Generally, you will file Form 941 (PDF), Employer's QUARTERLY Federal Tax Return, or Form 944 (PDF), Employer's ANNUAL Federal Tax Return, to report wages you have paid, tips your employees have reported to you, federal income tax withheld, social security and Medicare taxes withheld, and your share of social security and Medicare taxes. Form 944 may be filed only by small business employers who have been notified to file that form. To report wages and taxes for farm employees, you will file Form 943, Employer's Annual Tax Return for Agricultural Employees. See Topic 760 for reporting and deposit requirements for agricultural employers.
A separate Form 941 is filed for each quarter. The first quarter is January through March. The second quarter is April through June. The third quarter is July through September. The fourth quarter is October through December. Form 941 is generally due by the last day of the month following the end of the quarter. For example, wages you pay during the first quarter, January through March, must generally be reported on Form 941 by April 30th.
If the due date for filing a return falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, you may file the return on the next business day. The term “legal holiday” means any legal holiday in the District of Columbia. For a list of legal holidays see Chapter 11 of Publication 15, (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide.
Some employers with small payrolls, including government employers, file an annual return, Form 944 (PDF), instead of Form 941 each quarter. Form 944 generally is due on January 31 of the following year. The purpose of Form 944 is to reduce burden on small business taxpayers by allowing certain employers to file one employment tax return per year to report social security, Medicare, and withheld federal income taxes, and in most cases pay the employment tax with the return. Form 944 is designed for employers with an annual liability of $1,000 or less for social security, Medicare, and withheld federal income taxes.
Employers are not permitted to file Form 944 unless they are notified by the IRS that they qualify to file this form. Employers who may be eligible to file Form 944, because their estimated annual employment tax liability is $1,000 or less, have to contact the IRS to elect to file annually (Form 944). Employers required to file Form 944, who want to file Forms 941 instead, must notify the IRS they are electing to file quarterly Forms 941 and opting out of filing Form 944. For further information, see Revenue Procedure 2009-51 and the Form 944 Instructions.
Employers notified to file Form 944, whose businesses grow during the year and exceed the $1,000 eligibility threshold, must still file Form 944 for the year. Employers who exceed the eligibility threshold will be notified by the IRS that their filing requirement has been changed to Form 941 for a particular year.
Some employers are required to deposit their employment taxes before the Form 941 and Form 944 are filed. For the rules for making deposits, refer to Topic 757. If you have deposited all your tax on time, you have ten additional days to file.
In certain cases, amounts reported as social security and Medicare taxes must be adjusted to arrive at your correct tax liability. The total social security and Medicare taxes on Form 941 and Form 944 may differ by a small amount from the total on your payroll records due to fractions of cents that you gained or lost when computing separate amounts for individual employees. You may add or subtract this difference on the line for tax adjustments for fractions of cents. Generally, this should not be more than a few cents. You may also use an adjustment line to correct the social security and Medicare taxes you were unable to collect on employees' tips, or for sick pay wages you report but for which social security and Medicare taxes were withheld by a third party, such as an insurance company. If you wish to correct an error on a previously filed Form 941 or Form 944, you will use Form 941X (PDF), Adjusted Employer's QUARTERLY Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund, or Form 944X (PDF), Adjusted Employer's ANNUAL Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund, respectively.
The federal income tax withheld and social security and Medicare taxes are added together on Form 941 and Form 944. If you made COBRA premium assistance payments during the quarter, these payments are subtracted from your total taxes. For more information on the COBRA premium subsidy, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov and enter the key word COBRA.
The resulting net tax is the amount of employment taxes you owe for the quarter (Form 941) or the year (Form 944). If this amount is $2,500 or more, complete the tax liability for each month in Part 2 of Form 941 (PDF) and Form 944 (PDF), if you are a monthly schedule depositor. If you file Form 941 and are a semiweekly depositor, then report your tax liability on Form 941, Schedule B (PDF), Report of Tax Liability for Semiweekly Schedule Depositors. If you file Form 944 and are a semiweekly depositor, then report your tax liability on Form 945-A (PDF), Annual Record of Federal Tax Liability. The purpose of Part 2 of Form 941, Part 2 of Form 944, Schedule B (Form 941), and Form 945-A is to show the IRS when you paid your employees and the tax liability for that pay. IRS uses this information to determine if you deposited your employment taxes on time.
For monthly depositors you must show the combined amount of social security, Medicare, and withheld federal income taxes owed for each month in Part 2 of Form 941 or Part 2 of Form 944. For semiweekly depositors, you must show the combined amount of social security, Medicare, and withheld federal income taxes owed for each day on Schedule B (Form 941) or Form 945-A. Your liability for employment taxes occurs when you actually pay the employees their wages, not when the pay period ends. For example, if your pay period ends September 24, but you do not pay the employees until October 1, their wages would be reported in the fourth quarter, when you actually paid the employees their wages and became liable for the tax, not the third quarter when the pay period ended.
It is very important that you complete Part 2 of Form 941 and Form 944, Schedule B of Form 941, or Form 945-A correctly, or it may appear that you did not deposit your taxes when due. There is a late deposit penalty ranging from 2% to 15%, depending on the length of time the deposit is late.
Generally, if your tax liability for the quarter is $2,500 or more and you have made the proper deposits, you should not have a balance due with Form 941 and Form 944. Generally, only taxpayers with a total quarterly tax liability of less than $2,500 may pay with the tax return. If you pay taxes with your tax return that should have been deposited, you may be subject to a penalty. Be sure Form 941 and Form 944 is signed and dated before mailing.
See Publication 15, (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide, for more information on deposit rules and filing requirements for Form 941 and Form 944.
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: May 02, 2013