If you’re a small business owner, filing taxes can be intimidating. Learning how to file between dozens of tax forms with unique due dates and schedules can be overwhelming. Small business owners also need to avoid mistakes that incur penalties and stay on top of deductions. For a small business, taxes are stressful, to say the least.
Whether you need tax filing advice or accounting software, we’re here to help. This streamlined guide clearly explains the 25 most important small business tax forms. By reviewing these forms and their tax dates, you’ll learn how to file taxes for a small business.
We recommend reading through the entire article to learn the ins and outs of taxes for small businesses. However, you can also follow these links to skip to the sections most relevant to you.
Businesses that pay federal excise taxes file Form 720 every quarter. Businesses pay excise tax on specific goods and services manufactured or imported into the U.S. More specifically, excise refers to tax obligations incurred when a good is manufactured, instead of when it’s sold. Substances covered by excise tax include:
- Environmental taxes
- Communications and air transportation taxes
- Fuel taxes
- Retail tax (truck, trailer, and semitrailer chassis and bodies, and tractor)
- Ship passenger tax (transportation by water)
- Manufacturers taxes (coal)
What is Form 720 for?
Paying the excise taxes on certain business activities.
Who needs to file Form 720?
Businesses that sell products or services with excise tax liability.
The IRS wants Form 720 by the last day of the month following the end of a quarter. For large and small businesses, quarterly taxes must reach the IRS or receive a postmark by:
- First quarter: April 30
- Second quarter: July 31
- Third quarter: Oct. 31
- Fourth quarter: Jan. 31
Employees who leave a job for reasons beyond their control receive unemployment insurance. You pay into this program as an employer, and Form 940 determines the amount you contribute. You only need to submit Form 940 once a year, but you must pay your FUTA tax payments quarterly.
What is Form 940 for?
Reporting annual Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax. This tax funds unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs.
Who needs to file Form 940?
Employers who meet either of the following criteria must file:
- If you paid $1,500 or more to any W-2 employee
- If you retained at least one employee for 20 weeks or more
You must file Form 940 by Jan. 31. However, if you deposited all FUTA tax when due, the deadline extends to Feb. 10.
On Form 941, businesses report payroll information on salaries, wages, tips, and taxes. The form also lets employers pay their portion of Social Security or Medicare tax. Companies must file Form 941 quarterly.
What is Form 941 for?
Reporting employee wage, tip, and tax withholding information.
Who needs to file Form 941?
Any business that pays wages to an employee must file that quarter.
- First quarter: April 30
- Second quarter: July 31
- Third quarter: Oct. 31
- Fourth quarter: Jan. 31
If your business qualifies as a semi-weekly depositor, you need to file Form 941 with Schedule B. The IRS considers you a semi-weekly depositor if:
- You report over $50,000 in employment taxes during the look back period.
- You accumulated a tax liability of at least $100,000 on any given day in the current or past calendar year.
Schedule B is attached to Form 941. It reports the employer’s quarterly tax liability for withholdings on a daily basis.
Form 944 works like Form 941, except you can file once a year instead of quarterly. Eligible small businesses (with federal income of $1,000 or less) can report federal income withholdings and FICA tax. This form also allows them to calculate their social security and medicare tax liability. With this form, you can avoid confusion over small business tax dates.
What is Form 944 for?
Helping small businesses simplify their filing process.
Who needs to file Form 944?
Businesses with an employment tax liability below $1,000 can file Form 944.
Due date: Jan 31
U.S. taxpayers use Form 1040 to file an annual income tax return. Business owners and employee can also declare their filing status, take tax deductions, claim credits, and determine how much they owe the IRS. Unlike other tax forms, almost everyone files Form 1040.
What is Form 1040 for?
Reporting on profit and loss.
Who needs to file Form 1040?
Everyone who earns income, except tax-exempt individuals, must file Form 1040.
Due date: April 18
What are the different Schedules for Form 1040?
