If an individual is leaving a company before December 31, can the company issue their Form W-2 (or Form-1099 for a contractor) early? Assuming the individual's final paycheck will be issued on their final day of employment (let's say May 24) - can they also be provided their Form W-2 on that same day?


Yes, for Form W-2

Per the IRS instructions to companies filing Form W-2:

If employment ends before December 31, 2017, you may furnish copies to the employee at any time after employment ends, but no later than January 31, 2018. If an employee asks for Form W-2, give him or her the completed copies within 30 days of the request or within 30 days of the final wage payment, whichever is later.

Maybe, but not recommended for Form 1099-MISC

I couldn't find an analogous section in the instructions for Information Reporting Returns such as 1099-MISC. Especially as the relationship in that case is as a vendor/contractor, it may be less certain that there won't be more payments later in the year. Also, I found a post on the Turbotax forums which states:

While you may prepare them sooner – by ordering them online … I don’t recommend them filing early, as it may create unnecessary correspondence with the IRS. The IRS is not open for any future tax years; they may ask for additional information, they may ask to check if you are underreporting your 2015 income by deducting those early payments, or the forms may get simply “lost”.

So, it may be okay, but as there's nothing specifically called out as allowing one to file early, it may just cause more confusion.

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