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When to Pay Estimated Taxes: Understanding Your Tax Obligations

when to pay estimated taxes

Paying estimated taxes is a crucial responsibility for many individuals and businesses in the United States. Understanding when and how to pay these taxes can help you avoid penalties and ensure that you stay compliant with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key aspects of estimated tax payments, including when they are due, who needs to pay them, and how to determine the correct amount.

What are Estimated Tax Payments?

Estimated tax payments are periodic payments made by individuals, businesses, and self-employed individuals to cover income tax and self-employment tax liabilities that are not covered by taxes withheld from paychecks or other sources. Unlike traditional employees who have taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks, self-employed individuals and business owners must make these payments on their own.

Do I Have an Obligation to Pay Estimated Taxes

Do I Have an Obligation to Pay Estimated Taxes?

Your need to pay estimated taxes hinges on your individual circumstances. The guideline states that you should settle your taxes periodically throughout the year either by having taxes withheld or by making estimated tax payments.

If, upon filing your taxes, you haven’t paid a sufficient amount in income taxes through either withholding or quarterly estimated payments, you may be subject to a penalty for underpayment.

To ascertain whether quarterly estimates are necessary, consider the following:

  • Will your tax liability be less than $1,000 for the tax year once you subtract your federal income tax withholding from your anticipated total tax liability for the year? If this is the case, you’re exempt from making estimated tax payments.
  • Do you anticipate that your federal taxes withholding will cover at least 90 percent of your total tax liability for the current tax year? If yes, then you are exempt from the obligation to make estimated tax payments.
  • Do you anticipate that your income tax withholding will amount to at least 100 percent of the total tax on your previous year’s tax return? Alternatively, if your adjusted gross income (as reported on line 11 of your 2023 Form 1040) exceeds $150,000 ($75,000 for married individuals filing separately), do you anticipate that your income tax withholding will be at least 110 percent of the total tax for the previous year? If so, you are not compelled to make estimated tax payments.

If you responded negatively to all of these inquiries, you are required to make estimated tax payments using Form 1040-ES. To avoid incurring a penalty, your total tax payments (comprising estimated taxes and withholding) throughout the year must meet one of the criteria outlined above.

Which Option Should I Select?

Your decision hinges on your specific circumstances.

The most prudent choice to evade an underpayment penalty is to target “100 percent of your previous year’s taxes.” If your prior year’s adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000 (or $75,000 for married individuals filing separate returns), you must remit 110 percent of your previous year’s taxes to meet the “safe-harbor” provision. Meeting this criterion exempts you from an estimated tax penalty, irrespective of the amount you owe with your tax return.

If you anticipate earning less income this year compared to last year and wish to avoid overpaying taxes, you may opt to remit 90 percent of your current year’s tax obligation. Falling short of remitting at least 90 percent of your total tax liability through estimated payments and withholding could potentially subject you to an underpayment penalty. Thus, it may be wise to avoid skirting too close to the 90 percent threshold to provide a buffer.

Should you anticipate earning more income this year than last year and aim to avoid owing taxes upon filing your return, then ensure your estimated tax payments cover 100 percent of your current year’s income tax liability.

When you should Pay Estimated Taxes

Who Needs to Make Estimated Tax Payments?

Several groups of individuals and entities are typically required to make estimated tax payments:

  • Self-employed individuals: If you earn income as a freelancer, independent contractor, or small business owner, you are generally required to pay estimated quarterly taxes.
  • Business owners: Sole proprietors, partners in partnerships, and shareholders in S corporations may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments on behalf of their businesses.
  • Individuals with substantial investment income: If you receive significant capital gains or other investment income that is not subject to withholding, you may need to make estimated tax payment.
  • High-income individuals: Taxpayers who expect to owe more than a certain amount in taxes after subtracting tax credits and tax withholdings may need to make estimated tax payments.

When to Pay Estimated Taxes

Understanding the timing of estimated tax payments is essential to avoid penalties and ensure compliance with IRS regulations.

