Most every worker in the United States knows to expect his/her Form W-2 no later than January 31st. Even though many tax preparers will process your return by using your final pay statement for the previous year, you are still entitled to receive this form. There are steps you can take. Read on to learn more.

Why Didn’t I Receive My W-2?

As a tax defense attorney, I have seen dozens of reasons why employees did not timely receive last year’s Wage and Tax Statement (W-2 Form). Usually, however, there are three main reasons  why your form did not arrive:
1) The employer had your wrong address;

2) Their accountant has not issued the form, yet;

3) The company cannot (or does not) issue W-2 Forms.

So What Do I Need to Do?

Let’s consider these three main reasons that we see.

1) Wrong Address – Did you change addresses last year? If so, as soon as possible, provide last year’s employers with your current address. Also, ask whether the statements have already been sent. If they are already “in the mail,” you can simply request another copy.

2) Not Issued…Yet – This situation is more difficult. On one hand, the employer knows that it is late in sending the form and that you are waiting. At the same time, your current relationship with your employer may be delicate. Or maybe you have no access to the person responsible for handling the company’s payroll accounting.

  • You could just wait and make repeated requests.
  • You could send a written request. Suggestion: send your written request by email AND by U.S. Certified Mail, return receipt.
  • You can use IRS Form 4852, which is a substitute for the W2. Include this form with your tax return.
  • If after March 1, file a Form 911 with the IRS Taxpayer Advocate. This office helps taxpayers resolve some issues where that person has little access to resolution with IRS tax matters. The Taxpayer Advocate’s office will eventually follow up with that employer.

But sometimes there’s a bigger problem than you may see. If the owner, payroll manager, or accountant says the W-2s “will be issued soon,” then the company probably has other tax problems. Let’s consider the last common reason for W-2’s undelivered.

3) Company Does Not / Cannot Issue W-2s – Companies that claim to be unable, or unwilling, to issue your Form W-2 tend to have an assortment of payroll and accounting problems. Here are a few profiles that regularly surface. The employer might:

  • Distribute pay only in cash;
  • Habitually pay employees late;
  • Refuse to provide an accurate earnings statement with your pay;
  • Issue “net” paychecks after withholding your taxes, but never pay over the tax;
  • Have a recent change in payroll administrator, tax accountant, or CPA;
  • Have other late tax filings, including annual and quarterly returns;
  • Issue Forms 1099, instead of the expected W-2 Forms;
  • Have poor or incorrect accounting for your earnings and withholdings;
  • Claim that your earnings are non-taxable, so you won’t need a Wage and Tax Form.

To help handle an employer that fits any of these profiles, I have suggestions:

First, get your own advisor. It is wise to avoid taking legal and tax advice from your employer. Especially so, if that company fails the task of timely issuing documents, as required by law.

Second, be helpful. Even if you are angry or disappointed, emotions do not fix the problems. Take action. Find and refer that employer to a reputable tax resolution attorney. (Hint: Look for great online reviews.) This employer probably needs more than payroll help. These companies need guidance with understanding their legal requirements, but also how to correct problems once mistakes are made. By simply passing along the name of a good tax lawyer, you may just solve problems for both yourself and the employer.

Finally, be patient. The problem you are experiencing was not caused overnight. It will not be resolved in a very short time, either. But understand that nothing happens without someone taking action. Maybe you should be that someone.

We hope this helps.


Written by J Anton Collins, JD, LLM (former CPA and former IRS). Attorney Collins is a principal and frequent blogger at Tax Law Offices. If you are in need of an IRS tax attorney, contact our offices today.