Form 944, the Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return, is one of the lesser-known IRS payroll tax forms for small businesses. Like Form 941, it’s used to report your employer and employee Social Security and Medicare taxes, plus employee federal income tax payments. The difference between the two forms is that Form 944 should be filed by businesses that withhold less than $1,000 in a year in federal payroll taxes.
Few businesses meet this threshold, but it does reduce your filings obligations from quarterly to annually if you do. So, if you’re an employer that pays less than roughly $4,000 in wages in a calendar year, you’ll likely need to file Form 944.
Read on for a description of Form 944, a printable PDF, and simple instructions on how to fill it out.
What is Form 944?
Form 944 lets small business owners who have a few (or no) full-time employees file and pay their employment taxes yearly, instead of every quarter. Even if you have no employees, you will need to file a return for your business.
Filing Form 944 is the alternative to filing a 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return used for employers with higher estimated tax liability), but it’s important to be certain you are filing the correct form on time to avoid fines and penalties.
If you are a new business owner, the IRS will determine whether you will need to file a 944 or 941 return when you receive your Employer Identification Number (EIN). Need help with this? We also offer additional information and instructions for completing a 941.
When should my 944 be filed?
The deadline to file your 2020 Form 944 return is January 31, 2021. Unlike those filing a 941, small business owners have the option to pay taxes when filing, rather than making tax deposits throughout the year. However, if you do make deposits monthly, the IRS extends the deadline to file until February 10 (or the first business day after the 10th).
As a small business owner, you must file a 944, even if you have no taxes to report. If your business closes, you will have to file a final return for the year which the business closed.
What do you need to fill out Form 944?
To complete Form 944, you’ll need the following:
- Printable Form 944 PDF
- The amount of wages that have been paid throughout the year
- Any tips reported by employees
- Federal income tax withheld from an employee’s wages
- The employer’s and the employee’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the employee’s wages
- Any additional Medicare taxes withheld from an employee’s wages
- Your EIN and other basic business information
Instructions for filling out Form 944
There are currently four parts that need to be completed on a 944. Read on for line-by-line instructions and calculations:
Form 944, Part 1
- Wages, Tips, and Other Compensation: Total (or gross) amount of wages, tips, and compensation paid to all of your employees for that year.
- Federal Income Tax Withheld from Wages, Tips, and Other Compensation: Enter the total of all federal income tax withheld from employee wages for the calendar year. You can get this number by adding up all the employee withholding amounts from employee pay stubs that have been issued for the year.
- If No Wages, Tips, and Other Compensation Are Subject to Social Security or Medicare Tax: If the wages paid are not subject to Social Security or Medicare Tax withholding, check the box here and skip ahead to line 5.
- Taxable Social Security and Medicare Wages and Tips: Lines 4a through 4e are used to report taxable Social Security and Medicare wages and tips. You will also report any Additional Medicare Tax withholding in this space.
- Total Taxes Before Adjustments: Enter the total of all taxes withheld by adding line 2 and line 4e.
- Current Year’s Adjustments: Any adjustments that need to be made are entered here. These adjustments can include fractions of cents as a result of rounding, sick pay adjustments, or adjustments for things like tips and group-term life insurance premiums you withheld on behalf of employees.
- Total Taxes After Adjustments: Add the amounts on lines 5 and 6 to obtain the Total Taxes After Adjustments.
- Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities: For businesses that qualify, Form 8974 must be filled out and attached to Form 944 to claim the credit. See the IRS for more information on Form 8974 and who is eligible for the credit.
- Total Taxes After Adjustments: Subtract line 8 from line 7 to obtain the total tax due for the year.
- Total Deposits for This Year: This is where the total amount of tax deposits made throughout the year (if any) are entered.
- Balance Due: If line 9 is more than line 10, you’ll enter the Balance Due on this line.
- Overpayment: If you’ve paid too much in tax for the year, you will enter the overpayment amount on this line.
Form 944, Part 2
Part 2 is where you will enter information on your current tax deposit schedule and corresponding tax liability for the year.
Form 944, Part 3
This is filled out only if your business has closed or you no longer pay wages.
Form 944, Part 4
Part 4 is used if you wish to designate an employee or paid preparer or service to talk with the IRS about Form 944.
That’s basically it!
If you’ve done a good job of payroll accounting throughout the year, filling out Form 944 should be fairly simple. Be sure to check that form is completed accurately and that the taxes are deposited on or before the due date. If you are using payroll software or a payroll service provider, your 944 will usually be completed for you.
If you have any questions, visit the IRS website for more detailed background information and Form 944 instructions.