It’s getting to be that time of year again: tax time. But what happens if you don’t have all your tax information ready to go by April?
While keeping track of everything can be a headache, the good news is, most of your tax information is probably recoverable, even if it doesn’t show up on time. Here’s what to do.
What Paperwork Do You Need to Keep for Taxes?
There are many types of IRS forms that contain the information necessary to file a tax return, whether you’re doing so through IRS Free File or with tax software, a professional preparer, or an accountant.
And whether you’re filing taxes for the first time or not, the specific forms you’ll need will depend on your personal financial and demographic circumstances.
If you’re an employee of a company, your employer will need to supply a W-2 form, which shows your income, the amount that was already withheld for taxes, and any “elective deferrals” made to a tax-deferred 401(k) or similar employer plan.
Employers are to send W-2s by Jan. 31.
If you’re self-employed — an independent contractor, sole proprietor, member of a business partnership, freelancer, or gig worker — you’ll receive a Form 1099 from each client that paid you $600 or more. It’s specifically a 1099-NEC, which replaced what used to be recorded on Form 1099-MISC, Box 7.
The many types of 1099 forms serve to report income from nonemployment-related sources like freelance work, passive income streams, bank interest, or investment dividends. Which means you might get a 1099 if you’re an employee who has an investment account.
The due date for furnishing Forms 1099-NEC, 1099-G, 1099-H, most 1099-DIVs, and some others to recipients is Jan. 31. For Forms 1099-B, 1099-S, and 1099-MISC, the due date is Feb.15.
Interest and Health Care Statements
Other common statements include Form 1098, which comes in several variations and lists expenses that may be tax deductible. Two common ones:
• Mortgage interest, if you itemize deductions
The IRS requires most 1098s to be sent to taxpayers by Jan. 31 each year.
Form 1095 includes information pertaining to health care coverage. You may get a 1095-A if you had a health care plan from the Marketplace, a 1095-B if you or someone in your household had “minimum essential coverage,” or a 1095-C if you received employer-provided health insurance.
The annual deadline for providers to issue Form 1095s is Jan. 31.
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If you’re trying to lower your taxable income come tax time (and who isn’t), start by gathering the records you kept in a folder or from a money tracker (or excavating that not-so-carefully kept cache of receipts and bills).
To deduct medical expenses, you’ll need to itemize your deductions. Qualified deductions include:
• Premiums for medical, dental, vision, long-term care, Medicare Part B, and Medicare Part D insurance that you were not reimbursed for and that were not paid with pretax money.
• Copays for medical, dental, or vision care.
• The cost of prescriptions, eyeglasses, contact lenses, lactation aids, medical aids, and medical exam or test fees.
You may be able to claim the child and dependent care credit if you paid for the care of a qualifying person to enable you (and your spouse, if filing a joint return) to work or look for work.
For self-employed individuals, it’s a good idea to save receipts from every business-related purchase and to keep track of utility bills and rent or mortgage information. The home office tax deduction is available to self-employed people who use part of their home, owned or rented, as a place of work regularly and exclusively.
Recommended: Updates to the Tax Code That You Should Know
Reasons You May Not Have Gotten Your Tax Forms
First, make sure you know whether or not the form is actually late. Most tax forms should be issued by Jan. 31, but as a general rule of thumb, you don’t need to start worrying about your tax forms being late until Valentine’s Day.
A glitch with your address is the most obvious reason a form has not appeared by then.
If an employer does not have the right address, a mailed W-2 could be rejected and sent back. An address problem can also trip up the delivery of a 1099.
Make sure payers have your correct address, and, if needed, put in an address forwarding order at your local post office or at USPS.com/move.
It’s also a good idea to file an IRS change of address Form 8822. The IRS doesn’t update an address based on a change of address filed with the U.S. Postal Service.
What Do You Do If You Don’t Get Your Tax Forms?
If the deluge of heart-shaped candy boxes has come and gone, there are steps you can take to retrieve your information.
What If You Don’t Get Your W-2?
