Wait For Your W-2 Before You File

Now that December 2014 Leave and Earnings Statements (LES) have been posted, I know a lot of people are anxious to file their 2014 federal tax returns.  I understand your enthusiasm.  If you’re expecting a tax refund, then you probably want it NOW.  However, there are many good reasons to wait until you actually have your W-2 tax statement before you file your taxes.

It’s The Rules

According to the IRS,

“Authorized IRS e-file Providers are prohibited from submitting electronic returns to the IRS prior to the receipt of all Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R from the taxpayer.

If the taxpayer is unable to secure and provide a correct Form W-2, W-2G, or 1099-R, the return may be electronically filed afterForm 4852, is completed in accordance with the use of that form.  This is the only time information from pay stubs or Leave and Earning Statements (LES) is allowed.

The IRS monitors Authorized IRS e-file Providers for compliance with the Revenue Procedure 2007-40 and IRS e-file rules and requirements.  Monitoring visits will be conducted to investigate complaints and to ensure compliance.”

Form 4852 Instructions state: “You should always attempt to get Form W-2 or Form 1099-R from your employer or payer before contacting the IRS or filing Form 4852.  After February 14, you may call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 if you still have not received Form W-2 or Form 1099-R.  Generally, do not file Form 4852 before April 15th.”

from the TaxSlayer website

I know that people DO file without waiting for their W-2, and you can do whatever you want.  However, the IRS says it is not OK.  I see  no reason to try to upset the IRS on purpose, so I suggest waiting until your W-2 is available.

Adjustments Happen

Your December LES doesn’t always have accurate information on it, and filing your taxes based upon December LES information can result in the need to file an amended return once you get the actual documents.  This can happen because the December LES is calculated before the end of the month and situations can change before the year ends.  There can also be legitimate errors on the LES, or a wide variety of unusual circumstances.  One year, my husband received TWO amended W-2s before the numbers were right.  Being prepared early just ended up making more work for us in the long run.

Those Other W-2s

Your regular compensation does not always represent all your taxable compensation.  In particular, personally procured moves (PPM), previously known as Do It Yourself (DITY) moves, will generate a special travel W-2, as will any interest earned in a Savings Deposit Program (SDP) account.  These special W-2s will be available via MyPay prior to 31 January 2015.

The Filing Season Isn’t Open For Weeks

No matter when you complete your 2014 federal income tax return, the IRS isn’t ready to accept tax returns until they have been able to update their computer system for all the last-minute changes to the tax laws.  Experts are predicting that the 2015 filing season will open on 23 January 2015.  Preparing your return early, or even mailing it early, will not make your return come any faster.

I know it is exciting when you are expecting a refund of overpayment of taxes.  I’m excited, too, as we’re expecting a refund this year.  However, filing an amended return is a pain, and doing your taxes early isn’t going to make your refund come much faster.  Be patient and be confident that everything will be right the first time.


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.
  • eric d

    While I was active duty, I was unaware or lets say didn’t know you could file and get it back that New York state was taking money out of my check every month, I got paid every 30 days when I was active but anyway any active duty soldiers should check to see if they are paying state taxes because you can file and get that money back, I was unaware and lost about a total of 2600 dollars for 4 straight years

    • BCC

      Eric d, if this is true you can always file an amended return for the years you are due a refund. The government will not let you know if you are due a refund, but I promise they’ll always let you know if you owe them money!

    • Jeff

      You didn’t realize you had to pay state tax? That’s pretty sad. Especially sad considering you filled out a w-4 to allow it. Also, active duty members get paid twice a month….the 1st and 15th.

      • Kate

        Jeff, just FYI, active duty folks have the option of being paid once a month. I don’t know anyone that takes that option, but it exists.

        • mil

          no you only get twice a month, it use to be an option before back in 2005, and if you didn’t request twice a month it was automatically once a month. Later it became only twice a month with no other option. Only people who had once a month could grandfather it in. But if they change it to twice a month, they can no longer return to the old once a month. FYI once a month is way better and easier to control spending if all your bills are on the 1st. You can set a side a savings and buy what you need.