While Form 1040 can cover an individual’s profit and loss, it can’t accommodate sole proprietors. For this form, self-employed business owners can use different schedules to provide more information. The most popular ones include:
Schedule C reports income or loss from a business you operated or profession you practiced as a sole proprietor. Note that if your business is a sole proprietorship, you need to file attach Schedule C to your Form 1040 each year.
The Schedule C is a form that allows you to report the income and all ordinary and necessary expenses related to that income, to the IRS.
Use Form 1040-ES to calculate and pay your estimated tax. Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding. Examples include:
- Earnings from self-employment
Taxpayers must submit quarterly payments by:
- April 18
- June 15
- September 15
- January 15 of the following year
Schedule SE calculates Social Security and Medicare taxes due on net earnings from self-employment. All self-employed individuals must file Schedule SE.
Form 1065, also known as the U.S. Return of Partnership Income, declares business income or loss. If you file as a partnership or an LLC (multi-member limited liability company electing to be treated as a partnership),you’ll file Form 1065 each year to declare profits, losses, deductions, and credits.
What is Form 1065 for?
Reporting income as a partnership or multi-member LLC.
Who needs to file Form 1065?
Businesses structured as partnerships
Due date: March 15
Schedule K-1 (Form 1065)
Business owners file Schedule K-1 to report their share of the partnership’s income, deductions, and credits.
Businesses send Form 1099-NEC to independent contractors whom they paid at least $600 within a calendar year. It reports contractor income similar to how Form W-2 reports employee income.
What is Form 1099 for?
Reporting pay to independent contractors.
Who needs to file Form 1099?
Any business that hires a freelancer or contractor.
Businesses must send 1099-NEC to contractors by Jan. 31.
What are the different types of 1099 forms?
While Form 1099-NEC focuses on contractors, other IRS Schedules account for other types of income. 1099s can fall into different categories that can include dividends, interest, and other forms of income. The most popular ones include:
A 1099-DIV reports on income from stocks and mutual funds. Anyone who receives dividends must report them here.
Form 1099-INT notes income from interest. Income from a checking, savings, or other bank accounts that earn interest goes here.
Businesses use a 1099-MISC to report miscellaneous payments. Specifically, it covers payments above $10 in royalties or broker payments in lieu of dividends or tax-exempt interest. Alternatively, you may need to file Form 1099-MISC if you paid over $600 for:
- An attorney’s service
Form 1120, also referred to as the U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, reports corporate income or losses. If your business files taxes as a regular corporation, you need to file Form 1120 each year.
What is Form 1120 for?
Reporting C corporation profit or loss.
Who needs to file Form 1120?
C Corporations and LLCs that elect to file as a C corporation.
Due date: The 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the corporation’s tax year.
S Corporations and LLCs that file as S corps submit Form 1120-S to report on income or losses. Unlike C corps, S corporations don’t face double taxation. Instead, profits pass through to owners and the 1120-S accounts for this tax difference. Because filing as an S corp only incurs one round of income taxes, most small businesses prefer this approach.
What is Form 1120-S for?
Reporting S corporation profit or loss.
Who needs to file Form 1120-S?
S Corporations and LLCs that elect to file as an S corporation.
Due date: The 15th day of the third month following the end of the tax year.
Form 2553 allows LLCs and sole proprietors to elect S corp tax status and file an 1120-S for earnings. Businesses that file Form 2553 must meet the legal requirements for running an S corporation.
What is Form 2553 for?
Registering your business as an S corp for tax purposes.
Who needs to file Form 2553?
LLCs and sole proprietors who want to file as an S corporation.
Due date: Form 2553 has no formal due date. For the election to take effect during a particular tax year, you must file:
- No more than 2 months and 15 days after the beginning of the tax year S corp status will take effect
- At any time during the preceding tax year
You would file Form 4562 to report depreciation and amortization expense from your trade or business. Form 4562 commonly reports depreciation and amortization of business property such as:
- Furniture and Fixtures
- Leasehold Improvements
- Loan fees and other intangible assets
What is Form 4562 for?
Reporting deductions for depreciation and amortization.
Who needs to file Form 4562?
