How and When to File Form 941 for Payroll Taxes

Form 941: An Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Form

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Image by Daniel Fishel © The Balance 2019

If you have been paying employees, and you have been withholding federal income taxes and Social Security/Medicare taxes, you must report the amounts that you have been withholding and pay those amounts including your business's required payments to the IRS.

IRS Form 941 is an important quarterly payroll tax form for every employer, and it's due four times each year. This form is due at the end of April, July, October, and January. This article answers the following questions concerning this mandatory payroll form:

  • What is Form 941? 
  • How do I complete this form?
  • How and when do I submit it? 
  • How do I pay taxes due on this form? 

What Is Form 941?

Form 941 is chiefly used by employers to report quarterly tax withholding amounts for estimated income tax payments, as well as employer payments, and FICA taxes (e.g. Social Security and Medicare), and includes the following:

  • Withholding federal income taxes and FICA taxes from employee paychecks.
  • Withholding amounts due from Medicare wages for both the employees and the employer.
  • Withholding taxable social security wages.
  • Adjustments for sick pay.
  • Adjustments for tips.
  • Calculating the figure due in payment by the employer.
  • Amounts an employer has already paid, either on a a semi-weekly or monthly basis, based on the size of the staff, and the payroll size.
  • Any underpayment or overpayment.

Here are a few reminders for IRS Form 941:

  • Form 941 includes amounts withheld from employee pay for the additional Medicare tax for high-income individuals.
  • The current Social Security rate is 6.2%, both for employees and the employer. The Social Security wage limit changes each year. This limit is the maximum annual pay subject to Social Security tax. The Medicare tax rate is 1.45% each for employees and employer, unchanged from 2013. There is no wage base for Medicare tax.
  • Effective for tax periods beginning after December 31, 2013, the credit for COBRA premium assistance payments cannot be claimed on Form 941.

Form 941 Due Dates 

Form 941 is due on a quarterly basis, at the end of the month, following the end of the quarter, according to the following schedule:

  • You must submit by April 30, for first quarter of 2018, ending March 31.
  • You must submit by July 31, for the second quarter, ending June 30.
  • You must submit by October 31, for the third quarter, ending September 30.
  • You must submit by January 31, for the fourth quarter, ending December 31.

When due dates land on a holiday or a weekend day, the adjusted due date will be the next business day. For example, if the July 31 due date is a Saturday for that year, the due date for that payment would be Monday, August 2.

If you have made your payroll tax deposits for the quarter completely and on time, you have 10 more days after the due date above to file form 941 for the quarter. Here are the filing dates if you meet the criteria for the 10-day extension:

  • For the first quarter, ending March 30, you must submit by May 10. 
  • For the second quarter, ending June 30, you must submit by August 10.
  • For the third quarter, ending September 30, you must submit by November 10.
  • For the fourth quarter, ending December 31, you must submit by February 10.

How to Submit Form 941

Form 941 may be submitted electronically using Federal E-file. You can E-file Form 941 and pay any balance due electronically by using tax preparation software or by consulting with a tax professional.

How to Complete Form 941

Form 941 calculations include totals for:

  • The overall pay for the period being reported, and the amount of employees.
  • The sum withheld from employee's pay, for the period.
  • Medicare and Taxable Social Security wages for the period.
  • Adjustments for group-term life insurance, tips, and sick pay.

Form 941 calculates the amount still owed, which equals the difference between the total taxes due and the total deposits.

Read more about the specific steps required to complete Form 941.

Paying Taxes with Form 941

If you have paid the complete amount of your payroll taxes during the months covered by this form, you should see "$0" due. That's good. But what if you owe taxes? 

You cannot wait until you file Form 941 and pay all taxes for the quarter at that time. You must make either monthly or semi-weekly deposits, depending on the amount owed.

If you are required to make deposits, you may have a small balance due. Make that deposit electronically using the IRS EFTPS system.