    • NavyChick

      I pay New York State taxes also I tried for a while to get my money back from them. I found out that if you’re living on a ship or barracks anything that is considered government quarters it’s not considered your “permanent place of abode” so you still have to pay you might nit get anything back unless there was an overpayment. On the other hand if your a resident and you pay NY taxes and you a have an apartment that you pay rent on then it is considered as you having “permanent place of abode” and you can file and get your money back either way you still have to pay but you can expect to get it back at the end of the year.

      • Kate

        NavyChick, regardless of where you are living, you have a permanent domicile for tax and other purposes. It might be your Home of Record state, or it might be somewhere else. Regardless, if you are having New York state taxes withheld from your paycheck, you should check with a tax professional to see about filing a New York state income tax return. You may receive a refund, depending on the details of your situation.

        • NavyChick

          I have actually contacted the THe TAxation and Finance Dept of NY and talked to a few tax professionals Ive even read the NY State military publication regarding state taxes trying to find some loophole. NY is my Home of Record and while I was living in the barracks I had taxes withheld never received a refund bc it wasn’t my permanent place of abode. When I got an apartment and I filed whatever i paid I get it back. There is a form that you can fill out to be except but like everything else with the great state of NY its a pain in the butt.

          • eric d

            it was jackson hewitt in clarksville that gave me the form to get my money back from new oyrk, you file in the state your stationed in

        • eric d

          I was stationmed at fort campbell when they were taking my ny state taxes out of my check, my home of record is new york but my residence was obviously Ft campbell … like i said you can get your ny state taxes back , i believe you are right its a seperate ny state tax return form , its been a while but i suggest people look into it , i lost out on getting alot of that back for years

    • John

      You can still go back and amend up to four prior tax years which would mean the IRS would accept Tax return amendments back to 2010 or 2011 to be able to recover that amount of money still. I would recommend doing it through Freetaxusa.com. This is what my family uses ever year. I several years ago had to file an amendment for the 4 prior years for a situation in which I was unable to claim a court ordered child from a divorce. That is how I found out from the IRS that you can file amendment from the previous 4 years. Good Luck to you.

  • eric d

    I’m not sure which states take money out but there is quite a few I was stationed at fort Campbell so everybody never knew because Kentucky and Tennessee do not take anything out so I would check if you can file and get this money back



  • eric d

    kate. im confised everytime I goto any other part of the website im logged in as a member when I goto anything money related it says on bottom comment as a guest or login but I am logged in and forces me to comment as a guest?

    • Kate

      Eric, I do not completely understand the login process, but I believe that the subsidiary sites (PaycheckChronicles, KitUp, Spouse) use the Intense Debate commenting tool, whereas the main site uses Military.com login information.

      If you are having problems with your login, I suggest you use the “help” option at the very bottom of this page to ask your technical question.

  • eric d

    is paycheck chronicles kind of its own entity? not understanding like on the top right corner usually says my login name and like I said anything money it does not

    • Kate

      The Paycheck Chronicles is one of the Military.com family of websites. It does not require you to log-in to Military.com. Both The Paycheck Chronicles and Ask Scott and JJ do not show the log-in screen, all the other money pages do. it is just how the websites are structured.

  • DEB

    i have a question my husband is out of the army how would he get his w2 form he dont remember his password to login

    • Kate

      DEB, your husband should request a new password through the myPay website. If he previously set up the security questions, this can be done online. Otherwise, he will have to request a new password via the mail.

  • Fly60

    I separated from the Army in May ’14. I’ve recieved 2 lump sum payments since separating and I get a VA check every month, but I don’t have a W-2 showing up on mypay! Does anyone know the process for getting your W-2 after you separate? Thanks for any help!!

  • B-Man7

    Any help would be great, I separated from the Navy after almost 12 years in dec 2014, I received involuntary sep pay. Can I and how do I claim that on my tax return since it isn’t shown on my w2, just my bank account was a direct deposit. I received half ISP as an E6.

  • Israel S.

    i still have not recieved my W2 form. i am wondering how i should get in contact with someone so i can either print it off myself or have it over-night mailed. Please help.

    • Kate

      Isreal, I suggest you file for an extension of time to file. You will have to go to the DFAS website and use the request to have a duplicate W-2 sent to you. Good luck!