You’re working on filing taxes, and you’ve got a refund due to you. But you’re missing one or two key W-2s, and they just don’t seem to be coming. Are you feeling antsy?

One of the most common—and frantic—questions asked of TaxMama at this time of year is, “I don’t have my W-2 yet. How can I punish my (current or former) employer for not getting it to me yet?”

OK, that’s not exactly what people are asking, but that’s the essence. Taxpayers who don’t have their W-2s immediately want blood. Can you do anything about this?

Well, first of all, find out if it’s been sent. The IRS requires that employers and vendors send W-2s and 1099s out by January 31. Wait until about February 5 or 6 for your mail to get delivered. If it hasn’t arrived by then…pause a moment and think.

Did you move during 2011? Did you remember to give all your employers your new address? If not, your W-2s may be sitting at the post office or they may have been returned to sender. You’ll need to take a few steps to track them down.

Tracking down a lost W-2

  • Contact your current or former employer and ask for your W-2 to be sent to your current address. It’s also quite possible that the company or the payroll service it uses has an online database you can access to download your W-2 instead.
  • Many large and small employers participate in the tax W-2 Express Service. If your employer participates, you may be able to download the W-2 directly into your tax return. The major online tax and storefront tax prep companies are also e-file partners.
  • Pay for a W-2 service. There are several online services that charge about $10 or so to generate your W-2s for you immediately and send them to you by email. Check out MissingW-2.com or RapidTax.org for more information.
  • Contact the IRS by calling 800-829-1040 (800-TAX 1040). You’ll need to have some information handy when you call before filing taxes. You can also use Form 4506-T to get electronic copies of your W-2, but this can take up to several weeks.

What do you do if there is NO W-2?

Your problem is not that the W-2 got lost. Your problem is that your employer is out of business and won’t be issuing a W-2 at all. Uh oh. What now?

The solution is easy if you have your last paystub with all the year-to-date amounts. Just enter all the information for filing taxes from the paystub into Form 4852 – Substitute for W-2. Answer all the questions on that form and you can use it as if it were a W-2. Most states also accept this IRS form.

And what if you don’t have your final paystub—or you do, but the year-to-date information isn’t on it? You need to find a way to estimate your earnings and withholding. If you can’t figure out an objective way to do this, get the help of a tax professional. Enrolled agents (that’s what I am) and CPAs are pretty good at reconstructing payroll data and articulating reasonable explanations to support their work papers. That’s why we get the big bucks!

READ MORE:
Money Management Tips: Storing Your Paperwork
Last-Minute Ideas for Saving Money on Your Taxes
Documenting Your Donations for Tax Deductions
Tax Deduction for Claiming Elderly Relatives and Dependents
Tax Tips: Tax Implications of a New Baby
Paying Taxes on Self-Employed or Side Income

Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com , where your tax questions are answered. Eva is the author of several books and ebooks, including the new edition of Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com and tax courses you might enjoy at http://www.cpelink.com/teamtaxmama.