How to Estimate Tax Refunds Without W-2's

If you are expecting a W-2 form and it hasn’t showed up, or if the one you have is incorrect, you need to ask for a replacement from your employer. If the problem isn’t resolved by February 14, you can use IRS has guidelines to estimate your taxes and file your return on time so you can get your refund.

Estimate Compensation

Complete IRS Form 4852, "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement," using the year-to-date information on your last pay stub for the year. If you received compensation not included on your pay stub, include the additional compensation and any taxes withheld. For example, profits from the exercise of non-qualified employee stock options are included, since they are reported on your W-2.

Prepare Your Return

Use the completed 4852 form as if it were your W-2 to prepare your tax return. Otherwise, make out your return as you normally would. Once you’ve finished doing your taxes, you should have an estimate of your tax refund or the amount of tax you owe the IRS. Sign the 4852 form and attach it to your tax return. Don’t attach pay stubs or other documents that you used to fill out the 4852 form; keep them with your tax records.

File Your Return

File your tax return by the tax filing deadline, which is usually April 15. The IRS will process your return and send you your refund. However, the refund may be delayed while the IRS verifies the information you provided on the 4852 form with your employer. In the event you owe the IRS money instead of getting a refund, filing on time avoids incurring a late filing penalty.

Review Your Return

If you receive your W-2 form after you file using the 4852 form, compare the information on the 4852 form to your W-2. If the two forms don’t match, you need to file an amended return. The IRS advises you to wait to file the amended return until your refund arrives. This avoids the possibility of confusion resulting from the IRS receiving both the amended return and your original return.