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Payroll Taxes

Have a business? You need to know about business payroll tax filings, quarterly 941/944 and annual 940.

July 28th, 2016

IRS Form 941/944, Employer’s Quarterly/Annual Federal Tax Return

Every business, regardless of its size, is required by the IRS to file a quarterly IRS Form 941 (or 944). Similar to 1040s for individuals to report income and taxes, Form 941 is a quarterly Federal tax return for a business to report business payroll and employee payroll taxes paid. The form 941 or 944 is the employee payroll tax form you file reconciling the amounts owed on the payroll to the amounts deposited and/or paid.

What is the difference between IRS Form 941 vs. 944?  Employers are required to file either four quarterly Form 941s or one Form 944 every year, but not both. Generally speaking most small businesses will be required to file IRS Form 941 unless notified by the IRS to file Form 944 instead. IRS Form 944 is for very small businesses reporting less than $1,000 social security, medicare and income withholding for a whole year.  Very small businesses may request in writing to the IRS to file Form 944, but it may be easier to wait for the IRS notification. See more information from the IRS about Form 941/944.

IRS Form 941 is due to the IRS in the month after a quarter has ended. The due dates are 4/30, 7/31, 10/31 and 1/31. IRS Form 944 is due only once a year before 1/31.

IRS Form 940 Federal Unemployment Tax Annual Report

IRS Form 940 is the Federal Unemployment Tax Annual Report form. It calculates the employer’s federal unemployment tax liability, adjusts for any state unemployment taxes paid, and then calculates the unemployment tax due. Form 940 is required only once a year.

How to E-File Form 941, 944 or 940 (94X group of forms)

A majority of IRS Form 941, 940 or 944 for business payroll taxes are still mailed to the IRS on paper. Many businesses, especially small businesses, want to switch from paper to electronic. Depending on how IRS Forms 941 & 940 are e-filed, there are two different ways to go about it. If the business is e-filing on their own, you’ll need a signature PIN. If the business is e-filing through a paid preparer, you’ll need Form 8453-EMP or Form 8879-EMP, unless the paid preparer has a Reporting Agent PIN.

So how can you get a signature PIN and what are the methods for e-filing 94X forms to the IRS?

  1. Individual businesses filing 94X on their own – First, you must apply for a “Business Taxpayer PIN”, which is a 10-digit PIN from the IRS. You can do so from our sister website, Please note that it may take a couple of weeks to receive a letter from the IRS with a 10-digit PIN. Then you can e-file 94X forms using the PIN through any e-file service provider.
  2. Individual businesses filing 94X with the help of an ERO (Electronic Return Originator) or a Paid Preparer – You must prepare Form 8453-EMP, sign, scan, and then attach it with the 94X Form that is to be e-filed. If the ERO or the paid preparer has a “Reporting Agent PIN”, Form 8453-EMP is not required, but each client will need to sign Form 8655 and send that to the IRS. If the paid preparer has an EFIN, they can also opt to use Form 8879-EMP (more on this later) instead of the above. It is best to contact your ERO or Paid Preparer to see how best to handle this.
    The following table compares the two ways an individual business can file its 94X returns.

    Business Taxpayer PIN Form 8453-EMP
    IRS requirement Apply and receive a PIN  in few weeks Prepare, sign & attach to e-file to IRS
    Purpose For e-filing 94X forms only Declaration for every e-file
    Digits 10 N/A
    Frequency Apply once and use the 10-digit PIN forever Attach one form with every e-file
    ERO or Paid Preparer Not required Signature required
  3. Tax Professionals, ERO, Reporting Agent, Paid Preparers filing for businessesIf you are a tax professional and have an EFIN (6-digit, Electronic Filing Identification Number) issued by the IRS, you can prepare and e-file Form 941, 940 or 944 (94X forms) for your clients immediately by using Form 8879-EMP.Form 8879-EMP is designed for tax professionals that do not have a Reporting Agent PIN to file 94X forms immediately. Form 8879-EMP is signed by both the client and the tax professional, and is to be kept by the tax professional for their records. The form does not need to be sent to the IRS. One 8879-EMP is required for each filing.

    A tax professional can apply for a “Reporting Agent PIN” specifically for 94X e-file program. Each client needs to sign a Form 8655 to authorize the tax professional to be its reporting agent and the 8655 form needs to be sent to the IRS for record. The form is required by the IRS only once for all future filings (different from form 8879-EMP). If the client switches to another reporting agent, a new form 8655 supersedes the previously submitted form 8655.

    Here is a comparison of the two e-file signature PINs for tax professionals to e-file 94X forms for their clients.

    Reporting Agent PIN EFIN
    Issued by the IRS Yes Yes
    Purpose For e-filing 94X forms only For e-filing 94X & 1040s, etc.
    Digits 5 6
    Authorized Form required Signed Form 8655 from each client Signed Form 8879-EMP
    Frequency One 8655 for each client once only One form 8879-EMP with each filing
    IRS requirement Send Form 8655 to IRS Keep 8879-EMP for record

In summary, there are different ways for tax professionals or small businesses to e-file 940 and e-file 941/944 forms to the IRS. A tax professional or small business can choose one based on its respective needs and convenience.

  • A 10-digit Business Taxpayer PIN is convenient for a business to prepare and to e-file 940 and 941/944 forms to the IRS, but it needs to be applied for and takes a couple of weeks to receive.
  • Form 8453-EMP can be prepared and e-filed with any 94X forms without waiting, but one form is required for every 94X form e-filing and it needs to be signed, digitized, and attached to every 94X e-file.
  • A 5-digit Reporting Agent PIN is convenient for a tax professional to manage all of its clients. However, the tax professional needs to obtain a signed Form 8655 from each client and submit the form to the IRS.
  • For tax professional with an EFIN already, Form 8879-EMP may be a good alternative.  The tax professional does not need to apply for and wait for a Reporting Agent PIN. The 8879-EMP form needs to be kept on file, but does not need to be sent to the IRS.

Making sure you meet these business payroll tax filing and reporting requirements can be a bit complicated. We are here to help. Paycheck Manager is one of the best small business payroll software, helping you pay your employee payroll taxes on time and file the necessary IRS 940 and IRS 941/944 forms. We have been an IRS authorized, 94X e-file service provider for the past 17 years. We help to make small business payroll taxes are quick, easy and simple.

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