Tax season is coming upon us, and many employees are wondering how long their current or previous employers have kept their W-2 forms on file. Record retention varies depending on the documentation that is in question, but there are specific regulations regarding W-2 retention. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can actually audit small businesses for up to three years prior to the current tax year. This is why it is imperative to learn employer retention regulations whether you’re an employer or an employee.
If you’re looking for your W-2 forms from a few years back, you’re in luck. The IRS orders business owners to keep these documents on file for up to four years. Many employers choose to keep them longer just in case, but the federal requirement when it comes to Copy D (employer copy) W-2 forms, the general rule is a minimum of four years. If you’re looking to obtain copies of your W-2 forms within this time period, your employer should be able to send them to you within 30 days of your request.
If you never received a W-2 when you were supposed to, your employer should still have a copy of your W-2 for the year in question up to six years prior. Some W-2’s end up coming back as “undeliverable”, and the IRS requires these W-2’s to be kept for a six-year minimum. The six years should start after the initial delivery date. If you changed your address, or the form got lost in the mail, you will still have access to the forms in question as long as it is within that six-year timeframe.
Filing taxes is a hectic process for many, so it is not uncommon for tax forms to be misplaced somehow. Thankfully, no matter how small the company you work for is, they are still required to retain W-2 forms for the four-year timeframe. By contacting your employer and requesting a copy of their Copy D form, you will be all set for any future dealings regarding those specific W-2’s.