If you’ve changed jobs within the last year, your previous employer could forget to send you a W2. Most employers and human resource departments try not to let previous employees slip through the cracks at tax time, but it’s a busy time of year and mistakes do happen. It’s important to know when you should expect your W2 and what to do if you don’t get it when you should.

Why Do I Need My W2?

The steps you take to get a missing W2 may depend largely on why you need it. A W2 from your employer summarizes the money you made and the taxes you paid for a given year. This information is also provided under the year-to-date column of your paystub. The W2, however, serves as an official statement that verifies the information you report on your tax return. Later we’ll talk about what to do if you don’t get a W2, but you generally do need one when filing your taxes.

Sometimes, however, an IRS tax transcript will do instead of a W2. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re applying for a bank loan. You’ve only been at your job a little over a year, so the loan officer wants to see a W2 from your previous employer. But you can’t seem to find it.

In this case, you can contact the IRS and ask for a transcript. If you filed a paper return or a paper copy of your W2, they will send a copy to you. If you filed electronically instead, they’ll send you an official Internal Revenue Service transcript of your tax return. You can then give this to the loan officer in lieu of your missing W2.

To get a transcript, you’ll need to file Form 4506 or 4506-T, depending on whether you need a copy of the entire return or just any supporting documents. This service may not be free, so check the form carefully to make sure you’ve sent along any required payments.

When Do I Get My W2?

If you haven’t yet received your W2, you may simply be expecting it too early. The IRS requires employers to mail W2 forms by January 31. Note that this date is when they must mail the form — not when you must receive the form. This is a point of confusion for a lot of taxpayers. The IRS tells taxpayers to allow ample time for mail delivery. There is no cause for alarm unless your W2 is still missing on February 14. if you haven’t gotten what you need by Valentine’s Day, it’s time to start investigating.

How Do I Get a W2 From My Old Job?

w2 form

You shouldn’t have to do anything special to get a W2 from your old job. They should send it to you automatically. All you have to do is make sure you fill out a change of address card if you move so the post office can forward your W2 (and other mail) as needed. Once everyone knows where to find you, your W2 should simply arrive one day early in the year.

If you haven’t received your W2 by February 14, first make sure it’s truly missing. Check your email, including your spam folder, to see if your former employer sent the document electronically. It’s easy to sign up for electronic versions of documents and then forget you’ve done so.

Check your email or your payroll portal if you still have access

If you received pay stubs and other information through some type of online portal, your W2 may be waiting for you there if you still have access. Taxpayers often ask, “can I get my W2 online?” This depends on your employer and whether or not they provided online access to payroll information. If they did, they may expect you to go and retrieve your W2 yourself when you want it.

Contact your former employer or payroll administrator directly

After checking your email and online portals, it may become clear that your W2 truly is missing. In that case, you will need to know how to get a W2 from my old job. The first step is to call your former employer and ask them to send it. If they used an outside payroll service or administrator, you can also contact them for help. They should still have records even if your old employer has gone out of business.

If you can’t track your W2 down but want to handle the situation yourself, contact the Internal Revenue Service. If you call them at 1-800-829-1040, they can send the employer a reminder to send you a W2. Even if your former boss has been giving you the run-around, he’s not likely to do the same once the IRS gets involved.

Call your tax preparer for help

When all else fails, ask a professional tax preparer for help. Sometimes a CPA or tax accountant can coerce a bit more cooperation from your former employer than you can. If not, a CPA will know how to work around your missing W2. She may, for example, suggest filing your tax return using the information from your final pay stub along with a Form 4852.

If you think you can get a W2 but you need more time, she can also file an extension for you, giving you more time to get your tax documents in order. (Remember that, as always, an extension gives you more time to file a return but not more time to pay any tax due.)

Picnic Tax Can Help

A missing W2 can prove frustrating to track down, but you don’t have to do it on your own. At Picnic Tax, we’re happy to help you track down missing tax documents. If we can’t for some reason, like your former employer is out of business, we’re prepared to switch gears and help you compile the most accurate information possible so you can file your tax return without your AWOL W2. No matter what, we won’t leave you to deal with the Internal Revenue Service on your own. Reach out today and let us help you get whatever you need.