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Do You Need to File? If So, What Should You Do if You Don't Have Your W-2

It's that time of year again! Tax Time! And all of your questions are just beginning. For instance, who needs to file? What are the rules requiring that you file? If the answer is yes you do need to file, have you received your W-2 yet? If not, what can you do? Below are some answers so you can get started.

Who should file an income tax return:

Generally, the amount of income you earned in 2012, your tax filing status, your age and the type of income you received will determine whether you are required to file. Even if you do not believe that you are required to file a tax return, you may still want to do so for a number of reasons. You may be surprised to learn that you are entitled to a tax refund if you have had too much federal income tax withheld from your pay, or you may qualify for certain tax credits. You should check the Internal Revenue Service website at IRS.gov for specific income tax filing requirements. According to the IRS below are 5 reasons to consider filing (even if you are not required to do so)

1. Federal Income Tax Withheld. If your employer withheld federal income tax from your pay, if you made estimated tax payments, or if you had a prior year overpayment applied to this year's tax, you could be due a refund. You should file a return to claim any excess tax you paid during the year.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). If you worked but earned less than $50,270 last year, you may qualify for EITC. EITC is a refundable tax credit; which means if you qualify you could receive EITC as a tax refund. Families with qualifying children may qualify to get up to $5,891 dollars. You can't get the credit unless you file a return and claim it. To find out if you qualify go to the IRS website at IRS.gov and use the EITC Assistant.

3. Additional Child Tax Credit. If you have at least one qualifying child and you don't get the full amount of the Child Tax Credit, you may qualify for this additional refundable credit. You must file and use new Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, to claim the credit.

4. American Opportunity Credit. If you or someone you support is a student, you might be eligible for this credit. Students in their first four years of postsecondary education may qualify for as much as $2,500 through this partially refundable credit. Even those who owe no tax can get up to $1,000 of the credit as cash back for each eligible student. You must file Form 8863, Education Credits, and submit it with your tax return to claim this credit.

5. Health Coverage Tax Credit. If you're receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance, Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance, Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, you may be eligible for a 2012 Health Coverage Tax Credit. Spouses and dependents may also be eligible. If you're eligible, you can receive a 72.5 percent tax credit on payments you made for qualified health insurance premiums.

Now that you've decided that you definitely are going to file a return, what should you do if you have not yet received your W-2? Technically your W-2, "Wage and Tax Statement", should have been mailed to you by your employer by the end of January.
If you have not received your W-2, the IRS recommends that you follow steps:

1. Contact your employer first. Ask your employer - or former employer - to send your W-2 if it has not already been sent. Also, make sure that your employer has your correct address.

2. Contact the IRS. After February 14, 2013 you may call the IRS at 800-829-1040 if you have not yet received your W-2. When you call the IRS be prepared to provide them with your name, address, Social Security number, and phone number. You should also have the following information when you call: your employer's name; address and phone number; your employment dates; and an estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld in 2012, (based upon your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if available).

Even if you have not yet received your W-2, you must still file your tax return on or before April 15, 2013. In this case you will need to file Form 4852, "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement", instead of the W-2. Use the Form 4852 to estimate your income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible. (Note that the IRS may delay processing your return while it verifies your information.)

If you need more time to file your taxes you can get a six-month extension of time by filing Form 4868, "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Individual Income Tax Return". If you are requesting an extension, you must file this form on or before April 15, 2013.

Note: If you receive the missing W-2 after filing your tax return and the information on the W-2 is different from what you reported using Form 4852, then according to the IRS, you must correct your tax return. File Form 1040X, "Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return" to amend your tax return.

To compare online tax preparers, visit the ManagingMoney Tax Center.

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