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How to Locate W2s


Contact your employers and request a copy of the W-2. The Internal Revenue Service requires employers to keep employment tax records, such as W-2s, on file for at least four years. Therefore, if you need past or recent W-2s, contacting your employer or former employer is the first step.


Ask your tax preparer, if applicable. If you used a tax preparer to prepare your taxes, he should have a copy of your return. Most professional tax preparers provide electronic tax filing, which allows them to store your tax return in the system for several years.


Call the IRS and request a free transcript of each W-2. The IRS receives your W-2s from the Social Security Administration after your employer files the W-2 with the SSA. Give the IRS representative with your name, filing status, Social Security number and the tax year of the W-2s you are requesting. The IRS will then mail you the W-2s.


Complete IRS Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, to request a free transcript of your W-2. This method is an alternative to calling the IRS. Mail or fax the completed form to the IRS location stated on the form. The turnaround time is the same as the telephone request. Notably, you can request W-2 transcripts for up to four years at a time with Form 4506-T. Use another Form 4506-T to request additional years, if necessary.


Complete IRS Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, if you need a copy of the W-2 itself. In this case, the IRS sends you your entire tax return, including attachments, such as W-2s. Each tax return costs $57. You can request up to eight years' tax return at a time on each Form 4506. Mail the form and your payment to the IRS. It can take the IRS up to 60 calendar days to process your request.

Tips and Warnings

  • The IRS says that individuals should always keep basic records, such as Form W-2s and expense documents.
  • If you do not receive your W-2, the IRS still expects you to file your tax return by the deadline (April 15). If necessary, use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2 to file your tax return.

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