It might not be your HR department’s favorite time of year, but employees love Form W-2 season. Receiving the critical compliance form, which sums up individual earnings for the year, means coming one step closer to getting that lucrative tax refund. But what do you do when a former employee rings your office and asks, “Dude, where’s my W-2?”
It may sound simple, but the first thing you’ll want to check is that the individual was paid in the previous calendar year. It could be that the employee left just prior to the new year and thought there might be a crossover of wages. If you can confirm that the employee did in fact work for your company last year, the next question to ask is whether they changed addresses.
If a former employee moved without notifying you, chances are that the address the form was sent to was incorrect. If the employee did move, then you can simply send out a second copy to the new address. Keep in mind that the Form W-2 contains sensitive personal information, so be sure to ask for another personal, unique identifier to ensure you’re not being scammed.
If the employee confirms they have not moved and they are at the same address as last year, check with your payroll department or external vendor to confirm how the individual’s form was distributed. Did they consent to electronic delivery, as is increasingly common? If the answer is yes, the former employer might just need to know how to access their form on your HR system of record. Note that your system of record should have a means for former employees to easily access their historical information, pay stubs, and Form W-2s without compromising security.
If for whatever reason you’re unable to confirm the employee’s identity and are uncomfortable mailing the form again, direct employees to reach out to the IRS by calling 1-800-829-1040 (a clever reference to the Form 1040, or individual tax return). The employee will need to provide their social security number, address, phone number, and an approximation of dates worked and annual earnings. After confirming that the claim is legitimate, the IRS will then reach out to you on their behalf.
While involving the IRS in processing that inquiry might take time, security is paramount. If tax deadline day is approaching and the employee still hasn’t received their W-2, you can also direct them to fill out a Form 4852, or Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. This form is used to substitute Form W-2, and individuals can complete one by simply referencing their final pay stub.
Jim Kohl is a SeniorPayroll Operations Manager at Namely, the all-in-one HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today's employees. Connect with Jim and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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