Q: When should I get the tax forms I need to file my taxes? What do I do if I haven’t gotten them?
A: The deadline for employers to send out W-2 forms for income earned in 2012 was January 31. That’s the same deadline for sending out most 1099 forms, for other 2012 income.
The IRS let you start filing on January 30. Many (if not most) employers send out W-2 forms weeks before the January 31 deadline. And since W-2 income is the only kind many people have, it was easy to have everything needed to file on January 30.
In 2012, you could start filing earlier—on January 17. But the recent “fiscal cliff” deal wasn’t reached until January 2, creating some uncertainties about how 2012 income was going to be taxed. So, the IRS postponed the start of filing season until January 30.
There’s a February 15 deadline for sending out some types of 1099 forms. For example, the 1099-B, for certain kinds of sales of stock or bonds, and the 1099-S, for certain real estate sales, don’t have to go out until February 15.
(All 1099 forms for are for “income other than wages, salaries, and tips.” It appears that 1099s come in at least 17 different flavors, from 1099-A, for “Acquisition or Abandonment of Secured Property,” through 1099-SA, for “Distributions from an HSA, Archer MSA, or Medicare Advantage MSA.”)
If you haven’t gotten your W-2 by early February, the IRS suggests first contacting your employer, to see if they can simply re-send it.
If a W-2 hasn’t arrived by February 15, the IRS says you can call them (800-829-1040). Be ready with basic information about you, your employer, and your income. (Your last pay stub for 2012 should show your year-to-date totals.) They can try to shake loose the missing W-2.
If you still don’t get your W-2 by the April 15 deadline to file, you should still file on time. If necessary, you can file with a substitute W-2 (Form 4852). It’s only one page, and just requires the information from your last 2012 pay stub, or estimates.
If a stray W-2 or 1099 arrives after you’ve already filed, you should file an amended return. That’s Form 1040X. You should also file an amended return if your estimates on a 4852 form turn out to be off.
The IRS grants automatic extensions to file your taxes late, after the April 15 deadline. You just have to ask, before April 15. There are three ways to ask: by internet, phone, or mail (Form 4868).
The automatic extension gives you until October 15 to file. But it only extends the time to file the paper work— not to pay what you owe. Any tax payment is still due April 15. Estimated payments are welcome.
If you don’t owe anything, there’s no penalty for filing late. So if you’re getting a refund, you can procrastinate with impunity. But don’t wait more than 3 years—that’s the IRS limit for claiming refunds.