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How to Handle a Returned W2

The deadline to mail employees their W2 each year is Jan. 31, so you must have all your tax information sent out by that date. But what if you send a W2 to someone and it’s returned? You may worry about getting in trouble with the IRS by failing to get the W2 to the employee by the deadline. Rest assured that an undeliverable or returned W2 is not uncommon. Here’s what you should do if it happens.

Did You Send a Paper Version of the W2 by Mail?

If you sent a paper copy of the W2 to the employee, don’t open the envelope when it comes back. You want to preserve proof that you sent the form out in time. The returned copy will include a date stamp that shows you sent the W2 before the deadline. Photocopy the envelope and put the copy in your records for reference.

Next, check the address for accuracy. Often, mail returns happen because you transposed a number on the address or wrote Street instead of Avenue. If you did make a mistake on the address, write the correct address on a new envelope and put the old one inside. Mail the new envelope to the employee.

If you had the right address, your next action depends on whether the employee still works for you:

  • Current employee: Talk to the employee and verify their address. They may have moved and not informed you. Update their address on the company records, and send the W2 to the new address, with the returned envelope still inside. You could also hand them the returned envelope in person.
  • Former employee: If the person left your company during the previous year, you could reach out to them to verify their mailing address. You should have a phone number or personal email address on file. If you can’t find the person, keep the unopened original envelope with the W2 in your files as proof that you tried to get them the form on time.

You may receive a call from an employee who claims they didn’t receive their W2. Never send a new one based on a phone call. Tell them you need a written, signed request. Phone calls are often scammers trying to get sensitive personal information.

Did You Send an Electronic Version of the W2?

If you sent out an electronic version of the W2 and it comes back as undeliverable, try to track down a functioning email address for the employee by either asking them at work or calling them if they have left the company. For cases where you can’t track down the right email, print a copy of the W2 and send it to their mailing address. You must get them the paper copy within 30 days of receiving the email error notice.

Do You Need Support With Your Payroll?

Make sure to save copies of everything to create a paper trail showing you did try to get the W2 out on time. Doing so will protect you and your company during tax season. For help with your payroll, contact us today to request a quote.