Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
DEAR CARRIE: I teach at a private music studio. The owner and director is aware that legally I should have received my W-2 by Jan. 31. But she has asked me to give her until the end of March, although she said she might have the form ready sooner. Do I have any recourse? She is preventing me from filing for my usual refund, and I am afraid that if the end of March comes and goes without my W-2, I may have to file my taxes late and face a penalty. -- Taxing Situation
DEAR TAXING: Your employer indeed had until Jan. 31 to send your W-2, according to the IRS. So she may have some explaining to do. In the meantime let the IRS know by calling 800-829-1040.
When you make that call you must:
1. Be ready to provide the usual information such as your Social Security number. You must also provide information about your company, such as its address and your dates of employment there.
2. Provide an estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and when you worked for that employer during 2010. The estimate should be based on year-to-date information from your final pay stub.
Afterward, you must:
File your return. Even if you do not receive your W-2 form on time, you still must file your tax return or request an extension to file on April 18. If you haven't received the W-2, you can use Form 4852. Attach the form to the return, estimating income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible.
"There may be a delay in any refund due while the information is verified," the IRS says.
"If this happens, you must amend your return by filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return," the agency says.
DEAR CARRIE: In order to avoid bankruptcy I am going to have to sell my heavily mortgaged house in New York and move into a paid-in-full cottage I have in South Carolina. This will force me out of a job here and I will have to search down there for suitable employment. Will I be able to collect New York State unemployment until I find employment? -- Eligible for Benefits?
DEAR ELIGIBLE: The general rule regarding unemployment benefits is that they are for people who become unemployed through no fault of their own. But the state Labor Department says you should file to see what happens.
"Resigning a position can definitely compromise eligibility, but a final determination can only be made if he files," the department says.
DEAR CARRIE: The paid-time-off policy of the company where I have worked for nearly 20 years used to give us 15 sick days and five personal days a year. The annual carry-overs allowed us to bank as many as 60 sick days. But that policy changed on Jan. 1. The company will give us until Dec. 31 of this year to use our accumulated days, but we have to use this year's paid time off before we could touch our sick bank. When we complained that most employees had already used all their days and those of us who banked our days were now being penalized, the answer was, "This is the new procedure." Can the company legally do this?
-- Legal Change?
DEAR LEGAL: You're essentially asking if a company can change its benefits policy. The answer is "yes." The company has to honor the days employees accrued under the old policy, but the employer can set both the effective and expiration dates for its benefits.