Your Employer’s Responsibility

When you work for a U.S. employer in the United States, a portion of your paycheck is required to be withheld each pay period and sent to the IRS and state department of revenue for the state in which you worked (unless the state doesn’t have an income tax – see more on that below). These deposits are tucked away with your name on them, waiting for you to file your Federal and state tax returns showing your actual tax liability. The difference between your tax due, as computed on your tax return, and the amount of withholding deposited on your behalf, is the amount you will get as a refund (if too much tax was withheld) or the additonal amount you are required to pay with your tax return (if too little was withheld).

Since the withholding tables are based on a full year of employment, if you are a short-term nonresident employee who has no other U.S. income, you should expect a refund. This presumes that your employer withholds the proper amount and sends it in. It is the employer’s responsibility to properly withhold the money from your paycheck, to send it to the taxing authorities on schedule, and to issue a Form W-2 to you. The Form W-2 is required to be sent to you by your employer by January 31 of the year following your employment. This form is your proof that the money is on deposit in your name in the IRS and state coffers.

Can’t Find Your W-2?

Wait a minute – did you look everywhere? It looks like this:

2016 Form W-2

If your employer sent you your W-2 and you lost it, you should contact your emplyer right away and request a replacement copy.  When a W-2 is properly mailed to you once, the employer can charge you for a second copy. However, perhaps the W-2 is stored online and is available for you to download, given the proper login information.

If your Form W-2 for 2017 is not available  to you by January 31, 2018, or if your information is incorrect, contact your  employer or former employer. If by the end of February you still haven’t received the missing or corrected form, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 if you are in the United States. From outside the United States, call 1-267-941-1000. This is not a toll-free number. When you call, have the following information available:

  • Your name, address, phone number and Social Security number,
  • Your employer’s name, address and phone number,
  • If known, your employers identification number (EIN).

The IRS will help you by harassing (well, contacting) your employer or former employer on your behalf for the missing or corrected form.

Form 4852

When you call the IRS, besides contacting your employer, they will also send you a Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, along with a letter containing instructions for you. If you don’t receive the missing or corrected W-2 in sufficient time for you to file your tax return, you can use Form 4852 to complete your return. You will need to provide an estimate of your wages and taxes withheld on Form 4852. This should be as accurate as possible and based on pay stubs if you have saved any. If you receive the missing or corrected Form W-2 after you file your return and the information differs from your estimates, you will need to file an amended  return using Form 1040X, Amended US Individual  Income Tax Return.

State Taxes

All but seven states in the United States impose income taxes on individuals similar to the federal income tax (but with lower rates). Your state income tax withholding is shown in box 17 of your W-2. Some localities also have local taxes, withholding for which is shown in box 19 of your W-2. If you see state wages (box 16) or withholding for a state in which you did not work, be sure to contact your employer to have this corrected.

The states that do not impose an income tax on individuals are: 1) Alaska (you actually get paid for living there), 2) Florida, 3) Nevada, 4) South Dakota, 5)  Texas, 6) Washington, and 7) Wyoming. States that do not impose an income tax on wages of individuals are New Hampshire and Tennessee. If you worked in one of these states, there is no state income tax return to file.

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