Although you won't have to present them to a tax preparation specialist in person, you're still required to retain certain essential income-related documents when you file your taxes online. Chief among these is the W-2 form that your employer must mail to you at the end of each tax year. This form contains important information about your total annual earnings and the amount of tax that your employer has already withheld for the year. Without these figures, you won't be able to complete your tax return properly.
Your employer is required by law to mail out your W-2 form for the previous year by January 31st. To allow for postal hang-ups, the IRS observes a "grace period" of 15 days during which an employer can't be held accountable for missing W-2 forms. This means that you're eligible to file a complaint with the IRS and take corrective action against your employer on or after February 15th.
In practice, you may not need to wait until the second month of the year to seek out your missing W-2 form. You're entitled to check with your employer's home office to determine the status of your W-2 form. If you live nearby, you can simply travel to the office to make an inquiry in person. By making your impatience apparent, you may be able to secure a copy of your W-2 early.
If logistical hurdles prevent you from obtaining your W-2 form in person, you may be able to file your taxes using your final pay stub from the applicable tax year. Since this stub has cumulative income and withholding figures, you'll be able to provide your online tax preparation guide with these relevant pieces of information. However, you'll need to obtain your employer's unique Employer Identification Number. Since this isn't typically printed on your pay stubs, you'll need to request it directly from your employer or conduct an online search to find it. If you provide the IRS with an incomplete or incorrect Employer Identification Number, your return's processing period may be lengthened and your chances of being audited may increase.
Once you have this information, you can fill out your tax return. Be sure to include the exact figures for your Medicare and FICA withholding taxes as well. You'll also need to submit several additional forms to the IRS. These include the agency's Substitute for Form W-2 and IRS Form 4852.