In a perfect world, your employer would always fill out your W-2 perfectly and make sure you received it on time. But, companies have humans filling out the form -- or at least running the computer programs that fill out the forms -- and humans make errors periodically. Even if you receive a W-2 with an error, it's not the end of the world.
Contact Your Employer
If you find a mistake in your W-2, talk to your employer first. The Internal Revenue Service allows employers to issue corrected W-2s that will supersede any prior W-2 they issued you. For example, say your employer accidentally issued you a W-2 that shows you earned $500,000 instead of $50,000. When you bring it to your employer's attention, your employer can just issue you a corrected W-2 with no further problems.
If you haven't received the updated W-2 by February 14, contact the IRS by calling (800) 829-1040. When you call, have your name, address, phone number and Social Security number ready. You also need to your employer's name, address, phone number and the dates you worked for the company so the IRS can contact them on your behalf. Ideally, a call from the IRS is all that will be needed to get your employer to hurry up and send you a corrected form.
When you contact the IRS, it will send you a Form 4852 in the event the IRS isn't successful in getting a corrected W-2 for you. The Form 4852 is a substitute W-2 that you fill out based on what you think should have appeared on your W-2. When you file your income taxes, send in the Form 4852 with your return. If your employer does send you a corrected W-2 in time, attach a copy of both your original W-2 and your corrected W-2 to your return.
If you file your return and then later receive the corrected W-2, you may need to file an amended return if you reported something different from what's on the corrected W-2. If you file the return before the tax filing deadline, you won't owe any interest or penalties because it's still considered on time. If you file it later, you might owe interest if the corrected W-2 leaves you owing a balance for your amended return.
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images