How to Get W-2 from Previous Employers Easily

Trying to get your w-2 document from previous employers can be a very annoying and difficult task. It is a must-have to enable you to file for a tax return.

All employers are legally bound by law to send the W-2 to every employee latest on the last day of January, every year.

The W-2 document contains comprehensive information about your wages and tax for the entire year including any withheld tax, especially those requiring you to file for a return. A copy of this document is usually sent to the internal revenue service (IRS).

For employees who have recently moved to another job, you must still have to get your w-2 from the previous employer.

This article will give you a detailed explanation of how to get your W-2 document from previous employers if you have not received it yet or when it is being delayed.

What is Form W-2?

This is one of the most common tax forms. Form W-2 is also known as the wage and tax statement.

It is the document required by every employer to send to every of his employee, social security administration I.e., SSA and the IRS I.e., Internal Revenue Service on every year-end.

The form W-2 gives a detailed report of the annual wages and amount of tax withheld from an employee’s paycheck.

An employee known as a w-2 employee is known as those whose employers deduct their taxes directly from their paychecks and submit this information to the government.

The w-2 document shows the total gross wages of an employee. It can also contain other important information like deferred compensation, health saving account endowments, bonuses, tips, and dependent care welfare.

As an employer you must provide the W-2 form to an employee independent of the duration the employee worked for you, you must send out W-2 forms if you ever paid salary, any form of compensation or hourly wages to an employee.

W-2 is essential for the employee to file for their year-end-tax returns before the deadline.

The social security administration uses the W-2 document to calculate the employee’s social security benefits while the Internal Revenue Service uses the form to track the wage and tax obligation of every taxpayer. This document is filled out and gotten from the employer.

What Information does Form w-2 Contain?

Have you recently requested your w-2 form from your employer and you are trying to figure out what information the form contains?

The employer is completely responsible for filling the w-2 form of every employee annually.

This section will highlight the information contained in the w-2 form. The standard information includes-

  • SSN I.e., Social Security Number of the employee.
  • Tips, wages and other compensations if given.
  • Personal information of the employee I.e., Name, address and zip code.
  • EIN I.e., Employer identification number, business name, address and zip code.
  • Any withheld tax example income tax and social security.

They file the forms when completely filled to the social security administration, internal revenue service and then distribute them to the employees before the 31st of January every year.

It is important to note that employees excluding contractors or any freelancer are filed by employers for w-2 documents. 

You can get the retirement plan and dependent care benefits from employees who are about to withdraw from the occupation or have disabled family members or young children respectively, hence Information contained in the w-2 form is tailored to every business and to individual employees.

Reasons to get your w-2 from previous employers?

If you recently switched jobs in the past year there is an important need for you to request your wage and tax statement or W-2 from the previous employer as you will need it for filing your taxes.

The W-2 form allows the employee to gain information like:

  • Amount earned in the company in the past year.
  • Total amount of dependent care benefit received.
  • The contribution made by the employer to your health care benefits.
  • Employees yearly contribution to retirement fund
  • Federal, state, social security and Medicare taxes withheld from the employee’s earnings.

It is mandatory according to the internal revenue service for companies to send wage and tax statements to all previous and current employees.

How to get W-2 from previous employers easily?

Trying to get your wage and tax statement or w-2 form from previous employers can be a very frustrating task especially when you are trying to file for a tax return or desperately trying not to be penalized for a late submission.

This section will give you an easy-to-follow step to getting the document from past employers on time:

  • Always check the date.
  • Change your address if you moved
  • Carefully go through your email
  • Get In contact with the past employer
  • Contact the payroll director
  • Contact the IRS.

1. Always check the date:

You should have a reminder or notification set up reminding you that the employer has till January 31st to mail the w-2 form in order to give you enough time to take appropriate action if you do not receive the form.

Your w-2 form according to the IRS should be received latest on the 14th of February.

2. Change your address if you moved:

Visit the local United States Post Office to fill out a change of address form. If your address has been changed since you worked for the previous employer this will prevent the w-2 from being mailed to your old address.

