One of the most confusing decisions taxpayers have during tax season is determining whether to wait on their W2 or file with their last pay check stub of the year. Some tax preparation companies contribute to this confusion by advertising and telling consumers to come in and file with the last pay check stub. An incomplete form or a form that has information that doesn’t match IRS records will delay processing of your return, and hold up your refund. Although it is possible to prepare a preliminary tax return based on your final pay stub for the year, your pay stub is not the official IRS-recognized document for your income. Taxpayers should not use their final pay stub, a similar substitute form, or Form 4852 to file their income tax return prior to the receipt of an employer-provided Form W-2.

Why?  The amount of gross wages showing on the final pay stub may not match what   your employer will enter in Form W-2, Box 1 Wages, tips, and other comp due to any of the following reasons:

1. Tax deferred contributions (i.e. 401k, 403b, etc.)

2. Pre-tax health, dental or vision insurance premiums

3. Dependent care or medical reimbursement account deductions made from your pay during the year

4. Premium amounts for the value of group life insurance coverage in excess of $50,000

5. Various other taxable benefits that the employer must add to the final W-2 Form

If you receive a Form W-2 or Form W-2C after your return is filed, and the information differs from that reported on your return, you must amend your return by filing Form 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Employers are required to send your W2 by January 31. What happens if you don’t receive it and still haven’t received your Form W-2 after January 31? First, contact your employer to attempt to obtain your W-2. If you still haven’t received the form by February 14, you should contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to provide as much information regarding your situation as possible. Use that last paycheck stub to give them as much detail as possible. The IRS will send you Form 4852 (an IRS substitute to Form W-2) which you may then use to file your tax return prior to the April 15 due date.