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Publication 15

12. Filing Form 941 or Form 944(p30)


Form 941.(p30)

Each quarter, if you pay wages subject to income tax withholding (including withholding on sick pay and supplemental unemployment benefits) or social security and Medicare taxes you must file Form 941 unless you receive an IRS notification that you’re eligible to file Form 944 or the following exceptions apply. Also, if you’re required to file Forms 941 but believe your employment taxes for the calendar year will be $1,000 or less, and you would like to file Form 944 instead of Forms 941, you must contact the IRS during the first calendar quarter of the tax year to request to file Form 944. You must receive written notice from the IRS to file Form 944 instead of Forms 941 before you may file this form. For more information on requesting to file Form 944, including the methods and deadlines for making a request, see the Instructions for Form 944. Form 941 must be filed by the last day of the month that follows the end of the quarter. See the Calendar, earlier.

Form 944.(p30)

If you receive written notification you qualify for the Form 944 program, you must file Form 944 instead of Form 941. If you received this notification, but prefer to file Form 941, you can request to have your filing requirement changed to Form 941 during the first calendar quarter of the tax year. For more information on requesting to file Forms 941, including the methods and deadlines for making a request, see the Instructions for Form 944. Employers who must file Form 944 have until the last day of the month that follows the end of the year to file Form 944.


The following exceptions apply to the filing requirements for Forms 941 and 944.

Form 941 e-file.(p31)

The Form 941 e-file program allows a taxpayer to electronically file Form 941 or Form 944 using a computer with an internet connection and commercial tax preparation software. For more information, visit the IRS website at, or call 1-866-255-0654.

Electronic filing by reporting agents.(p31)

Reporting agents filing Forms 941 or Form 944 for groups of taxpayers can file them electronically. See Reporting Agents in section 7 of Pub. 15-A.


For each whole or part month a return isn't filed when required (disregarding any extensions of the filing deadline), there is a failure-to-file (FTF) penalty of 5% of the unpaid tax due with that return. The maximum penalty is generally 25% of the tax due. Also, for each whole or part month the tax is paid late (disregarding any extensions of the payment deadline), there is a failure-to-pay (FTP) penalty of 0.5% per month of the amount of tax. For individual filers only, the FTP penalty is reduced from 0.5% per month to 0.25% per month if an installment agreement is in effect. You must have filed your return on or before the due date of the return to qualify for the reduced penalty. The maximum amount of the FTP penalty is also 25% of the tax due. If both penalties apply in any month, the FTF penalty is reduced by the amount of the FTP penalty. The penalties won't be charged if you have a reasonable cause for failing to file or pay. If you receive a penalty notice, you can provide an explanation of why you believe reasonable cause exists.
Note.In addition to any penalties, interest accrues from the due date of the tax on any unpaid balance.
If income, social security, or Medicare taxes that must be withheld aren't withheld or aren't paid, you may be personally liable for the trust fund recovery penalty. See Trust fund recovery penalty in section 11.
Generally, the use of a third party payer, such as a PSP or reporting agent, doesn't relieve an employer of the responsibility to ensure tax returns are filed and all taxes are paid or deposited correctly and on time. However, see Certified professional employer organization (CPEO), later, for an exception.

Don't file more than one Form 941 per quarter or more than one Form 944 per year.(p31)

Employers with multiple locations or divisions must file only one Form 941 per quarter or one Form 944 per year. Filing more than one return may result in processing delays and may require correspondence between you and the IRS. For information on making adjustments to previously filed returns, see section 13.

Reminders about filing.(p31)


Final return.(p31)

If you go out of business, you must file a final return for the last quarter (last year for Form 944) in which wages are paid. If you continue to pay wages or other compensation for periods following termination of your business, you must file returns for those periods. See the Instructions for Form 941 or the Instructions for Form 944 for details on how to file a final return.
If you’re required to file a final return, you’re also required to furnish Forms W-2 to your employees by the due date of your final return. File Forms W-2 and W-3 with the SSA by the last day of the month that follows the due date of your final return. Don't send an original or copy of your Form 941 or Form 944 to the SSA. See the General Instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3 for more information.

Filing late returns for previous years.(p31)

If possible, get a copy of Form 941 or Form 944 (and separate instructions) with a revision date showing the year for which your delinquent return is being filed. See Ordering Employer Tax Forms and Publications, earlier. Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 if you have any questions about filing late returns.

Table 3. Social Security and Medicare Tax Rates (for 3 prior years)

Calendar YearWage Base Limit (each employee)Tax Rate on Taxable Wages and Tips
2016–Social Security$118,50012.4%
2016–MedicareAll Wages2.9%
2015–Social Security$118,50012.4%
2015–MedicareAll Wages2.9%
2014–Social Security$117,00012.4%
2014–MedicareAll Wages2.9%

Reconciling Forms W-2, W-3, and 941 or 944.(p31)

When there are discrepancies between Forms 941 or Form 944 filed with the IRS and Forms W-2 and W-3 filed with the SSA, the IRS must contact you to resolve the discrepancies.
Take the following steps to help reduce discrepancies.
  1. Report bonuses as wages and as social security and Medicare wages on Forms W-2 and on Form 941 or Form 944.
  2. Report both social security and Medicare wages and taxes separately on Forms W-2, W-3, 941, and 944.
  3. Report employee share of social security taxes on Form W-2 in the box for social security tax withheld (box 4), not as social security wages.
  4. Report employee share of Medicare taxes on Form W-2 in the box for Medicare tax withheld (box 6), not as Medicare wages.
  5. Make sure the social security wage amount for each employee doesn't exceed the annual social security wage base limit (for example, $127,200 for 2017).
  6. Don't report noncash wages that aren't subject to social security or Medicare taxes as social security or Medicare wages.
  7. If you used an EIN on any Form 941 or Form 944 for the year that is different from the EIN reported on Form W-3, enter the other EIN on Form W-3 in the box for "Other EIN used this year" (box h).
  8. Be sure the amounts on Form W-3 are the total of amounts from Forms W-2.
  9. Reconcile Form W-3 with your four quarterly Forms 941 or annual Form 944 by comparing amounts reported for the following items.
    1. Federal income tax withheld.
    2. Social security and Medicare wages.
    3. Social security and Medicare taxes. Generally, the amounts shown on Forms 941 or annual Form 944, including current year adjustments, should be approximately twice the amounts shown on Form W-3.
Don't report backup withholding or withholding on nonpayroll payments, such as pensions, annuities, and gambling winnings, on Form 941 or Form 944. Withholding on nonpayroll payments is reported on Forms 1099 or W-2G and must be reported on Form 945. Only taxes and withholding reported on Form W-2 should be reported on Form 941 or Form 944.
Amounts reported on Forms W-2, W-3, and Forms 941 or Form 944 may not match for valid reasons. For example, if you withheld any Additional Medicare Tax from your employee’s wages, the amount of Medicare tax that is reported on Forms 941, line 5c, or Form 944, line 4c, won’t be twice the amount of the Medicare tax withheld that is reported in box 6 of Form W-3. If they don't match, you should determine the reasons they’re valid. Keep your reconciliation so you’ll have a record of why amounts didn't match in case there are inquiries from the IRS or the SSA. See the Instructions for Schedule D (Form 941) if you need to explain any discrepancies that were caused by an acquisition, statutory merger, or consolidation.