Understanding IRS Form 941 – Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return

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Many businesses are required to report and file tax returns quarterly using IRS Form 941. Form 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return, reports wage withholding to the IRS for income taxes, employees' shares of Social Security and Medicare taxes and the employer's share of FICA. The form summarizes the employer's quarterly payroll tax liabilities and payments, including: 

  • Wages you as the employer paid 
  • Tips your employees reported to you 
  • Federal income tax you withheld 
  • Both the employer and the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes 
  • Additional Medicare tax withheld from employees 
  • Qualified small business payroll tax credit for increasing research activities 

There is a separate form, Form 945, where non-payroll withholding is reported, including employee backup withholding and income tax withholding for pensions, annuities, IRAs or gambling wins. 

Who Needs to File 

Any employer who withholds income taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes from employees' wages needs to file Form 941. This includes businesses paying wages to employees and having a tax liability of $1,000 or more for Social Security, Medicare and income taxes in a calendar quarter. Employers must continue to file quarterly even if they have no employees during some quarters. 

Form 941 filing exceptions apply to certain categories of employers. Seasonal employers who do not pay employee wages in one or more quarters, as well as employers of household and agricultural employees, fall under these exceptions. In cases where your business permanently ceases operations or stops wage payments to employees, it is necessary to submit a final return and indicate the appropriate details on your Form 941. 

2024 Tax Filing Deadlines and Due Dates 

Form 941 filing is a quarterly obligation for employers, regardless of whether they have taxes to report. The typical due dates coincide with the last day of the month following the respective quarter's conclusion. This affords employers a one-month window for form preparation. In instances where a filing due date lands on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, employers are permitted to submit their returns on the subsequent business day. Outlined below are the quarter-end filing due dates: 

Quarter Ending Form 941 Due Dates 
March 31 April 30 
June 30 July 31 
September 30 October 31 
December 31 January 31, 2025 

Failing to submit your Form 941 promptly to the IRS, or inaccurately reporting your tax obligations can lead to penalties, reaching up to 5% of the total tax owed. An additional 5% fee may be assessed for each month your return remains unfiled, up to a maximum of 5 months. Late tax payments or insufficient payments also trigger a separate penalty specific to Form 941.  

If you identify errors in a previously filed Form 941 or find the need for an amendment, corrections can be made using Form 941-X, Adjusted Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund. It's important to note, this form is filed independently from the standard Form 941. 

How to File a Form 941 

To make completing your Form 941 easy, you should gather all the correct payroll records, documentation and business information needed, such as: 

  • Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) 
  • Your company's legal name and address 
  • Number of employees compensated during the quarter 
  • Employee wages paid in the quarter 
  • Tips your employees reported to you 
  • Federal income tax withheld 
  • Group term life insurance premiums paid for employees 
  • Employer's and employees' share of Social Security and Medicare taxes 
  • The current quarter's adjustments to Social Security and Medicare taxes 
  • Additional Medicare tax withheld from employees 

Employers can file Form 941 online or by mail, although the IRS encourages e-filing. Electronic filing, which is processed through the federal e-File system, is often quicker and more convenient, with the added benefit of immediate confirmation of receipt. Employers can make tax payments through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). A valid employer identification number is required when the return is filed, or a payment is made. 

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