Businesses managing year-end payroll must prepare and file a wide range of tax forms required by federal agencies like the IRS, SSA, as well as state and local agencies. Even for employers that are accustomed to this process, it can be challenging to stay attuned to the deadlines for each required tax form while managing other key facets of year-end payroll.
In this article, we’ll provide a chronological list of deadlines you’ll need to remember for tax preparation and filing, as well as additional information on extensions and potential penalties for late filing or noncompliance.
January Filing Deadlines
W-2 and W-3 Forms are wage and tax statements generally filed electronically and must be submitted to the IRS and SSA (respectively) by January 31st. Employers submitting 250 or more W-2s are required to file electronically, with the threshold set to decrease to 100 or more employees in the near future to encourage electronic filing. Remember that you must send W-2 forms to your employees by January 31st, as well.
Employers can send a written extension request to the IRS articulating why they are unable to provide forms by January 31st, though there is no guarantee that an extension will be granted. It is possible to file a 30-day extension for W-3 forms submission by using Form 8809.
The potential penalties for the late filing of W-2s are severe. As a starting point, the IRS penalizes employers $50 for each late W-2. If W-2 filing is more than 31 days late, after August 1st, or not filed at all, penalties can be as high as $270 per return and up to $3,275,500 total. If the IRS identifies “intentional disregard” on the part of the employer, the penalty can be as high as $540 per return or statement, without a maximum penalty threshold.
1099-NEC Forms must be submitted by January 31st if an employer has made payments to any nonemployee(s) of more than $600 for services rendered. These may be submitted electronically, and should be sent to any nonemployees who performed work by January 31st. Employers can file for a 30-day extension using Form 8809, but approval is not guaranteed.
Employers that file 1099-NEC forms past the deadline are subject to the same penalties outlined in the section on W-2s and W-3s (starting at a penalty of $50 per return and increasing gradually).
Note: Form 1096, which summarizes 1099 documentation, is only required if an employer is paper filing their 1099s. It is not needed if an employer files 1099s electronically. The deadline for Form 1096 is January 31st and is subject to the same extension and penalty terms as W-2s, W-3s, and 1099-NECs.
Form 940 reports taxable Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) wages paid in the previous year. This must be filed with the IRS by January 31st, though employers who submitted quarterly FUTA taxes in full when due have an additional 10 days (until February 10th) to file the form.
If an employer files a 940 late, they are charged a Failure to File penalty. Similarly, if a deposit is missing or made after a given deadline, a penalty of 2-15% of the tax due is assessed.
Form 941 is used to report federal income tax withheld from employees, as well as Medicare tax and Social Security tax for each quarter. Fourth quarter deposits are due January 31st. Employers who have deposited taxes in full and on time in previous quarters are granted an additional 10 days to file their returns (until February 10th).
For each month (partial or whole) that Form 941 is late, the IRS assesses a 5% penalty. Similar to Form 940, employers are assessed a penalty between 2-15% of taxes due.
Form 944 is an alternative to Form 941 intended for small businesses that have limited payroll tax liability (less than $1000 annually) for federal income, Medicare, and social security taxes. Form 944 is submitted annually rather than quarterly and is due January 31st with an additional ten days to file (until February 10th) if all tax deposits are up to date. The IRS notifies employers in writing before tax season if they are eligible to file Form 944 rather than Form 941.
If a 944 is filed late, employers are subject to a Failure to File penalty. For employers with a tax liability of less than $2,500, it’s possible to pay owed taxes when filing Form 944. Otherwise, employers who pay late are subject to a penalty of 2-15% taxes owed.
Form 945, like Form 944, is less commonly filed. It is used to report federal income tax withheld from non-payroll payments made by an employer. This could include pensions, gambling/gaming profits, military retirement, or voluntary and backup withholdings. This form is due on January 31st, though employers are granted an additional ten days to file (until February 10th) if previous tax deposits have been made on time and in full.
Late filing of Form 945 leads to a Failure to File penalty. Missing or late deposits lead to penalties between 2-15% of owed taxes.
February, March, and April Filing Deadlines
Form 1099-MISC reports awards, royalties, prizes, rents, and other fixed/determinable income paid in the past year. A 1096 form must accompany any 1099-MISC forms. If submitted electronically these forms are due by March 31st. However, 1099-MISC forms must be sent to payees by January 31st.
Form 8027 is required for employers that run a “large food or beverage establishment” and need to provide an annual report of receipts and reported tips from employees. When filed electronically, Form 8027 is due on March 31st.
Remember that annual business tax return deadlines vary based on your business structure. Multi-member LLCs, S-corporations, and partnerships must file by March 15th, while C-corporations have until April 17th. Additionally, keep in mind that you are required to use the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System for all federal tax deposits and this does not negate your obligation to file a business return or report other taxes.
If you have any lingering concerns regarding year-end tax forms, visit our related articles on year-end payroll FAQs and commonly overlooked year-end payroll tasks.
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