What to Do if You Are Missing Tax Documents?

Completing your taxes correctly is impossible without all the necessary information.

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Filing income taxes requires precise information about your financial transactions of the previous year. Small mistakes and missing information can lead to problems that grow in scope and result in costly fees and penalties. Missing tax documents are your responsibility, but you can usually file your taxes on time even if you don't have all your tax documents ready when you begin the process.

Observe Deadlines

Missing tax documents do not change the April 15 deadline for filing your income taxes. However, they may subject you to other important deadlines. Jan. 31 is the general deadline to receive tax documents in the mail or electronically. If Jan. 31 is not a business day, the deadline is extended to the next business day, just as the April 15 deadline for filing can move forward. Missing documents are not an excuse for failing to file your taxes, and penalties and fees may apply if you neglect the deadline.

Contact the Issuer

Banks, employers and other financial institutions are required to submit tax documents to investors and employees by Jan. 31, giving them a month to act after the close of the tax and calendar year. Contact the issuer if you haven't received documents by the end of January. Use a customer service phone number or e-mail address specifically for tax questions, if one is available. Contact the IRS if you are still missing tax documents by Feb. 14. This will result in the IRS contacting the issuer directly.

Form 4852

IRS form 4852 is a substitute form that allows you to file your taxes even if you're missing an essential document, such as a W-2 or 1099-R. You can use the one-page form to claim income from a variety of sources and figure your tax liability, even if the issuer is unable to provide original tax documents. On Form 4852 you can claim not only income but also any state and federal taxes deducted from your payments. Filing Form 4852 is better than requesting an extension, because it allows you to avoid the interest charges that come with paying your taxes late.

Electronic Records

Electronic resources such as the website of your bank, stock broker or employer are valuable sources of tax information that you are missing when you haven't received all of your documents. Some banks don't issue 1099-INT documents for interest earned below a certain amount, though any and all interest on bank accounts is taxable. Bank websites will indicate your taxable interest and might even have printable 1099-INT forms available that you must access on your own. Payroll services make information available online that can substitute for a late or missing W-2 form.