Don’t double your trouble with duplicate W-2s

Soon after the boughs of holly have been removed from the halls and the last strains of “Auld Lang Syne” have played after the New Year, taxpayers will turn their attention to the more sober business of preparing for the upcoming tax season. This means they will be looking in the mail for their W-2s.

To avoid phone calls from employees or their spouses, or to protect against sending a duplicate W-2 sent to the wrong person — such as an ex-spouse — or to an incorrect address, we recommend you create a policy for handling these requests.

Below is a simple policy you can adopt to get started. Feel free to make any adjustments based on your specific needs:

  • Have a system in place where your employees notify you of address changes as they happen during the year to ensure that you have the correct address at year-end;
  • Have employees request duplicate W-2s only in writing;
  • Develop a Duplicate W-2 Request Form and include lines for items such as:
    • Date of the request
    • Change of address (this will support you if the W-2 is returned and the employee complains)
    • Date the duplicate W-2 is mailed (or uploaded to website)

Another option would be to post the duplicate W-2 to a secure website and give the employee instructions on how to download.

In most instances, duplicate W-2s will be given to employees in the form of a paper copy. Therefore, we suggest that when issuing a paper duplicate W-2, add “REISSUED STATEMENT” to the upper right hand corner on all the W-2 copies. If the duplicate W-2 is issued electronically, this note is not required. However, there are strict guidelines on issuing original or duplicate W-2s electronically. Please review these guidelines prior to issuing.

When mailing a duplicate W-2, make a copy of the envelope along with the postmark for proof of address and date mailed. If the W-2 is returned, keep it in the original envelope. If you hear back from the employee, make a copy of the original returned envelope, put the original envelope inside a new envelope to re-mail.

If you do not hear back from an employee on a returned duplicate W-2, keep the returned W-2 for at least four years as proof that it was mailed by the deadline. Or, if you’d prefer, these items could be scanned and saved digitally as well.

The IRS does not prohibit the assessment of fees for replacement of W-2s. However, there may be restrictions under other laws such as labor laws concerning minimum wage.

If you have any questions on the above, please contact our office.

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