My former employer (UC Berkeley) told me to download the two W2s it has issued for me from two websites. I downloaded the first one, but the second website doesn't work. I cannot download the second W2, which should contain the last 1/4th of my income.

The question is how to file the tax return? I can see two optons:

  • request an extension from IRS, wait it out so UC Berkeley can hopefully provide the second W2
  • using my first W2, dividing the numbers there by 3, to get an estimate for the numbers in the second W2 (which I cannot download). Then file my tax without the second W2 using Form 4852 (Substitute for Form W-2).

Which one seems more reasonable? Please let me know any ideas you might have! Thanks

3 Answers 3


Do not file your taxes using only an estimate of the numbers on the W-2. You really need the exact numbers from the form.

If you cannot get the form in time, then yes, you should request an extension.

When you get an extension, remember that it does give you extra time to file your return, but you do not get extra time to pay your taxes. If you expect that you will owe tax with your return, then send a payment in now to avoid penalties when you do finally file.


You will need the W-2. There is no guessing in taxes. The employer has sent the same numbers to the IRS. After you submit your tax return the IRS computers will match the numbers on your return to the 1099's and W-2 forms that were sent to them. Your return will be flagged if they can't understand where your numbers came from.

If you can't get the real W-2 in time you will need to file for an extension, but you will also have to calculate what you owe, or the refund that is due before July 15th so you can file for the extension, and pay what you owe. The due date for filing federal taxes will be extended with this form, it doesn't change the due date for paying taxes.

So how do you do the calculation if you don't have the W-2? The final pay stub for each job you had should have everything you need to complete the calculation. If will show your Year-to-Date numbers for income, federal and state taxes, Social security, 401(k).

Having one employer but two W-2 forms is not unusual but also not standard. You will have to make sure that the pay stub reflects everything correctly. Sometimes the YTD numbers on the pay stub reset with the new W-2, and sometimes they don't.

  • Thanks a lot. why would you advise against filing the IRS Form 4852? Even if I have pretty good estimates (1% error)?
    – afshi7n
    Jul 5, 2020 at 17:30
  • That 1% error may still require you to file an amended return. The IRS matches the numbers on your return to the copies of the W-2's and 1099's the issuer sends to them. Your numbers probably won't match. Jul 5, 2020 at 18:29

There is an IRS Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. It has instructions on it for what you're supposed to do before using the form as a last resort, which includes calling the IRS so they can bug your employer. But if you try those things and it doesn't work, you can file the form instead of the one W-2 that you can't get. It wouldn't be very logical if the W-2 were such a strict requirement that is was impossible to pay your income taxes without it. The IRS wants you to pay, even if your employer is flaky or sleazy.

Instead of estimating your income, you can see if you have electronic paycheck stubs, physical stubs (if you don't have direct deposit), and online banking records showing how much you deposited.

If you get it wrong, the IRS catches the mistake, and you paid too little, then they can charge you a penalty and interest, and it will also be a hassle. You would have to file an amended return.

You still have over a week before your taxes are due. In the long run, you'll probably save yourself a lot of hassle if you simply talk to your employer and get them to help you fix the problem.

  • 1
    Pay stubs yes, but bank records will only show net pay, not gross and the various withholdings for Fed, state, local, SS, Medicare, UI, qualified plans, unqualified plans, life insurance, health insurance, FSA/cafeteria, HSA, etc. Jul 5, 2020 at 2:53
  • With a large employer like UC Berkeley, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to get the W-2 from them. Yes, it might take a few days to get whatever this technical issue is figured out, but trying to figure out what the W-2 should say would be a mistake in the OP’s case, in my opinion. Form 4852 should be a last resort, used for circumstances where the employer is a dead beat who didn’t file a W-2 or went out of business, or there is a dispute that cannot be resolved, etc.
    – Ben Miller
    Jul 5, 2020 at 17:37
  • @BenMiller-RememberMonica: The OP states that they can't get the W-2. My answer does suggest that they try again.
    – user13722
    Jul 6, 2020 at 0:58

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