Payment Periods

The IRS typically requires taxpayers to make estimated tax payments four times a year, in quarterly installments. The quarterly estimated taxes payment periods generally follow the calendar year:

  1. First Quarter: January 1 – March 31
  2. Second Quarter: April 1 – May 31
  3. Third Quarter: June 1 – August 31
  4. Fourth Quarter: September 1 – December 31

Due Dates

The due dates for estimated tax payments vary slightly each year but generally fall on the 15th day of the month following the end of each quarter. However, if the 15th falls on a weekend or a legal holiday, the deadline is extended to the next business day.

How to Determine the Amount to Pay

Calculating the correct amount to pay for estimated taxes can be challenging but is crucial to avoid underpayment penalties. Here are some methods to help you determine your estimated tax payments:

  • Prior Year’s Tax Liability: One common method is to base your estimated tax payments on your tax liability from the previous year. If your adjusted gross income and deductions remain relatively consistent, you can divide your total tax liability by four to determine your quarterly payments.
  • Current Year’s Income: Another approach is to estimate your current year’s income and deductions and calculate your tax liability accordingly. This method may be more accurate if your income fluctuates significantly from year to year.
  • IRS Form 1040-ES: The IRS provides Form 1040-ES, which includes worksheets to help individuals and businesses estimate their tax liability and determine the appropriate estimated tax payments.

Underpayment Penalties

Failure to make estimated tax payments on time or in the correct amount can result in underpayment penalties imposed by the IRS. To avoid penalties, taxpayers must generally pay either 90% of the current year’s tax liability or 100% of the prior year’s tax liability (110% if your adjusted gross income taxes exceed a certain threshold).

How to Pay Estimated Taxable Income

The IRS offers several convenient methods for taxpayers to make estimated tax payments:

  • Online Payment: Taxpayers can make estimated tax payments electronically through the IRS’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or the IRS Direct Pay system on the IRS website.
  • Mail: If you prefer to pay by mail, you can send your payment along with a payment voucher from Form 1040-ES to the address specified in the form’s instructions.
  • Credit or Debit Card: Taxpayers can also pay estimated quarterly tax payments using a credit or debit card through authorized payment processors. However, be aware that there may be fees associated with credit card payments.

How to Pay Estimated Taxable Income

Conclusion

paying estimated quarterly taxes is an important aspect of tax compliance for many individuals and businesses. By understanding when estimated tax payments are due, how to calculate the correct amount, and how to make payments, taxpayers can avoid penalties and ensure that they meet their tax obligations. If you’re unsure about your estimated tax requirements, consider consulting with a tax professional who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific financial situation and tax liabilities. By staying informed and proactive, you can navigate the tax season with confidence and peace of mind.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Estimated Tax Payments

What are Estimated Tax Payments and Who Needs to Make Them?

Estimated tax payments are periodic payments made by individuals, businesses, and self-employed individuals to cover income tax and self-employment tax liabilities. Those who typically need to make these payments include self-employed individuals, business owners, individuals with substantial investment income, and high-income earners.

Do I Have an Obligation to Pay Estimated Taxes?

Your obligation to pay estimated taxes depends on various factors. Generally, if you anticipate owning a significant amount in taxes after considering withholdings, you may need to make estimated tax payments to avoid penalties for underpayment.

Which Option Should I Choose to Avoid Underpayment Penalties?

To steer clear of underpayment penalties, consider aiming for “100 percent of your previous year’s taxes” or 110 percent if your prior year’s adjusted gross income exceeded specific thresholds. Alternatively, you can opt to pay 90 percent of your current year’s tax bill to avoid overpaying.

When Should I Pay Estimated Taxes?

Estimated tax payments are typically due four times a year, following quarterly payment periods. These periods run from January 1 to March 31 (first quarter), April 1 to May 31 (second quarter), June 1 to August 31 (third quarter), and September 1 to December 31 (fourth quarter).

How Can I Determine the Correct Amount to Pay for Estimated Taxes?

Calculating the correct amount for estimated taxes can be complex but crucial to avoid penalties. Methods include basing payments on the prior year’s tax liability, estimating the current year’s income, or using IRS Form 1040-ES worksheets. It’s important to ensure your total tax payments meet IRS requirements to avoid penalties.

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