As an employee, you can expect your employer to provide you with your W-2 form at the beginning of every year, which will detail the income from your previous year’s employment. However, there may be times when you need a copy of an old W-2 form from a previous job. As much as we know that we should keep copies of all of our tax documents, it does not always happen. Luckily, there are a few options to retrieve a copy of a W-2 form.
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The following information also applies to 1099 forms that independent contractors receive; however, you may not need this type of form under the same circumstances that you would need a W2 form.
Reasons to Retrieve an Old W-2 Form
There are many reasons to retrieve an old W-2 form. These reasons include:
- Filing Back Tax Returns: The IRS keeps a record of taxpayers that are required to file their taxes but don’t, which may result in the IRS coming after you for back tax returns. Back tax returns may result in consequences like hefty penalty fees, so you will need to get back in good standing with the IRS by reviewing your previous tax documents to prepare your return.
- Applying for Loans: When applying for loans, you may be required to prove that you have had stable income for the past few years, meaning they may request previous years’ W-2 forms.
- Legal Reasons: You may need to document transactions or income for many different types of legal proceedings, for example, to determine child support payments.
- Tracing Income History: You may have to provide your income history for different reasons, and your W-2 forms are the most reliable way to trace your income history. You can also see details such as how much your employer contributed paid for your health insurance and how much you contributed to your retirement plan.
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You don’t necessarily need a reason to request a copy of an old W-2 tax form; if you find that you are missing one, don’t hesitate to proceed to retrieve a copy-you never know when you may need it.
How to Get a Copy of Your Old W-2
You have a couple of options for getting a copy of your old W-2 form, before you request it, you have to figure out which year you need or whether you need W-2 forms from multiple years. If you are in contact with your old employer, you may contact them and request a copy of your W-2 from payroll. Employers are obligated to keep copies of W-2 forms for four years, but some may keep them for longer. Be aware that some employers may charge a fee for administering a copy of your W-2.
If you’re unable to contact your former employer, fortunately, there’s an even easier way to retrieve old W-2 forms: through the IRS. The IRS has W-2s for the past ten years, so they are likely to have what you need.
The IRS keeps records of several types of information statements from third parties, including your employer, financial institutions, and others who may have paid you. The documents from the previous year become available to you after the April filing deadline.
Getting a Copy of Your W-2 From the IRS
If you are requesting a copy of your W-2 form from the IRS, there are four ways that you can make the request.
You can make the request for an old W-2 form by mail by filling out a 4506-T “Request for Transcript of Tax Return” form to the IRS. You will only receive a copy of your W-2 from the IRS if you filled it out in paper copy; if not, you will receive a transcript from the IRS, which will have the relevant information.
This form allows you to request the wage and income transcript, as well as a transcript of your tax return or tax account activity, which is the slowest method, accounting for the time it may take the IRS to receive your request: your W-2 transcript form will arrive in about three weeks.
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You can request your W-2 form by phone by calling (800) 908-9946. With this method, your W-2 will typically arrive in 10 days.
Online (Get Transcript By Mail)
Go to Get Transcript By Mail and fill out the form to request your W-2. As with the phone method, your W-2 will arrive in 10 days.
Use IRS Get Transcript
If you don’t already have an IRS account, set one up and immediately download your transcripts online. You will need to provide extra documentation to verify your identity for securing access to an IRS online account.
Use Your Tax Preparation Professional
If you use a tax preparation professional such as an accountant, you may authorize them to contact the IRS and get your transcripts for you. They have online accounts with the IRS and may be able to contact them quickly.
Tips for Getting a Copy of W-2 Form
- To avoid the hassle of trying to contact the IRS, save all copies of W-2 forms in a safe space so that you can refer to them when you need them. Always make a copy of the forms you send to the IRS every tax season.
- If you use a tax professional to complete your taxes, you can also try contacting them for copies of your W-2.
How to Get Your W-2
Keep copies of all of your W-2 forms in case you need them in the future, whether for records of your income or to track other deductions such as benefits or retirement. Luckily, if you find out that you are missing one of your W-2 forms and you need it, you can request a copy of a transcript from the IRS through several different methods. Nonetheless, it is much easier to have the forms ready when you need them, so consider creating a more comprehensive filing system for your documents.
FormPros can help users save time by instantly generating W-2 forms as well as many other important tax forms.
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