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Dorothy Rosen -- The Dollar Diva Ask the Dollar Diva

Re-creating an old, lost tax return

Dear Dollar Diva,
I never filed my 1999 federal and state income taxes. I'd like to file them as soon as possible, but the following obstacles are standing in my way: (1) My 1999 W-2 disappeared when I moved out of my college dorm, (2) I don't have the 1999 federal and state income tax forms and don't know where to get them. Help.

Dear Michelle,
W-2s slip through the fingers of high school and college kids with the same regularity that helium balloons slip through the fingers of 2-year-olds. You already know about the land of lost balloons; the Diva will tell you about the land of lost IRS forms. She'll also help you locate the forms you need to file those pesky 1999 tax returns.

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Land of lost IRS forms
The best way to get a copy of a lost W-2 is to request one from the employer who issued it. If that's easier said than done, you can always get your Form W-2 information from the IRS using Form 4506: Request for Copy or Transcript of Tax Form.

But first, here are some things you should know before you file Form 4506:

  • There is no charge for W-2 information, but there is no guarantee that you'll get an actual copy of your Form W-2; you may only get a transcript of the W-2 information. It all depends on how your employer submitted the data to the IRS.
  • You may have to wait to ask for W-2 information from the IRS: 13 months is the magic number. For your Dec. 31, 2000, W-2 information, you needed to wait until at least Feb. 1, 2002, before filing Form 4506. It's a whole year later, so not to worry.
  • The transcript does not include state withholding information. If you get a transcript instead of a W-2, you'll have to go to your state's department of revenue to track down the state information.
  • Be patient: Once you ask, it can take up to two months to get W-2 information from the IRS.

Form 4506 can be used to get copies or transcripts of prior year income tax returns. You can attach the transcript to your Form 1040 in lieu of a W-2. Transcripts are free but each copy of a tax return and all attachments (including W-2s) will set you back $23. Since you didn't file a tax return in 1999, this is not an option for you.

Form 4506 cannot be used to get copies of Forms 1099. You'll have to call or visit the IRS for that information.

Prior year tax forms
The IRS's Web page Forms, Instructions, and Publications for 1999 will lead you to all the forms you'll need to file your 1999 tax return. It also has links to forms, instructions and publications for the years 1992 to 2000, should you need them.

For your state tax forms, go to Bankrate.com's "State taxes roundup." You'll also find the phone number for your state's department of revenue, and a link to its Web site, where you should be able to retrieve the forms you'll need to prepare your 1999 state tax return.

-- Posted: Feb. 11, 2002

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See Also
Tracking down a W-2 from a defunct employer
What to do if you don't get a W-2
More tax tips
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