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How Can I Obtain My W-2 From a Previous Employer?


Tax season isn’t most people’s favorite time of year. But even if the thought of doing your taxes makes your head spin, it’s best to give yourself plenty of time to file—especially if you know your taxes may be complicated. Specifically, individuals who switched jobs in the middle of a tax year may have to be extra diligent about getting their W2 from their previous employer.


Your W-2 form is your wage and tax statement that outlines the total compensation you received from an employer in a given year, any contributions to retirement plans, health insurance cost, and if you claimed any deductions. Most people will receive their W-2 in January. However, if you switched jobs and have two W-2s, your previous employer might forget to send your form. In this scenario, it’s important to obtain your W-2 from your previous employer with enough time to properly file your taxes. If your taxes are complicated or you need help collecting your W-2s, it can be helpful to work with a skilled tax professional. Here are some important things to know about W-2s and how to get them from a previous employer.

Employers Must Follow the Legal Requirements of W-2 Forms

The IRS legally requires employers to send W-2 forms to both the government and their employees by January 31. Failure to do so could result in penalties for the employer. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that you must receive your W-2 by January 31. Instead, all W-2s must be postmarked by that deadline.

Be Sure to Review Your W-2 for Errors

Like all documents, it’s important to thoroughly review your W-2 for any errors. These mistakes could be small—such as an error in the spelling of your name—or notable—like leaving out a 0 on your compensation total. This process can be tedious, which is why it can be handy to have the help of a tax professional.

How to Get A W-2 From A Previous Employer

If you switched jobs and didn't receive your W-2 from your previous employer by Valentine’s Day, it’s important to take action. This process can be overwhelming and annoying, but it’s necessary to ensure your taxes are filed appropriately by the deadline. There is a range of steps you’ll need to take depending on how responsive your employer is. In general, obtaining a W-2 may be achieved through the following timeline:


1. Reaching out to your employer

2. Contacting your previous payroll administrator

3. Contacting the IRS directly

Reach Out to Your Previous Employer

Most people will be able to receive their W-2 by contacting their former employer. Start by asking an HR rep from your previous company for a copy. When doing so, be sure to provide them with an accurate address. Individuals who were working at a small business or startup that lacked an HR department may have to reach out to their former boss directly. Communicating with a previous employer can feel awkward and overwhelming. However, don’t worry about coming across as pushy. Your previous employer should be aware of tax laws and understand the importance of getting documents to you as soon as possible.

Contact Your Previous Payroll Administrator

If your previous employer does not send you your W-2 or you would rather not communicate with them, you may be able to get your W-2 by contacting your previous payroll administrator. You can do this by phone or email. You’ll probably have to confirm the details of your employment and verify your identity by providing information such as your address or bank info.

Contact the IRS

In the rare event in which the above methods are unsuccessful, you may contact the IRS directly. They will likely ask you for your employer’s identification number (EIN), which can be found on any of your past pay stubs. The IRS will then contact your employer and request the missing form.

Consult a Skilled Tax Resolution Attorney

If you are struggling to obtain a W-2 from a past employer, having a skilled tax attorney on your side can be a crucial resource. When it comes to W-2s, employers have legal responsibilities. A tax attorney can ensure that you receive the documents you need to properly file your taxes.


At Morgan Sebastian Law, Attorney Becky Sebastian is eager to help you navigate the complexities of your tax situation. We understand the challenges of paying taxes while experiencing financial hardship, and we are here to help you handle negotiations with the IRS. To schedule a consultation with an experienced tax resolution lawyer, call (877) 223-6605 or fill out our online contact form.