W-2 or Pay Stub: Read this before you file

Dec. 13, 2012 – TaxTalk Blog

Let’s face it – the last pay stub of the year is pretty weighty. It has all kinds of informational goodies, like how much time off you’ve stockpiled, how much you made, how much you “donated” to taxes.

Plus, if you don’t have to wait for other tax statements (like a 1099 or a property tax statement), and you have a refund coming, you might be tempted to file your tax return early. But here’s my advice – don’t do it. I have three good reasons why:

You can’t electronically file without having your W-2 in hand. If you use the state’s free electronic filing program (INfreefile), go to a paid preparer or buy the tax-preparation software and file yourself, you must have your W-2 – the pay stub won’t work.

Navigating a pay stub can be tricky. For instance, if you have any taxsaver items, the total annual income reported on the pay stub is probably more than the “taxable” amount you should be reporting. In other words, you could wind up paying more tax than you should. Who among us would willingly do that?

Filing your tax return without a W-2 attached will put your return on hold. If you mail in your tax return, a pay stub won’t do. Expect to get a letter from us requesting the W-2. By the time you finally get it and mail it to us, you’ve gained no advantage by filing early. In fact, it will delay things.

Your employer is required to make your W-2 available to you by the end of January at the latest, and most of us get it before then. That’s a modest wait. And, here’s the pay off – your tax return will be filed correctly the first time.

Information on the W-2 is well organized, accurate and easy to find. Pound for pound, my money is on the W-2. And yours should be, too.

If you would like to submit a question or topic suggestions, please send them to feedback@dor.in.gov
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