Q: What Payroll Tax Forms Do I Need to Run Payroll?

In order to run payroll and file your payroll taxes correctly, you need several IRS and tax forms to keep you compliant at the state, local, and federal levels. These tax forms may include:

  • Form W-4
  • Form 941
  • Form W-2
  • 1099-MISC
  • State tax withholding certificates
  • State withholding, local, and employment tax forms

Below is a more in-depth list of common forms you’ll often need to run payroll:

FormDue dateDescription
Form W-4An employee’s first day of work or before.This form helps the employer calculate how much federal tax needs to be withheld for each employee each pay period. Employees fill it out on their first day on the job and they can update it any time a qualifying life event (like have a child) affects their withholding allowance.
Form 941Due at the end of each quarter. If the quarter ends on a non-banking day, then it’s due the next business day. Typically due the final day of March, June, September, and December.Filed four times a year, Form 941 documents the total amount withheld for Social Security, Medicare, and federal income taxes each quarter.
State tax withholding certificatesCheck your state’s required forms and due dates.Similar to the Form W-4, state tax withholding certificates helps the employer calculate how much state taxes to withhold from an employee, if any. The Department of Labor Statistics has a full list of each state’s withholding form.
State withholding, local, and unemployment tax formsCheck your state’s required forms and due datesStates may have withholding, unemployment, and local taxes. Most require a tax form to report the wages and taxes to the state agency or jurisdiction. To learn more, check with your state or jurisdiction.
W-2January 31st is the deadline to file W-2s as well as the deadline to distribute Forms W-2 to employee(s)The W-2 is a wage and tax statement you need to give to each employee at the end of the year. They need it to file their taxes.
1099-MISCJanuary 31st is the deadline to  report payments to non-employees as well as the deadline to distribute 1099s to contractorsYou’ll likely need to file Form 1099-MISC at the end of the year for any independent contractors or professionals you’ve worked with who aren’t incorporated. It’s the income statement that contractors use to show the IRS how much they earned.

Keeping track of all the forms required for payroll and remembering to submit them on time can be tricky. It’s best to consult a CPA or use a payroll provider like Gusto that will submit tax filings like these on your behalf.


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