Wage and Tax Statements, also known as W-2 forms, are provided yearly by employers to show your earnings and taxes. You need your W-2 in order to file yearly taxes with the IRS, which are due every April 15th.
You should always save your W-2s, tax returns, and all associated documents for at least three years, depending on your situation. For example, they are required as proof of employment for background checks; proof of income for apartment rentals, mortgages, and loans; and in other situations, such as legal reasons, where you have to provide proof of income for the previous year.
Ways to Obtain Old Copies of your W-2
If you haven't saved old W-2 forms and require them for one of the above situations, don't fret. There are several ways you might be able to get ahold of them. Depending on your situation, you may need to contact one or more of the parties below.
Retrieve W-2s from Your Current Employer
Employers are obligated to keep copies of W-2 forms for four years, however some may keep them for longer. Contact one of your company's HR representatives to find out how long they keep these documents on record. If you require an even older W-2 and they don't have it on file, keep reading.
Retrieve W-2s from Your Tax Professional
If you used a tax service like H&R Block to file your taxes, they should have copies of all your forms, though they may charge a fee to provide them to you. If you used an online tax program, you can log-in and view your filings for previous years.
Retrieve Your Wage & Income Transcript from the IRS
You can request a transcript of past tax return information either online or through the mail. This won’t contain your actual W-2 but will contain the information found in them, such as data reported by W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, and 5498s. Keep in mind that these transcripts are available for the past 10 tax years, but information for the current processing tax year may not be complete until the earnings are reported.
Retrieve W-2s from Your Previous Employer
If you lose a previous year's W-2 form and need it as proof of income you should reach out to your former employer and request a copy of the missing year's W-2. Most employers should oblige you with giving you a copy, however they may only keep a record for four years.
Keep in mind that if your former employer is no longer in business, they are still obligated to provide you with a W-2 if you never received one from the previous tax year. If you require an older W-2, you will need to contact the IRS.
Retrieve W-2s from the IRS
The only way to receive a copy of your W-2 is to order a copy of the entire return by using form 4506 and paying a $43 fee for each return requested. The IRS waives the fee for taxpayers impacted by a federally declared disaster or a significant fire. You can designate a third party to receive the tax return and whether you need the completed form mailed or faxed. According to the IRS, most requests are processed within 10 business days from the received date.
What to Do if Your W-2 Contains Errors
If your W-2 form contains errors, attempt to resolve the errors by first contacting your employer. Most employers are happy to fix such inaccuracies. If they fail to do so for whatever reason, you can contact the IRS at the same number previously listed for assistance.
You may need to use form 4852 when filing if you do not receive a corrected W-2 in time. Alternatively, you can file for an extension and complete your taxes after the deadline.
Keep Your W-2s and Other Documents in a Safe Place
It is always a good idea to have a place in your house to keep documents safe. Whether it is an actual physical safe or simply a filing cabinet, having a specific location will allow you to find old forms easily in the event that you need them.