Looking for your tax forms? Keep checking the mail: Employers are supposed to provide employees with Forms W-2 and other wage statements by February 1 in 2021.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) that was enacted on December 18, 2015, made several changes to the way we file taxes. Now, employers file copies of Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statements, and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, with the Social Security Administration by January 31. That is also the date that Forms W-2 are due to employees.

However, this year (2021), January 31 falls on a Sunday. By law, that means that forms W-2 are instead due on the next business day, which is Monday, February 1.

In addition, some Forms 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, and the newly re-introduced Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation (more on that here), are also normally due to taxpayers on January 31, but in 2021, they will be due on the next business day, February 1, 2021.

Here’s a look at some other form due dates:

These are accurate so far as I know and as of today. If you’re not sure about a due date, check the form instructions.

The IRS Hasn’t Announced The Start Of Tax Season

I know you’re anxious to get started on your returns, but just because you may have your tax form in hand doesn’t mean that you can file. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not yet announced when tax season will open, meaning when it will accepting paper and electronic tax returns. Last year, the IRS announced on January 6, 2020, that tax season would open on January 27, 2020. I expect a similar announcement any day now.

What Happens If You Don’t Receive Your Form On Time?

  • Some forms might have been issued earlier, so go 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, form 1098-C would have been acknowledged within 30 days of the sale or 30 days of the contribution.
  • It’s popular to make some forms available online or via email. However, 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.
  • You may also want to hold off filing if you’re a beneficiary of a trust or estate, or a shareholder, partner or member of a pass-through company. Even though those entities now file a little earlier with the IRS than they used to, they rarely report early. Pass-through entities must prepare their tax returns before they can furnish 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 haven’t received a tax form by the due date, here’s what to do:

  • Look around. Your form could be stuck in a magazine or lost in that pile of mail on the counter that you’ve been swearing to sort through for weeks. Your form could be at work. Before you assume that it wasn’t delivered, double-check.
  • If you’re sure that you didn’t receive your forms, contact the issuer. It might be easy to fix. You might not have received the form because of an incomplete or wrong address. Or maybe your form got lost in the mail. If that’s the case, the issuer can 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 through Schitt’s Creek memes, you can search online for a change of address (and if you are clicking through Schitt’s Creek memes, feel free to pass those along to me!).
  • If you still don’t have your forms, or if your forms aren’t correct, contact IRS. The IRS doesn’t want to hear from you about missing forms until the end of February. But when you call, have your address, phone number, Social Security Number, and dates of employment available. It’s also helpful to have an estimate of your earnings, together with your withholding; 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 being prepared before you pick up the phone.
  • Be patient. After your call, the IRS will contact your employer. 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 don’t receive your missing forms from your employer by Tax Day, April 15, file form 4852. But be smart: don’t file to get your tax return in early or to teach an employer a lesson. If you file an 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 via 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, 2020. The easiest way is to go online and request an instant, printable replacement form at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. If that’s not an option, you’ll need to contact SSA directly, not IRS. To contact SSA, you can call 1.800.772.1213 (TTY 1.800.325.0778) or visit your local Social Security Office (find yours here).

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, but you’re also asking them to break the rules: the IRS bars tax preparers from e-filing tax returns with pay stubs (without receipt of forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R). There are whole threads on social media about tax pros who feel victimized by taxpayers insisting that they file early: don’t be that guy (or girl).

Filing before you have your forms in hand also sets you up for a potential audit. For starters, the IRS matches forms W-2 and forms 1099 to the information on your tax return. If the data doesn’t match, the IRS will flag your return. 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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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.

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