Form 4562 must be filed if you are claiming any of the following:
- Depreciation for property placed in service during the current tax year
- Section 179 deduction (which may include a carryover from a previous year)
- Depreciation on any vehicle or other listed property
- A deduction for any vehicle reported on a form other than Schedule C
- Amortization of costs that begins during the current taxable year
Due date: Businesses attach and file Form 4562 with their applicable business return.
Businesses who file Form 7004 request an extension on their tax filing due date.
What is Form 7004 for?
Granting business owners an extension on income tax returns.
Who needs to file Form 7004?
Businesses don’t have to submit this form unless they are seeking a tax filing extension.
Due date: Due on or before the due date of the applicable business tax return.
Form 8829 deducts eligible living costs like rent and utilities as business expenses. Business owners who work from home —partially or full-time—will find Form 8829 helpful for identifying which expenses qualify as tax deductible.
Note: The IRS is very specific about which costs you can deduct and what constitutes a workspace. So, it’s important to do your research or consult a tax professional before claiming deductions.
What is Form 8829 for?
Deducting expenses for business use of your home.
Who needs to file Form 8829?
Form 8829 isn’t a required document. However, self-employed workers who create a workspace in their homes may file. Because working from home incurs business expenses, filing this form cuts operational costs.
Due date: Form 8829 has no formal due date. Instead, it’s filed with a Schedule C and your 1040.
Limited Liability companies use Form 8832 to change their default tax classification. By default, the IRS taxes LLCs like partnerships or proprietorships. With this form, LLCs can file as a corporation instead.
What is Form 8832 for?
Changing an LLC’s tax status.
Who needs to file Form 8832?
LLC owners only need to file Form 8832 if they want to change tax status.
Form 8832 has no formal deadline. However, the sooner you submit the form, the sooner your new tax classification applies.
New businesses use Form SS-4 to apply for an employer identification number (EIN). An EIN is a nine-digit number that the government assigns to employers, sole proprietors, corporations, and partnerships for tax filing and reporting purposes. It functions as a unique identification number for your business.
What is Form SS-4 for?
To grant businesses an EIN tax ID.
Who needs to file Form SS-4?
Partnerships and corporations need an EIN to run. Sole proprietors may choose to file with an EIN, as well.
Businesses can apply for an EIN anytime.
Send Form W-2 to each of your employees; this form reports their annual wages and the amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks. As a small business owner, you’re responsible for issuing this form to your employees no later than Jan. 31 and submitting copies to the IRS.
To streamline filing, employers can order printed W2 kits for their employees.
What is Form W-2 for?
Filing taxes on income earned from an employer.
Who needs to file Form W-2?
All full-time employees must file Form W-2.
Due date: January 31
Form W-3 summarizes all the wages you paid to employees during the tax year.
What is Form W-3 for?
Reporting combined employee income to the IRS and Social Security Administration.
Who needs to file Form W-2?
Any employers who file Form W-2.
Due date: Jan. 31
Your employees fill out Form W-4, which reports how much tax you—the employer—should withhold from their paycheck. Your employees may claim allowances for spouses or dependents on Form W-4. Employees may also instruct you to withhold more taxes from their pay if they work several jobs or if their spouse earns income, too.
What is Form W-4 for?
To ensure employers withhold the correct amount of federal income tax.
Who needs to file Form W-4?
All employees except:
- Self-employed workers
- Independent contractors
Due date: There is no formal due date for W-4s. Instead employees use Form W-4 to update their federal income tax withholdings at any time.
Independant contractors submit a W-9 to share their Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). The form may go to a person, financial institution, or business. Employers use contractors’ TINs to to make sure they are in compliance with 1099 filing requirements. Contractors can submit an Employer Identification Number or their Social Security number as their TIN.
What is Form W-9 for?
Sharing a contractor’s TIN with a business, bank, or other third party.
Who needs to file Form W-9?
Independent contractors and freelancers.
Due date: Form W-9 has no IRS deadline.
Additional tax resources for small businesses
Between tax schedules, business structures, and filing dates, business owners should use every resource available. Thankfully, you can check out these blog posts to prepare for your filing:
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