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I Lost My W-2! What Should I Do?
As the 2013 tax deadline looms, many U.S. taxpayers are scrambling to find all the documents they need to file taxes. So what would you do if you realize that, among all of your files, you’ve either misplaced or have never received your Form W-2? You could always panic, but luckily, this isn’t necessary as there are easy ways to either gain access to the missing W-2 or file your return without it.

I Lost My W-2: What Should I Do?

For most tax filers, the W-2 is a critical piece of information that validates income earned throughout the tax year. The form, also known as the Wage and Tax Statement, is one that your employer sends you near the beginning of each calendar year.

By law, businesses are required to mail these forms by Jan. 31 in order to give filers ample time to meet the April income tax filing deadline. Your employer is also required to send a copy of the form directly to the IRS.

So what do you do if you realize that you’ve lost your W-2? According to the Internal Revenue Service, there is a list of options to consider:

Contact Your Employer

If you think you haven’t received your Form W-2, it’s not too late to contact your employer, tell them “I lost my W-2” and inquire if and when it will be mailed. It’s possible that the form was mailed but had to be returned to your employer due to an incorrect or incomplete address.

Contact the IRS Directly

Another option is contacting the IRS directly. The agency suggests contacting them at 1-800-829-1040 if you didn’t receive your form by Feb. 14. When you call, be prepared to provide your name, address, city, state, zip code, Social Security number, phone number and the following:

Employer’s name, full address and phone number
Dates of employment
An estimate of wages earned, federal income tax withheld and dates worked for your employer during 2013. These estimates can be acquired by looking at year-to-date information from your final pay stub.

By contacting the IRS directly and telling them I lost my W-2, they may be able to locate the form that was already sent to them by your employer.
Go Ahead and File Your Return

Whether you have your W-2 or not, the IRS requires that you file your return or request a tax extension by April 17. If you have already contacted the IRS about your lost return, the agency asks that you fill out IRS Form 4852, which serves as a substitute for Form W-2.

You will need to attach Form 4852 to your 1040, estimating income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible. The IRS warns that taking this route could result in a delay in your refund since it will need time to verify the information you’ve provided.

If your W-2 arrives after you’ve already filed your return using Form 4852 and you realize your wage and tax withheld details are wrong, you can amend the return. By filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, you can report the correct information to the IRS.

How to Get Your W-2 Online

Aside from working with the IRS or your employer, there are a couple of websites that could help some employees locate their W-2 information electronically.

The first website, W-2 eXpress, is an outsourced service from TALX that automates the W-2 process, including printing and distributing original statements and reissuing W-2s. It requires a few steps to gain access to a W-2 if your employer is listed in its system.

To get started, first click “Find employer name” below the login box on the homepage. After locating your employer, retrieve its ID number. This number, along with some of your personal, secure information such as the gross amount of your last paycheck, will allow you to login.

Once you’ve logged in, you can select to view your W-2 online or print it. The site allows you to request multiple copies for free. It’s good to note, however, that not all employers are linked to this service.

Rapid Tax, an authorized IRS e-file provider, also offers access to W-2 forms online. However, this organization charges $9.95 to pull your form and only services the military and specific companies.

Finally, you can check with your employer to see if it has a website already set up that allows workers to access their W-2s online.

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