Updated January 8, 2021
Calculating payroll taxes and getting your team paid is a critical step to running your small business. But once your calculator is put away and the checks are out the door, you’ll still have a few important payroll duties to complete.
Make sure to keep track of your payments, deductions and withholding, because your business is also responsible for filing state and federal payroll tax forms (and remitting tax payments), accurately and on time.
And as long as we’re talking employment-related tax forms, let’s not overlook the other forms you’ll need to take care of. There are also forms to fill out when you hire a new employee. There are forms you’ll need to file independently of payroll taxes. And you have to submit forms to help your employees with their own taxes.
Does that feel overwhelming? That’s pretty understandable. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
We’ve pulled together a list of common payroll tax forms, a brief explanation of each form, the important 2020 and 2021 filing deadlines, and a quick link to the IRS form itself. We hope this helps you keep all your obligations in front of you (while keeping the taxman out of sight):
When should it be filed? As a best practice, Form I-9 should be completed and signed prior to or on a new employee’s first day of employment. Employers must complete their section of the form within three business days of the employee’s first workday.
What’s it for? The I-9 is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form that is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization for anyone hired to work in the United States. All U.S. employers are required to have any new hires fill out this form; regardless of citizenship status. I-9s are not filed with any agency, but must be retained in the employee file for either three years after the date of hire, or for one year after employment has been terminated, whichever period is longer.
When should it be filed? A W-4 should be filled out by every new employee, preferably on their first day of employment, but no later than the end of their first week of employment.
What’s it for? The W-4 helps you understand how much tax should be withheld from each employee’s paycheck. A W-4 should be filled out by all employees when they are hired, or whenever their life or financial situation changes.
In 2020, the W-4 has been revised. The new form has a five-step process and new Publication 15-T (Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods) for determining employee withholding. It no longer uses withholding allowances.
If your employee was hired in 2019 or prior, you can continue to use the information they provided on the old W-4. It includes a worksheet that allows your employees to calculate withholding allowances for dependents and children. Some employees may want to fill out a new 2020 W-4 if they work a second job, get married, have a child, or get divorced.
Like an I-9, a W-4 should be held in a file on site for a minimum of four years after an employee is hired.
When should it be filed? Form W-9 is filled out when using the services of a contract worker. The form should be filled out prior to paying a contractor and retained with their file indefinitely.
What’s it for? The W-9 includes basic information about any independent contractors who work for your business. At the end of the year, any business that pays an independent contractor $600 or more is required to supply information regarding the income they earn to the IRS using Form 1099-NEC (see more about 1099-NEC below). In order to properly process the 1099-NEC, business owners use the information supplied on the W-9, including the contractor’s name, address, and tax ID number or Social Security number.
When should it be filed? The deadline to file a FUTA return is generally January 31 each year, but this year is February 1. For 2020 taxpayers, you have until February 10, 2021, to file your Form 940 if all deposits are up to date.
What’s it for? Form 940 is used to report federal unemployment (FUTA) taxes your business pays throughout the year. By law, employers are required to pay unemployment taxes (which are calculated as a percentage of the wages each employee earns) until a given employee reaches $7,000 in taxable wages for the year. FUTA tax is paid in quarterly deposits, and it is the sole responsibility of the employer — withholdings from employees do not cover this tax.
It’s likely you will also be responsible for state unemployment taxes as well. Any state forms are available through your local agency. You can also find them here.
When should it be filed? Form 941 is filed quarterly, with 2021 due dates of April 30th, August 2nd, November 1st, plus January 31st, 2022.
What’s it for? Form 941 is used to report federal income tax withheld from employees as well as Social Security tax, and Medicare tax for the quarter. Keep in mind that quarterly Form 941 reporting is a separate act from the required tax deposit, where you’ll pay all of the taxes withheld from employee checks as well as your portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes. For your deposits, you’ll be expected to submit them on either a monthly or a semi-weekly basis, and all payments must be made by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).
When should it be filed? The filing deadline for Form 943 is January 31 annually, but this year falls on February 1. For the 2020 tax year, if you’ve paid your taxes via monthly deposit, you have until February 10, 2021, to file.
What’s it for? Form 943 is used by employers that have paid wages to farmworkers, so long as the wages paid were subject to federal income tax withholding, Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Taxes due can be paid at the time the form is filed if taxes for the year are less than $2,500.00. This form can be a substitute for Form 941, or it can be used in addition to Form 941 if both regular and agricultural employees were paid during the year. If you have any questions about Form 941 vs. Form 943, contact your accountant or consider using farm payroll software.