If your employer provides electronic access to your earnings statement, it will typically email an OK to download it. If that message hasn’t appeared by Jan. 31, you might want to check your spam folder. Or you may have just overlooked the email in the slush pile.
If you can’t get your W-2 by mail or electronically, contact your employer’s HR or accounting department.
If you still aren’t able to resolve the problem, you can turn to the IRS. Call 800-829-1040, the IRS’ toll-free service, with the following information:
• Your name, contact information, and taxpayer identification number
• Your employer’s name and contact information
• The dates you worked there
• An estimate of how much you earned and how much was withheld from your income in federal taxes; pay stubs might help with this part
You may be asked to file Form 4852, which serves as a substitute for Form W-2 if the W-2 can’t be located. On Form 4852, you’ll need to estimate wages earned and taxes withheld. Base the estimate on year-to-date information from your final pay stub, if possible.
You could also try the IRS “Get Transcript” tool to request your wage and income transcript. It shows the data reported on W-2s, the Form 1099 series, Form 1098 series, and Form 5498 series, but information for the current processing tax year may not be complete until the earnings are reported.
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What If You Don’t Get Your 1099?
If you have not received an expected 1099 by several days after Jan. 31, when most are due, contact the payer.
If you aren’t sure where the 1099 reporting your investment income is, try logging on to your online brokerage account and clicking around. Digital forms are often offered directly to account holders.
The good news is, you aren’t required to attach your 1099s to your tax return unless taxes were withheld from the payments reported on them. So if you have another record of that income — such as year-end account statements, in the case of investments — you may file your taxes with that information.
Recommended: Visit the Tax Season Help Center
What If You Don’t Get Your 1095?
If you don’t have your 1095, you can reach out to the source it should have come from. For the 1095-A, log into your Health Insurance Marketplace account and look for the digital version of the form there.
According to the IRS, you should only wait to file if you’re missing Form 1095-A. The other two types, 1095-B and 1095-C, are not required.
What If You Don’t Get Your 1098?
This is another tax document that’s not formally required by the IRS, but it does contain information you probably want to include on your return, since it could translate to a tax deduction.
If you haven’t received your 1098 in the mail, one first step is to log into the account you have with the lender that issued the mortgage or student loan. Again, digital tax documents are often offered directly to borrowers through the online portal. If you can’t find the documents yourself, call the lender’s customer service line. You might also be able to find the necessary numbers on your year-end statement.
What to Do If You Don’t Have Your Stuff Together On Time
If all else fails and you’re simply feeling crunched for time, you can always file for an extension with the IRS, which involves — of course — a form: Form 4868. Individual tax filers, regardless of income, can electronically request an automatic tax-filing extension.
To get the extension, you must estimate your tax liability on the form and pay any amount due, the IRS says.
You can also get an extension by paying all or part of your estimated income tax due and indicate that the payment is for an extension using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or a credit or debit card.
An extension gives you an additional six months to get your paperwork in order.
Finally, if you use a tax preparer service, whether a human or software product, keep in mind that your information from the prior year is probably on file, which may help fill in some gaps. Taxpayers can also request a transcript of their prior year’s tax return directly from the IRS.
Tax time can be stressful even for the most organized among us, and missing tax forms can add angst. If tax forms have not materialized by mid-February, don’t hit the panic button. There are workarounds and simple solutions.
Do you get penalized for missing tax forms?
Tax filers are not penalized for missing forms. If they can’t get the forms, they must still file their tax return on time or get an extension to file.
A business may be penalized for failing to issue W-2s, 1095-Cs, 1099-NECs, or 1099-MISC forms by the deadline to do so.
How long does it take to send missing tax forms?
Copies of W-2s can be requested from the IRS. It can take up to 10 days for an online request to be processed, and up to 30 days for a mail or fax request.
Can I look up my tax forms online?
Usually not. The first step to get missing tax forms re-sent is to contact the entity that issued them. If you still haven’t received the missing or corrected form by the end of February, you may call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
The IRS does keep six years’ worth of transcripts that summarize return information and include adjusted gross income, but information for the current processing tax year may not be complete until the earnings are reported.
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