Filing your return with a paystub

If you can't get your W-2 or other documents, there may be a way to file without them.

The IRS Form 4852 may be able to be used if you are unable to attain forms such as your W-2. Form 4852 can also be used for 1099-R which reports retirement distributions.

Form 4862 can also be used if the forms are incorrect. If you received an incorrect W-2 or 1099-R, you should always attempt to have them send a corrected form.

The IRS requests that this form only be used after unsuccessful attempts to retrieve your W-2 or 1099-R.

Form 4852 is not designed to help you get your refund quicker, but it's an option when forms aren't provided in a timely manner.

The IRS assists people in getting their tax forms from employers or financial institutions if the forms haven't arrived by the end of February. However, this may not be their top priority if the IRS is understaffed.

Your last paystub may provide only some of the information needed to file your tax return correctly. Missing data includes amounts contributed to your retirement and employer contributions to health savings accounts.

Suppose you later receive your W-2 or other document and determine that your return was not correctly filed. In that case, you will need to file an amended return.

When filing Form 4852, you will be required to certify that you were unable to get the forms or that you received incorrect forms. It also requires you to certify that you contacted the IRS before filing your return. You will need to explain how you arrived at your amounts. A simple statement such as "amounts taken from final paystub".

The IRS does not currently accept Form 4852 for efiling. Your return will need to be mailed to the IRS.

Fill out Form 4852 to the best of your ability. However, there are several potential penalties for anyone who uses Form 4852 to attempt to avoid or evade their tax liability. These penalties can be steep. The 20% accuracy penalty is based on the amount that should have been paid. Civil fraud penalties equal to 75% of the tax that should have been paid can also be charged. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is a $5,000 penalty.

IRS transcripts of your W-2 and 1099-R are another option for obtaining your information. However, the transcripts are typically unavailable until late May or early June.

David Zubler is a tax accountant and Enrolled Agent in East Tennessee, providing tax strategies and representing clients before the IRS and has over 25 years of tax experience. He is the author of six tax books and has shared tax advice on national TV. He is the founder and president of Your Tax Care. The company provides business and tax education, including David’s one-minute tax tip radio recordings at David can be reached at (865) 363-3019 or contacted by email at