When should it be filed? The deadline to file Form 944 is February 1 this year, but for the 2020 tax year, if you’ve already paid your taxes with a monthly deposit, you have until February 10, 2021, to file.
What’s it for? Form 944 is designed for small employers that have an annual tax liability of less than $1,000. Annual filing status does not preclude smaller employers from being required to deposit taxes on a timely basis.
When should it be filed? The deadline to file Form 945 is February 1 this year. For the 2020 tax year, if tax deposits have been made, you’ll have until February 10, 2021, to file.
What’s it for? Form 945 is rarely used by employers, but there are occasions when a Form 945 must be filed. Form 945 is used to report federal income tax withheld from nonpayroll payments made. Nonpayroll payments can include:
Pensions (including distributions from tax-favored retirement plans, for example, section 401(k), section 403(b), and governmental section 457(b) plans), and annuities
Indian gaming profits
Voluntary withholding on certain government payments
When should it be filed? W-2 recipients must receive their form electronically by February 1 this year, or if mailed, the form must be postmarked by February 1. The deadline for filing Copy A of the W-2 forms with the Social Security Administration (see below) is also February 1.
What’s it for? Form W-2 is provided to all employees and the IRS. W-2s report an employee’s annual wages, as well as federal income tax, state and local income tax (if applicable), Social Security, and Medicare taxes withheld. Employers must also file W-2s with the Social Security Administration using Form W-3 (see below).
When should it be filed? Form W-3 should be filed with the Social Security Administration by February 1 this year.
What’s it for? Form W-3 is a transmittal form that is sent to the Social Security Administration along with Copy A of the prepared W-2 forms. The W-3 form summarizes total earnings, Social Security Wages, Medicare wages, and federal and state withholding totals for each employee, along with the number of W-2 forms that are being filed.
When should it be filed? 1099 recipients must receive their form by February 1 of this year electronically, or postmarked by February 1 if mailed, for the prior tax year. The deadline for filing with the IRS is also February 1 this year.
What’s it for? 1099-NEC is used to report payments made to contractors and other non-employees throughout the year. However, Form 1099-MISC is still used for miscellaneous non-employees. If you’ve paid any of the following, you will have to prepare and mail a Form 1099-MISC to the person(s) paid, as well as file the 1099-MISC and 1099-NEC forms with the IRS using Form 1096.
Use 1099-MISC if you paid non-employees:
At least $10 in royalties or broker payments in lieu of dividends or tax-exempt interest and/or,
At least $600 for:
Services performed by someone who is not an employee
Prizes and awards
Other income payments
Medical and health care payments
Crop insurance proceeds
Payments to an attorney
A complete list of possible recipients is provided in Form 1099 – MISC instructions.
When should it be filed? Form 1096 is submitted when paper filing Forms 1099-NEC and 1099-MISC as well as other forms listed below, and must be filed by February 1 this year.
What’s it for? Employers that process 1099s will also remit Form 1096 which provides a summarization of the forms being submitted, including number of forms and total amount reported on the forms. Form 1096 is only required if paper filing. If filing electronically, it’s not needed. Form 1096 is also used for 1097, 1098, 3921, 5498, and W-2G forms, though it’s likely you won’t have to submit any of those.
Form SS-8 — Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding
When should it be filed? There is no deadline for filing Form SS-8.
What’s it for? Form SS-8 is used to help determine the status of a current worker. The determination can be requested by the worker or by the business, and is used to determine whether the worker in question is an employee, for purposes of federal employment taxes and income tax withholding, or an independent contractor.
Those are the basic payroll tax forms most small businesses need to know about. Certain businesses need to file additional forms, so be sure to ask a tax pro if you have any questions about what you should be filing. And if this all feels like too much, remember that there are some really good payroll services that can automate all your filings for you.
If you’re not sure when, how, or why to file payroll-related tax forms, it’s probably best to contact your accountant with any questions. The IRS website also provides more detailed information on the forms themselves. Click the links above to take a closer look at any of the payroll tax forms discussed in this article.
And if you want someone to handle payroll for you, you may want to check us out. We offer an easy, affordable online payroll service that does all your payroll tax filings for you.