No matter how short a period you worked at a job, you still will need to include a W-2 from that employer to properly file your income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service requires that income from all jobs be included on your tax return, even if the job lasted only one or two days.
Any employer who withheld any payroll or income taxes from your pay during the year has to send you a W-2, regardless of how small the amount. The requirement also covers employers who paid you at least $600 during the tax year and would have been required to withhold income taxes if you had claimed only one personal exemption or did not claim exemption from withholding on your W-4 form.
If your employer considered you an independent contractor rather than an employee, it doesn't have to issue a W-2. Instead it will issue a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, if it paid you $600 or more during the year. You still have to report this income even if you don't get a 1099, unless the company paid you less than $400 and you aren't required to file a return for any other reason.
The employer has until Jan. 31 to mail you a copy of your W-2. The deadline applies to when the copy has to be in the mail -- not when you have to receive it. Many employers wait until the last day to mail out the forms, so you may not get it until early February. Also, if you gave the employer permission to post your W-2 electronically, you probably will not get a copy in the mail and instead will have to access it online.
If the first week of February passes and you still have not gotten a W-2, you should contact the employer and ask for a copy. If the employer is uncooperative or you still don't get a copy after a reasonable amount of time, you can call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to request assistance. You need to wait at least until Feb. 14 before calling the IRS.
If the tax deadline is looming and you still do not have the missing W-2, you can use Form 4852, "Substitute for Form W-2." The IRS normally sends you a copy of this form after you contact it for assistance. You enter your estimated income and withholding on the form and attach it to your tax return.
Alan Sembera began writing for local newspapers in Texas and Louisiana. His professional career includes stints as a computer tech, information editor and income tax preparer. Sembera now writes full time about business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.