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How to Keep the IRS Off Your Back and Out of Your Life in 2011

by on
in Tax Matters

Sorry to crash your party, but as we bring in the New Year, it's also time to bring in a new tax season.

As a small business owner or self-employed person, one of the easiest ways to keep Uncle Sam off your back and out of your life is to file your forms, payments and other paperwork on time. Over the next four months there are several key dates you dare not forget. Here they are -- all in one place.

NOTE: This article only addresses federal tax deadlines. Be sure to contact your state's tax department for their due dates.

Also, the calendar is adjusted for Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays, because if a due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday, then the due date is moved to the next business day.

JANUARY

January 18

Business
If you have employees, you must make the federal payroll tax payment for December 2010 by today (assuming you are on the monthly deposit schedule).  Note: If you've been using Form 8109 (found in the little yellow coupon book), effective January 1, 2011, you must start paying electronically via the IRS Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).

Personal
If you pay quarterly estimated income tax payments, it's time to make the 2010 fourth-quarter payment via Form 1040-ES.

January 31

Business
4th quarter and year-end payroll tax returns are due. Here's an overview of the 4 most common federal payroll-related forms due today:
1. Form W-2 (for your employees). If you mail the W-2's to your employees, the postmark must be on or before January 31, 2011. You may also be a recipient of a W-2 (if you work as an employee for someone else), so don't give your employer a hard time unless the W-2 is postmarked, or delivered in person, later than Jan. 31.
2. Form 941 (for payroll tax)
3. Form 940 (for unemployment tax)
4. Form 1099-MISC. If you paid any independent contractors at least $600 in 2010, you must send each one a 1099 by January 31.
Tip: if the independent contractor is a corporation, you usually don't have to issue a 1099. The main purpose of the 1099 is to track payments to Sole Proprietors, i.e. unincorporated self-employed people.


FEBRUARY

February 15
If you have employees, you must make the federal payroll tax payment for January 2011 by today (assuming you are on the monthly deposit schedule).

February 28
If you prepared any W-2's or 1099's (mentioned above), today is the deadline for sending a copy of those forms to the IRS.
Form W-3 is sent to the IRS, along with Copy A of any Forms W-2 you issued.
Form 1096 is sent to the IRS, along with Copy A of any Forms 1099-MISC you issued.

MARCH

March 15
Today is a big day if your business is a corporation:
Form 1120 -- the annual corporate income tax return for regular "C" corporations.
Form 1120S -- the annual corporate income tax return for "S" corporations.
Form 7004 -- if you can't file Form 1120 or 1120S by today, here's a tip: just file Form 7004 by March 15 and you are granted an automatic, no-questions-asked 6-month extension of time to file the return (i.e. until Sept. 15, 2011)
Form 2553 -- if you want your corporation to be treated like an "S" corporation for the first time, today is the deadline for telling the IRS that you want to be an "S" corporation beginning with calendar year 2011.
Also, if you have employees, you must make the federal payroll tax payment for February 2011 by today (assuming you are on the monthly deposit schedule).

APRIL

April 15
Ah, yes, the most famous tax deadline of all - Form 1040, your personal income tax return, is due today.
And if you are a Sole Proprietor, don't forget that you must file several business-related tax forms with your Form 1040. The most commonly used tax forms for the self-employed person include:
Schedule C (to report your business income and expenses)
Schedule SE (for self-employment tax)
Form 4562 (to deduct equipment and other depreciable property)
Form 8829 (to deduct a home office)

Need more time to prepare your personal tax return? Go no further than Form 4868, which grants an automatic no-questions-asked 6-month extension to file the return.

NOTE: this is only an extension of time to file the return, not an extension to pay any tax due. So if you think you might owe, it may be wise to estimate what you owe and send in a payment with Form 4868; otherwise you may have to pay extra in late payment penalties and interest.

Form 1065
If your business is a Partnership or Limited Liability Company (LLC) being taxed as a partnership, today is also your lucky day to file the annual business income tax return -- via Form 1065.

Form 7004
To get an automatic 5-month extension of time to file Form 1065, file Form 7004 on or before April 15.

As if April 15 wasn't already painful enough, it's also the deadline for the first quarter estimated tax payment for Year 2011.
Personal -- Form 1040-ES.
Corporate -- Form 1120-W
And if you're an employer, yup, it's time for yet another monthly federal payroll tax deposit -- for March 2011.

MAY
May 2
Form 941 is due for the 1st quarter 2011.
Form 940 federal unemployment tax deposit is due today, if your first quarter liability exceeds $500. Use EFTPS to make the payment.

Had enough? OK, I'll stop. That should get you through the first four months of the year.

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