Trying to File Early? Don’t Do It!

I know that lots of people are in a rush to file their federal tax returns quickly, especially if they are expecting a large overpayment to be refunded to them.  However, please know that you are not legally allowed to file your returns until you have your W-2s.  Yes, you can start preparing your return with your last LES of the year, but the IRS says that you need to have your W-2 in order to actually file the return.

From the IRS website,

When filing electronically taxpayers must provide Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R to the Authorized IRS e-file Provider before the Provider sends the electronic return to the IRS. Providers are prohibited from submitting electronic returns to the IRS prior to receipt of all Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R from the taxpayer. Taxpayers filing electronic returns using a personal computer enter the data from the forms into the electronic filing software themselves. This is similar to the attachment of Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R to the face of paper tax returns.

Yes, I am sure that there are plenty of people who file their federal income taxes off of their last LES, and I’m sure that most of them never get caught. I just want you to know that it is in violation of the IRS rules. If you choose to break those rules, that is your choice. However, I would hate for you to think that it is OK just because your buddy is doing it.  I’m sure there are even tax preparers who are willing to file your taxes without your W-2, but that would be a huge red flag to me.  If that preparer is willing to break this rule, what other rules might they be breaking?

Wondering when you can get your W-2?

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.