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Don't wait to check W-2 and 1099 forms for accuracy

When it comes to W-2s and 1099s, I must admit that, like most people, I just collect these forms and stuff them in a corner until it's time to tackle those pesky taxes.

This, it would appear, is not always the best way to do things.

Greatland, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company that provides W-2 and 1099 products for small and medium-size businesses, warns of W-2 and 1099 filing pitfalls -- or mistakes that can be made by companies preparing these forms. CPAs and other tax experts tell me that they have seen mistakes on W-2s over the years and even more issues with 1099s.

James Jenkins, president of Southfield, Mich.-based Jenkins & Co., said the internal controls at small companies relating to 1099 miscellaneous forms -- the ones you get if you earned money from a company but are not an employee -- aren't always as good as those for a W-2 form.

Jenkins said the dollar amount that shows up on the 1099 could be wrong compared with what you received.

Or, if you have incorporated, the 1099 might incorrectly be made out to you as an individual.

Most people should have received a 2009 W-2 from each employer by Feb.1.

The Internal Revenue Service also says that an employer can send a W-2 electronically with your consent.

So if you don't have all of your W-2s by now, contact your employer.

If you still don't have them by today, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.

Once you get your forms, take a good look at them.

You need to match year-end pay stubs with the reported earnings on the statement; also make sure that your name and mailing address are correct.

Check to see whether the Social Security number is correct.

Did you get married or divorced? Did you officially change your name? If so, make certain that information is accurate on your W-2.

Greatland has a Dos and Don'ts Fact Sheet at www.greatland.com, to help businesses avoid making mistakes with W-2 forms.

These include: Do make sure all copies are readable. Do include decimal points in the monetary entries. Don't complete forms by hand.

Don't inappropriately check "Retirement plan" Box 13. Don't use dollar signs or commas in the monetary entries in Copy A.

You've probably been getting tax forms for years without ever thinking that there might be a mistake in preparing them.

Taxpayers "only think about it this time of year," said Janice Krueger, a subject matter expert for Greatland.

Even if a company went out of business in 2009, it still must send out W-2 forms.

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