.
Alternatively, use Form 1040-X to amend your tax returns. The need to amend your tax returns arises if you receive your W-2 from your last employer after you have already filed IRS Form 4852, only to discover a mismatch in the information you initially provided in your Wage and Tax Statement.
Finally, file Form 8809—Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns—to get a 30-day extension on your tax return deadline.
Now that you know all the different steps and options you can try to get a W-2 from your previous employer, you have better chances of ensuring you don’t miss your tax deadlines.
Securing all your tax records is essential because you can review the amount of taxes you’ve paid and the amount you still owe, check the wages paid to you in the past year, and consequently know how to manage your tax-paying duties more efficiently.
How to Get W-2 Forms From Previous Employers FAQ
#1. How can I get my old W-2 forms without contacting my employer?
You can get your old W-2 forms without contacting your employer by seeking assistance from the IRS. Contact the IRS and provide your employee identification number from your last job.
#2. Can I get my old W-2 forms online?
Yes, you can get your old W-2 forms online by creating an account on the IRS website. The IRS now offers online services that let you access your tax records and request your transcripts of tax returns from previous years, wage and income statements, and more online.
#3. How to get a copy of the W-2 form fast?
The fastest way to get a copy of your W-2 form is by contacting your current or previous employer. This is especially true if you are requesting a copy of your current-year Form W-2.
#4. Can a previous employer email me my W-2 form?
Yes, a previous employer can email your W-2 form. See to it that you provide them with the correct email address and fulfill any additional instructions and information requested by your last employer for verification purposes.
#5. What happens if I forget to include my W-2 form in the tax returns to the IRS?
If you forgot to include your W-2 form when filing your tax returns with the IRS, you may have to file an amended return. To file an amended return, use IRS Form 1040-X—Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
#6. How long do employers need to keep W-2 records?
According to the IRS, employers should keep W-2 records and all documentation of employment tax records for at least four years.