Dear Liz: I read your answer to the gentleman trying to locate his W-2 forms to add missing years to his Social Security account. I wonder why, even as you give advice about keeping old W-2 forms indefinitely, you didn’t mention that the Social Security Administration allows everyone who has paid into the system to receive an annual report showing the income, year-by-year, that was subject to Social Security taxes. I have been receiving that report for most of my adult life (I’m 60 now) and I don’t find the need to keep old W-2’s past seven years if I’ve already compared their totals against the annual SSA report. I wonder why this gentleman didn’t do likewise over the years.
Answer: You may not have noticed, but those annual statements went missing for a few years.
Social Security began mailing annual reports to workers 25 and over starting in 1999 but suspended those as a cost-saving measure in 2011. The suspension saved the government about $70 million each year in printing and mailing costs, but workers lost easy access to information about their future benefits and their earnings.
People with access to the Internet could create online accounts to check their earnings records, and about 26 million have done so. But that still left the majority of workers in the dark about whether their earnings were being properly credited to their accounts.
In 2014, mailings resumed but only for workers reaching ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 and over.