How to Fix a W-2 Error

by Tom Streissguth; Updated September 26, 2017
Businesswoman Calculating Tax

Inaccurate information on a Form W-2 can bring up several unpleasant scenarios. If your wages or withholding numbers are inaccurate and you owe more tax than you declared on your return, the IRS can come after you for back taxes, penalties and interest. The Social Security tax your employer withheld, also shown on the form, determines your eligibility for Social Security retirement and disability. Check the W-2 and have it corrected ASAP if necessary.

Checking It Twice

Check all the information on your W-2 before you request a correction from your employer. If your wage amount is wrong, your withholding amount may be wrong as well, as may be the amount of employer contributions to your IRA or other retirement accounts. Also check for boxes that should be filled in but are not. If the amount of the employer's pension contributions is missing, the calculation of tax on your return could be wrong. If your address is not current and shows the wrong state, you might incur a tax bill from that state in error. Above all, check the Social Security number. A wrong SSN will cause endless problems with the IRS, Social Security and your own employment records. To avoid additional confusion, verify that the last name on your W2 is the name connected to your social security number, whether it's your maiden name or married name.

Get With HR

Contact the department -- usually human resources -- or the individual responsible for issuing your W-2. Employers are required to prepare these forms once a year for all employees. You can't make up your own W-2, so the employer must make any necessary corrections. The information on the form should be stored in the company's accounting system, which populates the figures on tax forms automatically from its own data. Your company may have a form for requesting corrections to your pay and withholding information. If the W-2 has not yet been sent in to the Social Security Administration and you haven't filed the inaccurate version with your taxes, the problem is solved as soon as you get a corrected form.

Amending and Adjusting

File an amendment to your income tax return on Form 1040X if you've already filed a tax return using a bad W-2. You will be stating corrected amounts of wages and/or withholding, and declaring a revised tax obligation. Include a copy of the original return with the 1040X. Pay any additional tax with the form. If you're claiming a credit or a refund, you must file the form within three years of the date you originally filed or within two years of the date you paid the tax. You also must file a new state return if your state tax obligation depends on federal adjusted gross income.

Request a Transcript

File Form 4506-T with the IRS if your employer has gone out of business, or if for some other reason it won't provide a corrected W-2. This form is for obtaining a transcript of your current W-2 information that employers must file with the Social Security Administration. File Form 4852 if the W-2 is still incorrect. This form allows you to estimate your wages and withholding. If you file a tax return with a 4852 and later receive a corrected W-2, you will have to amend the return.

About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.

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