Wait a Minute: Read This Before You Try to File Your 2012 Taxes with Your Last Paystub of the Year

January 17, 2012  |  
If you’re taking advantage of some of the many tax credits available to you in the 2012 tax season, such as the child tax credit, you probably have a refund coming to you. Even if the idea of getting your check back from the government has you racing to file your tax return, you still have to wait for your W-2 tax form to arrive from your employer. Depending on the accounting practices at your job, your W-2 probably won’t arrive until mid January and the IRS gives your employer until the end of January to get that form until your hands. But here’s the part where you think “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll just use the last paystub of the year to file my taxes ASAP.” Think again.
In Most Cases, You Can’t Use Your Last Paystub
The IRS requires that you wait for your W-2 to file your taxes instead of relying on the running tally on your paystub. The reason is that unless you got your last paycheck on the December 31st, it probably isn’t accurate. Let’s say you got your last pay check on December 21st but worked another 9 days that year. That December 21st paycheck doesn’t include the wages and withheld taxes for those last 9 days and will make your tax return inaccurate.What Happens if You Decide to Do It Anyway
The best case scenario is that you have to amend your tax return after you get your accurate numbers from your W-2, which takes time and can cost you money. The worst case scenario is that the IRS determines you intentionally filed an inaccurate tax return. The penalties for that can range between fines, wage garnishment and jail time depending on how serious the inaccuracies are.When CAN You Use Your Last Paystub to File Your Taxes?
Your employer has a duty to provide you with an accurate W-2 tax form by the end of January or face steep penalties from the government. If you can’t get them to do so by February 15th, you can file a W-2 complaint with the IRS by calling 800-829-1040. The IRS will contact your employer for you and remind them that they’re violating federal tax law. If you still can’t get your W-2, the IRS lets you use form 4852 as a substitute and you can fill it out using your last paystub. However, it’s still not a situation you want because  if your employer sends in a W-2 to the IRS later in the year, you still have to amend your tax return to the correct numbers.

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