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What Happens if You File the Wrong W-2?

If you filed your taxes with the wrong W-2, here’s what you need to do to fix it. (And you do need to act quickly.)

How can you file with the wrong W-2?

There are several possible ways to file with the wrong W-2.

  • Your employer corrected your W-2 and you used the incorrect version
  • You got your tax forms mixed up with your spouse or another family member
  • You used last year’s W-2
  • You left a job early in the new year and that employer sent your W-2 (that should go on next year’s taxes) really early

As a future tax filing tip, it’s really easy to start typing things in and type what you think it should be instead of what’s on the wrong W-2.

When you finish your tax return, check it against last year to make sure there are no huge differences.

If there are differences, make sure you can explain them (such as you got a raise) or go back and check your tax return for mistakes.

Will the IRS catch a wrong W-2?

The IRS will usually catch a wrong W-2, but it’s a question of when. The IRS automatically checks tax returns against the W-2 copies employers send in, but they don’t always catch everything right away.

The IRS may:

  • Reject your tax return and tell you to file again
  • Put your tax return on hold and tell you to send in more information
  • Accept your tax return, send you a refund, and then send you a bill for extra taxes and penalties months or years later

What happens if you file with the wrong W-2?

First, understand that the IRS knows people make mistakes. You won’t be in huge trouble. But you do want to fix it right away.

You Didn’t Pay Enough

If filing with the wrong W-2 caused you to pay less in taxes than you should, you still have to pay those taxes by the original April 15th deadline.

If you pay after April 15th, you’ll typically have to pay interest and penalties. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t realize the mistake and the IRS didn’t notify you until much later.

You Paid Too Much

If filing with the wrong W-2 caused you to pay more in taxes than you should, you’ll get a refund.

You normally won’t have to pay a penalty, because IRS penalties are typically based on how much you underpaid your taxes.

Since it was your mistake, the IRS won’t pay you interest even if you don’t request the refund until much later.

What do you do if you filed with the wrong W-2?

If you filed with the wrong W-2, fixing it depends on whether the IRS caught the problem yet.

If they rejected your tax return, it’s normally the same as if you didn’t file. File your tax return again.

If they contacted you asking for more information, reply to that IRS notice or letter.

If you caught the problem before the IRS, you’ll need to file an amended tax return with the correct W-2.

The one thing you absolutely can’t do is file the W-2 next year or make other changes on next year’s tax return. W-2s always go on the tax return for the year they’re for.