How to “Find” Missing Tax Forms

When an expected tax form doesn’t arrive, you wind up with more work to do—not less.

You: Why?

You not only retain the obligation to report any “missing” income, but also must contact the institution failing to send you the proper form.

You: Why is that my job?

Whose job should it be?

You: The organization that didn’t send me the form in the first place.

True enough, but if they didn’t send you the form as they should have, they either a) don’t know they didn’t send you the form, or b) aren’t so competent, in which case I wouldn’t be waiting by the mailbox. Either way, the burden is on you.

You: Argh.

Keep in mind there are a variety of reasons why you might not have received a specific form. While even $1 of wages triggering a W-2 to be created, 1099s (often for self-employment work) have a $600 minimum. So, if you worked as a contractor and earned $350 from a particular client, odds are you won’t receive a 1099 from that organization.

You: Sweet—tax-free income!

Not quite.

You: Why not?

Because there’s a line on Schedule C specifically requiring you to enter income not reported on a 1099.

You: I knew that.

Banks paying less than $10 of interest in 2010 are not required to and typically will not send you a 1099-INT. With interest rates at their current pathetic depths, many people find accounts which formerly generated an annual 1099-INT no longer do so.  If that’s the case, you won’t have to chase down the form.

Sometimes, the form you need is one that can really work to your advantage.

You: How so?

I had a client recently fail to include one of her 1098s with her tax paperwork.

You: What’s the 1098 again?

Mortgage interest.

You: How could she fail to include that one?

She had a lot of other forms and didn’t notice one was missing. As it turned out, she didn’t know she already had the form.

You: How could she not know she had her form? Doesn’t it come in a separately mailed envelope with “IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION ENCLOSED” printed on the outside?

Not always. In this woman’s case, the 2010 1098 was added to her January 2011 mortgage statement.  By looking for her form upon our suggestion, she saved her a chunk of change on her taxes.

You: So I really need all my forms?

You do.  If you don’t have your W-2, contact your employer. It could be as simple as a postal mis-delivery or an old address on your employment record. If the W-2 isn’t delivered shortly thereafter, contact the IRS.

If you’re missing a 1099 for self-employment work, verify if it’s more than $600. If so, contact the customer. If not, move on and file without it.  Either way, report all of your income and all of your deductions before April 18, 2011.

Michael Rubin

Author of the bestseller Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck, and the upcoming The Savings Solution, Michael B. Rubin is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional. In addition to his experience providing sophisticated financial advice to affluent clients, Michael has been a key source of information for over a decade to countless others. He speaks passionately about and provides guidance on virtually all personal financial planning topics. Michael has appeared in various media, including radio and TV stations across the country, plus national media such as CNN,, The Wall Street Journal,, Chicago Tribune, Financial Advisor Magazine, and Investment News. Prior to founding Total Candor LLC, Michael worked in the personal financial services practices of two of the former "Big Six" accounting firms. Subsequently working for several years as a new venture executive for Toys "R" Us, Inc., he made sure that he never actually grew up. He holds an undergraduate business degree from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Michael lives in New Hampshire with his wife and children.

Comments (3) Leave your comment

    • Perry,1) On whether I was kaspeing out against the Bush tax cuts… Since I didn’t have a blog then (and neither did anybody else in DE) I suppose you’d have to take my word for the fact that I spoke up strongly against the idea of cutting taxes while fighting one and then two major wars; that I spoke up strongly against what I felt to be the improper structure of the tax cuts. But I also question whether you have the right to demand that response….2) As for Americans avoiding taxes–you miss the point entirely: seeking tax shelters and restructuring your wealth to avoid paying taxes is not illegal (as long as your strategies operate within the letter of the law) and it’s not unpatriotic. I give you Associate Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand in 1947: “there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible”Perry, this is the way the US Constitution works: no ex post facto laws. If what people did to earn and shelter income was legal at the time they did so, then you cannot make it illegal retroactively. You can legislate to make it illegal in the future, but you cannot go back for a “do-over” to punish people who acted legally.As for your Constitutional theory, it’s the living document theory, which is legitimate, but….You still have to go through the process, either in the courts or through amendment, to change or interpret the damn thing. As you pretty much admit, this has not yet been done….

  1. I’m ready fo file on turbotax, but it keeps saying forms are not yet available. This is pretty much all the forms, 1040, 1040 voucher, schedule a, b, etc. Turbotax says they will e-mail me when forms are ready. It’s already April 4, what’s going on with the forms?

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