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Wendy Reed
Wendy Reed, Enrolled Agent
Category: Tax
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Experience:  15+ years tax preparation and tax advice.
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Where can I get copies of my W-2?

Resolved Question:

How do I obtain copies of my W-2's from the years 1986, 1987, 1988?

Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Tax
Expert:  Wendy Reed replied 10 years ago.

Welcome to JustAnswer,

The best way to get a copy of your W2 form is from your employer. They are allowed to charge a small fee . If this is not possible the following choices are available:

The following topic info is from the IRS website:

Topic 159 - Prior Year(s) Form W-2 (How to Get a Copy of)

The IRS does not retain actual copies of Form W-2 (PDF) except as an attachment to your tax return, years. However, the IRS maintains (and will provide free of charge) Form W-2 information purpose past ten processing years. The only way to get a copy of your Form W-2 from IRS is to order a copy of the entire return onForm 4506 (PDF), Request of Tax Return, and pay a fee of $39.00 per tax year.

The Social Security Administration will provide copies of Forms W-2 purposes at no charge and than retirement purposes fee of $37.00 per tax year.

Call 1-800-829-3676, or visit the IRS web site at to obtain Form 4506, Request of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T (PDF), Request of Tax Return, to order the information from the IRS.

Call 1-800-772-1213, write, or visit the SSA web site at to obtain the information from the SSA. The address to write is SSA, Division of Earnings Records Operations, PO Box 33003, Baltimore, MDNNN-NN-NNNN You will need your Social Security Number (SSN), name as shown on your Social Security card, and different name you may have had on your Form W-2, your complete mailing address, day-time phone number, years requested, and reason request. If ordering copies -retirement purposes, include the $37.00 fee.

Also, faster (and probably more expensive) service you may want to try a commercial service, such as:

Or, see if your employer participated in W2 online service:

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
None of your recommendations provide W-2 information prior to 10 years back, as far as I can tell.
Expert:  Wendy Reed replied 10 years ago.

The IRS is not obligated to keep W2's longer than 10 years, so they may not be the best source to try, however, Social Security does not specify the time limit that they keep W2s, and you are asking purposes, so they would be worth calling. If you have no luck through that avenue, you may wish to search 401k plan (or prior plan---if the the plan has changed hands or your funds have been rolled over). It seems to me that records of contributions is what you need, and whoever holds or held your plan should be able to get that information :

The best way to find your 401k plan would be to contact your former employer's human resource department. If your employer is no longer available, then the second best search tool would be to see if you have any old benefits information from your previous company, or any statements from the institution that held your 401k. You must have at one time gotten at least yearly or quarterly statements from them. If the 401k plan was at a brokerage or bank that merged or was bought out, that can be traced. If you know anyone from that company that you can contact who may also have a 401k plan, you might want to try that.

If none of the previous suggestions yield results, then you will most likely need to conduct an unclaimed property search. If there has been enough time lapse between your activity with the plan and now, the account may be listed on a state or private unclaimed property list. Here is a link to unclaimed property lists by state, usually indexed by name:

Here is a link to a company which will search specifically plans. You will have to give some information including name, email, telephone and address. This service costs $18.

Best of Luck in your Search.

Wendy Reed and other Tax Specialists are ready to help you