Just consider:  You won't get any jump on your refund because the IRS won't start processing until January 14th anyway, by which time you will probably have your W-2 in hand!

    If you want to use your last pay stub simply for estimation, fine, but to file - please read what follows.

    It is certainly up to you to do what you want when it comes to the subject of rushing forward with your last pay stub in hand or waiting the several days to several weeks to get your real actual Form W-2; the W-2 that is submitted to the IRS by your employer.

    Most of the "SuperUsers" on this blog are long-time practitioners in tax filing or tax accounting, and the uniform recommendation from all will be to wait.

    I accept the argument that certain tax preparation services, which shall remain nameless except for the court cases they have lost and the fines that they have paid in this matter, are perfectly happy to suggest that you can.

    WHY NOT? The problem is that if you use your "last paycheck stub" as an estimator of what you think will be on the W-s there is a great chance you will guess wrong. This is particularly true if you have either some form of benefit such as a cafeteria plan or insurance [non-medical] most particularly life insurance, or you have any type of deferred compensation or savings plan, such as a 401(k), 403(b) or the like. The last paycheck stub dollar amounts in total will likely be right for gross income but the allocation may well change because when the W-2 is issued some monies paid to you are recharacterized and appear in other boxes than you expected.

    So, WHAT'S THE RISK? If you guess wrong by using the last paycheck and the numbers don't match up, you will get the opportunity to receive an audit inquiry from the IRS and you will have the wonderful opportunity to learn the magical mysteries of filing an amended Form 104X and equivalent state form which is often even more mystical.  
    Form 1040X follows its own rules, requires you to do a number of calculations and frankly is confusing as the Dickens - far more so than the base Form 1040. State amendments can be even worse.

    WHAT'S the GAIN? Not much because the IRS doesn't start processing and accepting your filing until AFTER JANUARY 14th at the earliest and that is only if you do not itemized deductions [no Schedule A] So rushing to file will not mean an earlier refund simply because the IRS will not have even started processing. If you itemize deductions on Schedule A, you are now stuck with a mid-February starting date of processing by the IRS - again no point rushing.

    The problem is that there is a great chance you will either leave money on the table [over paid with no good reason and now lose it] or you will underpay taxes [and risk being audited because your income does not match the reported]

    IF you have not received your W-2 yet, and it would seem unlikely since its only January 1, 2011, and W-2's typically start showing up late in the second week of January, you are strongly advised to wait.

    Your W-2 may and typically does contain information and values not in your paycheck, so attempting to file without the official form is a pretty good predictor that you will either leave money on the table with the IRS or else get a letter saying you didn't leave enough - neither is a good situation.

    Further, if you are filing by mailing in, you can't without submitting a copy.

    While many folks really do need that refund money as soon as possible, be patient unless you want to become an expert in learning how to file an amended return!

    For any tax-preparer to state that they can prepare and file your tax return without a W-2 is a violation of law.
    Read below.

    Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers for Individual Income Tax Returns when it states:

    "EROs must not electronically file individual income tax returns prior to receiving Forms W-2, W-2G or 1099-R. If the taxpayer is unable to secure and pro­vide a correct Form W-2 . . . the ERO may electronically file the return after the taxpayer completes Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement . . . If Form 4852 is used, the non-standard W-2 indicator must be included in the record, and the ERO must maintain Form 4852 in the same manner required for Forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R."
      NO!  You can't enter your info from your paychecks or by using last year's W2 as a sample.  It won't work.  You have to wait for your employer to send you the W2. It is the tax summary of your wages for the year. They have to send it to you by Feb 1. You can't use your last paystub because there might be differences in the taxable amounts sent to the IRS. There are several items that are deducted pre-tax that will affect your taxable gross income.  Usually your last paystub does NOT match your W2!  And you can't file until you get the actual W2.

      We urge you to WAIT!

      You can use your last paycheck and enter it to get an estimate but be sure to come back and correct it when you get the W2.

      • RE:  "There are several items that are deducted pre-tax that will affect your taxable gross income."

        Can anyone explain this a little bit further?   

        Why doesn't the Gross YTD amount on an individual's last paycheck match the amount  listed under "wages" in Box 1 on their W-2's?

        If certain "benefits" or other items are supposed to be "pre-tax", and are not taxed, then why is this amount being added back to the total taxable gross income/wages?   

        Shouldn't there then be two different gross incomes?   

        One showing a complete total of all forms of income before taxes, and another showing all forms of income except those which are considered "pre-tax".

        The second one being the one which is used to calculate any taxes owed?

        Any helpful explanation or articulation of this would be greatly appreciated.
      Thank you:
      • This thread is two years old. For 2012 taxes, the IRS won't be accepting returns until Jan 22, 2013 (subject to change).
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