How to Convert a Pay Stub to a W-2

by Tara Thomas ; Updated March 15, 2018
Creating a facsimile W2

When tax season rolls around, the one thing you don't want to do is misplace your W-2, or discover that your employer never sent one to begin with. However, if you don't have your W-2 on hand when the time comes to file taxes, or you just want to get an early estimate of the amount of taxes you could owe, there is another solution. Fortunately, the IRS has alternatives that allow you to still file your taxes, even without your W-2, using only your pay stub.

What Do I Need to File My Return Without a W-2?

When you realize that you simply can’t wait any longer for your employer to send a duplicate of your IRS Form W-2, "Wage and Tax Statement," don’t let this stop you from filing on time. Although your employer has until January 31 to send out your W-2, if you haven’t received it by February 27th, you need contact the IRS so a follow-up can be conducted with your employer. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to e-file your return if you do not have your W-2. Because you also have to attach IRS Form 4852, "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement_,"_ which allows you to file your return in the absence of a W-2, you must file a paper return.

You will receive Form 4852 from the IRS along with a copy of the notice that was sent to your employer requesting your replacement W-2. At this point you can continue to wait for your employer to supply the missing W-2, or you can go ahead and use your last pay stub to determine what you need to report on your IRS Form 1040, "U.S. Individual Income Tax Return."

Filling Out Form 4852

Form 4852 is a surprisingly short, one-page document that is relatively easy to fill out, if you have your last paycheck stub of the year. This pay stub should have year-to-date totals of all withholding and wages for the year. Simply follow the attached instructions at the bottom of this form. You will need to explain why you do not have your W-2 and supply information from your pay stub, such as your year-to-date gross income and your YTD deductions, including Social Security and Medicare, as well as withheld state, local and federal taxes. Sign the form to validate it, attach it to your 1040 form and submit it to the IRS.

What Happens if I Later Receive my W-2?

If you receive your W-2 after filling out Form 4852, double check what you reported on your tax return against the information on your W-2. If you notice any discrepancies, you need to file an amended return to avoid any penalties or fines. Use Form 1040X, "Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return," to make corrections to your return. Keep in mind that this form is used only to correct information that changes your tax calculations. This includes things like changes to your filing status, errors in the number of dependents you claimed as well as corrected income credits or deductions.

If you notice math errors on your return, do not file an amended return, as the IRS will correct any math errors. You are also not required to file an amended return if you forget to attach any supporting tax documents. So, just because you did not have your W-2 when you filed your taxes, does not mean you must file an amended return to attach this form. Only do so if you notice an error that changes tax calculations.

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About the Author

Tara Thomas has been a writer and traveler since 1997. Her articles appear in various online publications. She also has experience authoring grant proposals for a Southern California marine science laboratory, which helped her develop a lifelong interest in environmentalism. Thomas is an event planner, has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach, and worked as a mortgage consultant since 1998.

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