With the April 15 tax filing deadline getting pretty close, now's the time to buckle down and get your return completed. But what happens if you sit down to tackle your taxes, only to find that you're missing key information you need to do them accurately? Here's how to get a hold of those important documents -- before time runs out.
When you're missing a W-2
If you're a salaried employee, you need your W-2 to file your taxes. That form will state how much tax your employer withheld from your earnings during the year.
Employers were required to send this form out by Jan. 31, so if you never received yours, march into your payroll or HR office and ask what's up. If you did receive your W-2 but lost it, your strategy is the same -- go ask for it, albeit in a more apologetic tone.
If you worked for a company last year that has since gone out of business and you never received a W-2, getting that document won't be as simple. Your first step, of course, should be to contact anyone in a management, payroll, or HR position from your former employer and find out what they plan to do. If that doesn't work, but you have a copy of last year's final pay stub, you might have access to all of the information you need to file your taxes there. If that's the case, be prepared to file Form 4852, which is a substitute for an actual W-2.
If you don't have access to your final pay stub or your W-2, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and ask the agency to advise you or to intervene.
When you're missing a 1099
There are different types of 1099 forms you might receive. If you did freelance work for an employer who paid you $600 or more last year, you should've received a 1099 documenting that income. Like for W-2s, the deadline for sending out 1099s was Jan. 31, so if you're missing it, it means that yours either got lost in the mail, landed in your email spam folder, or never got sent out in the first place.
If you're without that 1099, you can try contacting the employer in question and asking for a copy. That said, you're not required to file a 1099 form along with your tax return, so if you know the exact amount of income you were paid and report it, you shouldn't run into any problems.
If you're missing a 1099 from a bank or financial institution summarizing your interest income or earnings from investments, getting it is generally a simple matter of calling and making a request. Or you can try logging into your account and seeing if an electronic version is available online -- chances are, it will be.
Don't wait till the last minute
You might not realize what crucial tax documents you're missing until you actually sit down to file your return, which is why it's dangerous to wait until the last minute to get it done. The more time you give yourself to retrieve missing documents, the greater your chances of getting your taxes completed by April 15. If you do wait until the last minute and find that you're missing key information, you might have no choice but to request a tax extension. Doing so won't give you more time to pay your tax bill if you owe the IRS money, but it will get you out of the potentially costly failure-to-file penalty, which applies when you owe taxes but don't submit your return on time.