If you changed your address without going through this process, chances are that your W-2 has been mailed to your previous address.

3. Carefully go through your email:

It is possible to mistakenly opt for digital tax documents and your w-2 could sit quietly on your pile of unread emails.

Search carefully through your email checking the inbox and spam section. The digital w-2 usually contains a link to be used to download the document.

4. Contact your past employer:

You are to contact your previous employer if you have not received your w-2 by January the 31st. 

If there is a human resource department in the previous company, you should endeavor to call or email the HR director asking about your w-2 status in order to determine if they have the right mailing address.

In the scenario where the company does not have a human resource department, you should call your previous manager directly in order to find out the reason for the delay.

5. Contact the Payroll Director:

If the previous company used an intermediary for processing payrolls, you should consider calling or sending an email to the payroll director to confirm the email the w-2 form was sent to or to request the form be sent again.

6. Contact the Internal Revenue Service:

If any of the scenarios like you not being able to contact your previous employer, the previous employer not responding to your request or being difficult or you have not received the wage and tax statement or W-2 by the 14th of February you are then required to contact the internal revenue service I.e., IRS at 800-829-1040.

Y0u are to provide the IRS agent with the EIN (Employer identification number), the EIN can be found on the previous year’s w-2 forms.

The agent might also require additional information like contact information, the contact information of the employer, state security number, duration you worked for the Company, and your estimated earnings.

After this, the IRS then follows up with your previous employer sending a reminder to mail your W-2.

What to Do if You Cannot Get your W-2 from Previous Employers?

If despite going through the above-outlined steps you still weren’t able to get your W-2 on time for the IRS deadline there are a few options available to you in order to avoid the IRS fines.

They are:

1. Request an extension:

If after all your efforts you still were not able to get the w-2 on time you could submit form 4868 which is the application for an automatic extension of time to file united states individual income tax return, this necessarily means that you are asking the internal revenue service to give you more time to file your taxes.

If form 4868 is accepted by the IRS you are granted six extra months to file your income tax return.

Despite the form 4868 you are still required to pay your tax on time, with the 4868 form should be a close estimate of how much tax you owe and payment for it.

2. File without a W-2:

This option is available when, for instance, you cannot get the w-2 form because the previous employer is no longer in business, you can now submit form 4852 and a tax return.

The form 4852 can serve as a substitute for form W-2, wage and tax statement.

You can complete the form 4852 using information contained in your previous paycheck or w-2 form, from this you should be able to estimate your withheld amount and total earnings.

If you can get your Form W-2 after you have filed form 4852 you can now file a form 1040 to correct any mistake previously made.

The various forms explained above can be downloaded from the Internal Revenue Service website and must be submitted by the given tax filing deadline.

The above-explained processes will prevent the IRS from punishing you for unfilled or overdue tax but it is disadvantageous in that it may delay your refund or slow the processing of your return.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get my w2?

Every employer is legally obligated to provide their employee with the w2 form every year.

What is the difference between the w-2 and the w-4

The w-2 is filled by the employers at the end of the year and sent to employees to input on their tax returns while the w-2 is filled by the employee to provide the employer with basic information like standard security number, marital status, how much tax to be withheld from each paycheck and is filled when the employee is first hired.

Why don’t I have any social security or Medicare wages reported on my w-2?

Some foreign nationals on specific visas and some students of some colleges e.g. Texas state university, on at least a half-time study schedule, is exempted from the social security and Medicare taxes.

How much money does an employee need to make to get a W-2?

Employees who have earned at least 600$ in a given year.

How do I recover a lost w-2 form?

If the form is available online, you can access it easily or request a paper copy from the human resource or payroll administrator.


The W-2 is a crucial IRS tax document with a critical purpose. The employer files the wage and tax statement to give detailed information about his employee’s earnings, aid, bonuses, taxes withheld, and so on.

This article has carefully analyzed the W-2 document and outlining steps to take when trying to get your w-2 from previous employers.


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