Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding. This includes income from self-employment, interest, dividends, alimony, rent, gains from the sale of assets, prizes and awards. You also may have to pay estimated tax if the amount of income tax being withheld from your salary, pension, or other income is not enough.
If you did not pay enough tax throughout the year, either through withholding or by making estimated tax payments, you may have to pay a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax. Generally, most taxpayers will avoid this penalty if they owe less than $1,000 in tax after subtracting their withholdings and credits, or if they paid at least 90% of the tax for the current year, or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the prior year, whichever is smaller. Please refer to Publication 505, for additional information.
Estimated tax is used to pay both income tax and self-employment tax, as well as other taxes and amounts reported on your tax return. If you do not pay enough through withholding or estimated tax payments, you may be charged a penalty. If you do not pay enough by the due date of each payment period you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return.
However, if your income is received unevenly during the year, you may be able to avoid or lower the penalty by annualizing your income and making unequal payments. Use Form 2210,to see if you owe a penalty for underpaying your estimated tax. Please refer to the Form 1040 Instructions for where to report the estimated tax penalty on your return.
The penalty may also be waived if:
- The failure to make estimated payments was caused by a casualty, disaster, or other unusual circumstance and it would be inequitable to impose the penalty, or
- You retired (after reaching age 62) or became disabled during the tax year for which estimated payments were required to be made or in the preceding tax year, and the underpayment was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.
You should also use Form 2210 to request a waiver of the penalty for the reasons shown above.
When To Pay Estimated Taxes
For estimated tax purposes, the year is divided into four payment periods. Each period has a specific payment due date. If you do not pay enough tax by the due date of each of the payment periods, you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your income tax return, see underpayment of tax below for more information.
Using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) is the easiest way to pay your federal taxes for individuals as well as businesses, including federal tax deposits (FTDs), installment agreement and estimated tax payments. If it is easier to pay your estimated taxes weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. you can, as long as you have paid enough in by the end of the quarter. Using EFTPS, you can access a history of your payments, so you know how much and when you made your estimated tax payments.
Farmers and fishermen. If at least two-thirds of your gross income for the current year or next year is from farming or fishing, substitute 66⅔% for 90%.
Household employers. When estimating the tax on your next year tax return, include your household employment taxes if either of the following applies.
- You will have federal income tax withheld from wages, pensions, annuities, gambling winnings, or other income.
- You would be required to make estimated tax payments to avoid a penalty even if you did not include household employment taxes when figuring your estimated tax.
Higher income taxpayers. If your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the current year was more than $150,000 ($75,000 if your filing status for the current year is married filing separately) substitute 110% for 100%. This rule does not apply to farmers or fishermen.
* The program will prompt you with a diagnostic warning on a balance due tax return that a Form 2210 may be needed. This message will appear on the bottom of the Client's 1040 screen. Most clients will be eligible for the Short Method - enter the amount of last year's tax in menu option (1) and then the program will calculate the penalty amount. If the Form 2210 is not needed, the software will let you know by displaying a message on the Clients' 1040 screen.