Tax Questions & Tips

How to get your W-2 from a previous employer

January 30th, 2023 Jan 30, 2023 • Read time: 5 min


It’s tax season, so it’s time to start collecting your paperwork that reflects any income you made over the past year. This includes your W-2 form, also known as the Wage and Tax Statement. This form reports an employee’s earnings from the prior year and how much tax the employer withheld. Every employer must provide all employees who have earned payment of $600 or more for the year with a W-2 form–which they usually do at some point in January.

Why do I need a W-2 from my previous employer?

Employees use Form W-2 to prepare their tax returns, as it includes all information about the income you received and the taxes your previous employer withheld. Even if you no longer work for an employer, if you earned more than $600 during the previous year from that employer, you will need the tax information from the W-2 to file your return.

What is a W-2 form?

IRS Form W-2 is a form that employers must provide to all employees who earned at least $600 during the prior year. You will use the information found on the W-2 form to complete your tax return. Information on a W-2 form includes:

  • Your name, address, and Social Security number
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Your wages, Social Security wages, and Medicare wages
  • Federal, Social Security, and Medicare tax withheld
  • State and local wages and income tax, and more

Steps to get a W-2 from your former employer

You have until mid-April to file your tax return, but most people like to start on their taxes earlier. This requires having your W-2s available either as a paper copy or electronically. If you haven’t received a W-2 from a former employer, here’s what you can do:

Check date for W-2 form distribution deadline

The IRS requires all employers to send their employees (current and former, if the former was employed there during the past year) a Form W-2 by January 31st every tax year. Some employers may wait until the last day of January to mail them, which means you may not receive your form until sometime in February. The latest a W-2 can arrive is February 14.

Look through your email

While working with your previous job, you may have opted to receive paperless tax statements. In this case, thoroughly check your email inbox as well as any junk or spam folders. Employer emails will include a secure link through which you can access your W-2 form without any security risk.

Change your address if you’ve moved

If you have moved since you stopped working for your former employer, it’s important to get a change-of-address form from your local post office, or complete the process online (if you haven’t already done so). Once you file the form, it can take seven to 10 days for the form to be processed, so just keep an eye on the mail.

Contact your former employer

Still haven’t received your W-2 form by February? You may need to contact the Human Resources department (or manager) of your former company and ask about the status of your W-2 form. They should be able to see if your form was mailed (and sent to the correct mailing address).

Contact the payroll administrator

Some businesses employ an outside company to handle their payroll. If that’s the case with your former employer, you will likely need to contact someone from that payroll company to check on your Form W-2.

Contact the IRS

If you’ve tried all of these methods and still can’t locate your W-2 form, contact the IRS directly. When you do, be sure to have your former employer’s EIN, your Social Security number, and your contact information ready. You can find the company’s EIN on an old paystub or previous W-2s.

What if I can’t get a W-2 from my previous employer before the tax filing deadline?

It’s understandable if you’re worried that you still haven’t received a W-2 from your previous employer even after trying the steps above. No need to panic…there are a few things you can do to avoid penalties from the IRS for filing a late tax return.

Request an extension

This is a common request for people in similar situations. To request an extension to file your tax return, submit Form 4868, an application for an extension of time. If the IRS accepts your application, you will receive an extra six months to track down that W-2 and file your taxes without a penalty.

File without a W-2 form

In some cases, it may be necessary to file your taxes without a W-2 form–for example, if your previous employer has gone out of business and is unable to send the form. In this case, you can submit Form 4852 (Substitute for W-2) by using information from a previous pay stub to estimate your earnings and how much tax was withheld. If you finally receive the Form W-2 after you’ve filed Form 4852, you can submit Form 1040x, which is an amended (or changed) individual tax return form.

Once you have your documents, filing is easy with Sun Loan

Not receiving a W-2 form from a former employer can be frustrating. Fortunately, this won’t happen very often, and you should receive your W-2 on time. Plus, employers are required by the IRS to keep employee W-2s for years, which means they are available and accessible.

Once you’ve collected your tax documents, file easily with Sun Loan, where we offer tax preparation services from experts with more than 20 years of tax experience. We can help you with your taxes in a few different ways:

  • Online document upload: Get in touch with your local branch to receive a personalized document upload link, upload photos or scans of your tax documents using your link, review, and e-sign.
  • In-person tax filing: Stop by one of our 200-plus neighborhood branches to receive personal assistance with your taxes. We’ll take care of your tax return, you’ll review it and sign, and we’ll e-file.
  • Tax drop-off services: Simply gather your documents, drop them off at your local Sun Loan branch, review your tax return and e-sign from home, and we’ll handle the filing!

There’s no need to fear tax season when Sun Loan is here to help! Visit our tax preparation services page to see how we can assist you.

Author – Jamie Lewton

Jamie Lewton is a consumer finance specialist who has built her career with the Sun Loan team. Jamie’s decade plus in the finance sector began with a role as a Consumer Loan Specialist at Sun Loan. ... Read more »

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