7 Tips for Filing IRS Form 941: Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return

blank Form 941 ready to be filled out

This article was last edited on 10/01/2020. For updated information on Form 941, visit https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-941.

As an employer, you’re required to withhold income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes from your employees’ paychecks. You’re also required to pay the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes and report your payroll taxes to the IRS every quarter using Form 941: Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return. It can be daunting, especially if you’re a new employer. Keep these seven tips in mind to make the filing process easier.

1. Determine if you need to file

Form 941 is a summary of your company’s payroll taxes, so you will need to file it if you paid employees during the quarter. Once you’ve filed your first 941, you will need to file it every quarter, even if you didn’t have any employees for the quarter and have no taxes to report.

There is an exception to this, however. If you’re a seasonal employer, check the box on Line 18 to indicate that you will only file for quarters when you paid wages.

2. Mark deadlines on your calendar

Form 941 is always due on the last day of the month following the end of the fiscal quarter. Mark the following dates on your calendar so you’ll never miss a deadline:

  • April 30
  • July 31
  • October 31
  • January 31

3. Deposit payroll taxes on time

Your deposit schedule is determined by how much you’ve paid your employees and withheld from their paychecks for four previous quarters, also known as a lookback period. The lookback period for 2020 begins on July 1, 2018 and ends on June 30, 2019. It’s common for small businesses to need to deposit their taxes quarterly, monthly, or semi-weekly. Learn more about when to deposit your payroll taxes.

4. Remember to fill out all pages

Form 941 is three pages long and packed with information. You’ll need to include:

  • your company’s address and employer identification number (EIN)
  • number of employees paid during the quarter
  • total wages paid during the quarter
  • total federal income tax withheld
  • wages taxable to Social Security and Medicare
  • qualified sick and family leave wages
  • Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld
  • employer portions of Social Security and Medicare
  • how much you’ve already deposited in payroll taxes

If you’re a monthly depositor, you will also include your total tax liability for each month during the quarter. If you’re a semi-weekly depositor, you’ll need to fill out Schedule B, which breaks down your tax liability per day.

If you deferred any Social Security taxes, enter the deferred amount in Part 1, Line 13b. Enter the deferred employee portion in Part 3, Line 24.

If you paid qualified sick and family leave or qualified wages for the employee retention credit, you’ll need to complete Worksheet 1 to determine your credit amount. Learn more about the Family & Medical Leave Act.

5. Determine if you owe anything

On lines 5a-5d, you’ll calculate your total Social Security and Medicare tax liability, including the employer portions and qualified wages. After you’ve added your FICA tax liability to the amount of income tax withheld, calculate any adjustments for sick pay or group-term life insurance that was paid by an insurance company.

Then, compare your total tax liability to any tax deposits you’ve already made. If you still owe the IRS, write how much on Line 14 and remember to pay that amount. If you’ve deposited too much money, enter the difference on Line 15 and choose if you would like a refund or would like the overpayment applied to your next return.

6. Double-check your form

After you’ve filled out Form 941, verify the information on every line. The IRS has a record of all your deposits, so the amounts you enter on your form must match those exactly. You should also confirm that your EIN and company name are correct on both pages, so the IRS can track the form and check that you filed it on time.

7. Let Workful help

When you run payroll through Workful, we’ll calculate your tax liability for you and fill out your Form 941 at the end of every quarter. All you have to do is review the information, print the form, sign it, and send it to the IRS.

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