I live in the US and I left previous employer on bad terms. It was a small startup company (~4 employees, a manager and a CEO).

For those not familiar with the W-2 form, it is the total income statement and tax data that US employees receive from their employers at the end of each year. It is for employees then to use it and submit their Tax Returns at the beginning of every year.

I have contacted my manager via email last week asking if they sent it yet and stated clearly that I did not receive it. I did not get any replies from him. So I emailed the CEO on Monday asking the same, and I also did not get any replies.

I believe I will be wasting time if I go and walk in to the company. I want to avoid any embarrassments too. So what should I do at this point?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.Please avoid submitting (partial) answers as comments or using comments to discuss the legal framework and do that in that chatroom instead.
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 25, 2018 at 12:19

4 Answers 4


Wait until you really know that it's late (it isn't yet)

It's possible your previous employer is busy with its own end of year accounting and knows that you can wait until the end of January (but aren't bothering to reassure you of this (possibly assuming you know this already)).

Wait for the end of the month to pass (and maybe a week or so into February), then if you still don't have it, call the IRS and ask them to help you. IRS leaning on a company to comply would probably be more effective than you are.

source (Reference.com, plus many Google hits)

The deadline for employers to mail W-2 forms is January 31st, according to the IRS. If you do not have your W-2 by early February, call your previous employer to verify your address and ask what date the employer sent your W-2. If necessary, ask for a new copy. If your former employer is bankrupt, you can contact the bankruptcy attorney to obtain your W-2, or contact the state for limited wage information, suggests the State of California Franchise Tax Board.

The IRS can contact your employer on your behalf if you do not receive a W-2, explains the IRS. Be prepared to give the employer's name, address, phone number and employer identification number, when possible. You also need to have an estimate of the wages you earned, the amount of taxes withheld, your official dates of employment, and basic personal information.

So, call the IRS and ask for advice, let them help you.

  • 31
    The same advice in more detail directly from the IRS: irs.gov/newsroom/missing-form-w2-irs-can-help
    – zwol
    Jan 23, 2018 at 18:07
  • 16
    "call the IRS and ask for advice" - well, seeing as how their web site says "If you do not have your W-2 by early February" I'm guessing the advice will be to check back in a few weeks. Jan 23, 2018 at 20:18
  • 1
    Confirming the address they have for you is correct is something you could do before waiting for it to cause a problem and something you wouldn't have to bother their leadership with. Jan 25, 2018 at 4:35

Save your last pay stub of the year. If an employer refuses to file W-2's, the IRS will accept that as "interim documentation."

Employers have until the end of January to file them. Most file them immediately, as everything is done by a payroll management system, and it's just a question of making sure all the payroll entries for the year were correct, and clicking "Go."

If the employer files a W-2, but doesn't send you a copy, you can get it by requesting a "transcript" for the 2017 tax year from the IRS. It's basically a printout (PDF) of all the data in all the forms they have on you for the year.

If the employer fails to file a W-2, go ahead and use the last paystub. A competent tax service can get the right forms for that easily and inexpensively. Then, go get some popcorn, and watch what happens when the IRS pays a visit to your former employer.

  • 2
    According to irs.gov/newsroom/missing-form-w2-irs-can-help , the form you need is form 4852.
    – zwol
    Jan 23, 2018 at 18:08
  • @zwol - Yes, but I don't have a license to tell them that. :) Jan 23, 2018 at 18:09
  • 3
    Advice to use form 4852 is premature at this point. OP has to wait. Even then, OP has to attempt to contact the employer and get w-2s, and document those attempts. There is a spot on the form for you to explain how hard you tried. I couldn't find a reference but I seem to recall that you are allowed or even encouraged to attach additional pages of evidence (e.g. print out the emails you sent them).
    – stannius
    Jan 23, 2018 at 22:21
  • 1
    @stannius: Absolutely. That's why there's 10 weeks between 1/31 and 4/15. Jan 23, 2018 at 22:22

They have until Jan 31st. I'd wait until after that to really bother them. They are required by law to do this so they can't skip it just because you're on bad terms.

Also, most smaller shops I know tend to use a commercial HR service to do payroll, taxes, and wages. Do you have a login info for that? Typically you can get your W2 that way sooner if you want to file your taxes now.


You may just get your W-2 online, if you use TurboTax or H&R Block:

  1. The best services are the TurboTax W2 finder or the H&R Block W2 finder where individual W-2 information can be automatically retrieved and imported into your tax return. This is useful if your employer has indicated the form is available online.
  2. Both of these companies can look-up the company you work for, or they can use your Employer Identification Number to find your W2.
  3. Form W-2 can then be imported into your tax return or downloaded to your computer.

Fortunately, many people do not have to wait to get their W2 in the mail, they can simply import it into their tax return. Various companies provide it online, even the military, Walmart, and McDonalds.

The W2 online distribution process has been simplified and automated by third-party companies. These payroll or W-2 distribution firms often make the form available for free on the Internet. Employees therefore do not have to wait on the mail and can file their taxes sooner.

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