Everything You Need to Know About Filing All the Correct Tax Forms On Time, Every Time

Starting your own business is like throwing yourself off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down, according to LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman. It’s like raising a newborn, learning to ride a bike and climbing a mountain, all at the same time.

On top of that, you’ve got the IRS and various state agencies demanding that you send them all kinds of forms with obscure requirements like “this form must be completed in purple ink during the first new moon after the Chinese New Year” or “only submit this form if your business makes more than $100 per year or less than $99 per year.” Wait, what?

I help small businesses navigate through the sea of confusing paperwork to make sure the right forms are sent out at the right time. To give you a better understanding of how it all works, I’ve created this convenient list of important documents and their due dates. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good overview of the most important federal forms. State forms are their own separate beast.

Income Tax Forms

Form 1040 & Schedule C

This is your basic individual tax return form plus the Profit or Loss from Business form. Use these if you are a sole proprietor or an LLC filing as an individual (also known as a disregarded entity).
Deadline: April 15th, annually

Form 1065

Partnerships and LLCs filing as partnerships report their income taxes on this form. 
Deadline: March 15th, annually

Form 1120S

If your business is an S-Corporation or an LLC filing as an S-Corporation, you’ll report your income taxes on this form. Be aware that LLCs that file as corporations must submit Forms 8832 and 2553 by March 15th. of the year they choose the election. A late election can also be made but is permissible only under certain circumstances.
Deadline for Form 1120S: March 15th, annually
Deadline for Form 1120: April 15th, annually

Schedule K-1

These forms are prepared and submitted along with Forms 1065 and 1120S. Copies of the K-1s must also be given to business partners and shareholders.
Deadline: March 15th, annually

Form 1040-ES

The IRS has determined that business owners are more likely to pay taxes on their profits if they’re required to do so quarterly. Therefore, all self-employed individuals and businesses must submit Form 1040-ES along with their quarterly tax payments. If you choose to wait until April 15th to pay all your taxes at once, the IRS will impose stiff penalties and interest.
Deadlines: April 15th, June 15th, September 15th and January 15th, quarterly

Payroll Tax Forms

If you have employees or independent contractors working for you, you’re going to have a lot more paperwork to handle. Setting up payroll for the first time requires filling out multiple applications with several different agencies. The information you provide will determine whether you file most of your payroll forms annually or quarterly.

Form 941 or 944

These forms are for businesses that withhold taxes from employee checks (income tax, social security and Medicare). All those taxes you withheld must now be paid to Uncle Sam along with your business’s portion. Form 941 is for quarterly filers and Form 944 is for annual filers.
Deadline for Form 941: April 30th, July 31st, October 31st and January 31st, quarterly
Deadline for Form 944: January 31st, annually

Form 940

This form must be submitted along with your business’s unemployment taxes. These taxes are only paid by the employer, not withheld from employee paychecks.
Deadline: January 31st, annually

W-2 / 1099

Any business with employees must provide those employees with W-2s, which they will use to complete their individual tax returns. If you have independent contractors, you will provide them with Form 1099-MISC instead.
Deadline: January 31st, annually

Copy A of W-2s and W-3s

If you have employees, you must send a copy of their W-2s along with Form W-3 to the Social Security Administration each year.
Deadline: January 31st, annually


What about sales tax forms? That’s a state tax, which means the forms vary depending on your state. Here in North Carolina, you would file Form E-500 along with your sales tax payment on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis (depending on what the state tells you when you register).

A note on extensions. Whenever allowed, extensions allow taxpayers to extend the time needed to file the forms, but not to pay the tax due. Taxes are due when they are due. If you miss making your payment on-time there will be penalties & interest until the payment is made. Extensions are not necessarily allowed or granted for all tax forms either.

There are a lot more forms that may need to be filed for your particular circumstances or in your particular state. Contact us if you’d like to schedule a consultation to make sure that your business is set up correctly and submitting all the necessary forms on time.