Tax season is open. That means most tax forms are either in the hands of taxpayers or in the mail. Here’s what you need to know about tax form due dates and what to do if yours is late.
The form that most folks care about is the form W-2, which has an annual due date of January 31. Your tax form is considered on time if the form is properly addressed and mailed on or before that date. If the regular due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday – which is not the case in 2017 – issuers have until the next business day.
It’s worth noting that there are some exceptions to the general reporting requirements and due dates (this is, after all, tax law). Here are a couple of important ones:
- Some forms might be issued earlier – so dig back through your records if you’re missing a 1099 or a 1098-C. If you redeemed savings bonds, for example, the form 1099-INT might have been issued at the time of redemption. Similarly, if you donated a car to charity, the form 1098-C would have been acknowledged within 30 days of the sale or within 30 days of the contribution.
- You should also put the brakes on filing if you’re a beneficiary of a trust or estate, or a shareholder, partner or member of an LLC, LLP or S corporation. Those entities rarely – if ever – report early. Since those are pass-through entities, they must prepare their actual tax returns first before they can furnish any Schedules K-1. Those Schedules K-1 might take until March or April to show up on your doorstep. In some cases, it could take longer. If you’re not sure what the time frame is, and you haven’t heard otherwise, drop a note to the powers that be to find out when you can expect your forms.
If you haven’t received a tax form by the due date, here’s what to do:
- Look around. Your form could be stuck in a catalog or lost in that pile of mail on the counter that you’ve been swearing to sort through for weeks. It could be at work. Before you assume that it wasn’t delivered, double-check.
- Check your email. Tax forms cannot be generated electronically without your consent unless a paper copy is also issued. However, in these days of e-statements and online transfers, it’s not out of the question that you might have checked a box to receive your information electronically. Check your inbox and your spam filter.
- If you’re sure that you didn’t receive your forms, try contacting the issuer. It might be easy to fix. You might not have received the form because of an incomplete or bad address – maybe you moved this year. Or maybe the address is correct but your form got lost in the mail. If that’s the case, the issuer can simply furnish another form. Problem solved.
- If your employer is no longer in business or has moved, try to make contact. It’s the fastest, easiest solution. If you don’t receive your forms and you don’t know where your employer has moved, send a note to the last known address: there may be a forwarding order at the post office. Or try Google. I know that it’s not your job to find your employer but if you have time to click on pictures of the Ocean’s Eight cast or check out Marshawn Lynch eating Skittles in Scotland, you can search for a change of address.
- If you still don’t have your forms, or if your forms aren’t correct, contact IRS. You’ll have to wait a bit: the IRS does not want to hear from you about missing forms until after February 14. After that date, you can call the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 1.800.829.1040. You’ll need to have your address, phone number, and Social Security Number available. It’s also helpful to have your dates of employment, an estimate of your earnings, and your federal withholding amounts (you can find most of this information on your last pay stub). You’ll also need the name, address, and phone number of your employer. Make your life easier by having everything together before you pick up the phone. And when you call, be prepared to wait.
- Be patient. After your call, the IRS will contact your employer on your behalf. The IRS will also send you a form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., along with instructions. If you do not receive your missing forms from your employer by Tax Day, April 18, file the form 4852. But be smart: don’t file a form 4852 just to get your return in early or to teach an employer a lesson. If you file a bogus or improper form, you could be hit with substantial penalties.
- You may need to amend. If you receive your tax form after your return is filed using a form 4852, and the information is different from what you reported, you will have to amend your return by filing form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (downloads as a pdf).
- If you need to replace a form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042, you can request a new one on or after February 1, 2017. It’s important to note that since those forms are issued by the Social Security Administration, you’ll need to contact SSA directly, not IRS. To contact SSA, call 1.800.772.1213 (TTY 1.800.325.0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; visit your local Social Security Office; or head over to the website and click the “Replacement Documents” tab (if you don’t already have an account, you can create one online).
One final piece of advice: do not file your tax returns until you’ve received your tax forms. I know it’s tempting. I know you think you know what’s on those forms but what if you’re wrong? Not only are you making it hard on your preparer to figure it out, you’re asking them to break the rules: The IRS specifically bars tax preparers from e-filing your tax returns without receipt of forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R.
Filing before you have your forms in hand also sets you up for a potential audit. At the most basic, the IRS matches forms W-2 and forms 1099 to the information on your tax return. If the information doesn’t match, the IRS will flag your return for additional examination. My mom – who is right almost all of the time about everything – used to tell me that it was okay to be different. That might be true in junior high but it’s not true at the IRS. Trust me. You want your tax return to look like everybody else’s tax return. Don’t give the IRS a reason to give yours a second look.
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