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On money

By HELEN HUNTLEY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2002

It's time to track down those missing W-2s, 1099s

It's time to track down those missing W-2s, 1099s

Q. I still haven't received all the W-2 and 1099 forms I need to complete my tax return. I would like to file early because I am due a refund. What should I do?

A. It's getting to be that time of year again.

Employers, banks, brokerage firms and other issuers of W-2s and 1099s were supposed to put them in the mail by Jan. 31. That means you should follow up if you haven't received a form you were expecting. If you have moved in the past year, your forms might have been sent to an incorrect address. Mixups also can occur when companies change accounting systems or ownership.

Here is how the IRS says you should attempt to resolve the problem:

1. Contact your former employer and any institutions you think should have sent you a W-2 or 1099. Check the address they have on file for you and ask for the missing forms to be sent again.

2. If that doesn't solve the problem, contact the IRS for help at its toll-free number, (800) 829-1040. Have on hand the name, address and phone number for your employer or institution. For employers, you also should have the dates you were employed and an estimate of your earnings and the tax withheld during the year.

3. Try obtaining the 1099 numbers you need from alternative sources, such as bank or brokerage statements. The information you need also might be available through a toll-free customer service number or on the Internet if the company offers online account access.

4. Even if you have not received the forms, file your return on time or file a request for an extension, paying any taxes you think you owe. Estimate the numbers for a missing W-2 by using Form 4852, although the IRS says it will delay your refund until the information is verified. If you later find that the numbers you sent to the IRS were incorrect, file an amended return, Form 1040X.

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Q. I sold some stock through my broker 20 days ago and directed that the proceeds of the sale be forwarded to me. So far I have not received them and an e-mail to the broker has been ignored. Is there a higher authority to which I can file a complaint against the brokerage house?

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A. Yes. But before you take that step, put your complaint in writing and make sure it gets delivered to the brokerage firm branch manager. Then follow up with a telephone call. This is one of those times when an e-mail isn't enough. While your original instructions should have been followed, not every mistake is cause for regulators to get involved. If the proceeds are sitting in your brokerage account, you have a complaint with the customer service you are receiving. If they have disappeared, you have a serious issue that needs to be investigated.

If you find fault with the customer service, your best bet is to move your account to another brokerage firm. If you suspect wrongdoing, take your complaint to the Florida Division of Securities by calling toll-free (800) 848-3792.

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Q. Please explain how to calculate tax basis on common stock when there has been a stock split. Should the original cost be divided by the total of the original shares plus the number of shares received in the split? What happens if dividends are reinvested?

A. Your basis per share is the total cost of your investment divided by the total number of shares you now own. Your cost includes the amount of any dividends you reinvested.

Here's an illustration: Suppose you paid $1,500 for 100 shares, which would make your original basis $15 per share. Now suppose you have acquired 60 more shares -- 50 that you got through a stock split and 10 more that you bought by reinvesting $200 worth of dividends over the years. Your total cost would be $1,700, which you would divide by 160 shares to get a basis of $10.63 per share.

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-- Helen Huntley writes about investing and markets for the Times. If you have a question about investments or personal finance, send it to On Money. We'll try to answer those we think are of greatest reader interest. All questions must be submitted in writing, but readers' names will not be published. Send questions to Helen Huntley, Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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