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As the owner of a small business, your tax obligations are more involved than those of individual employees — in no small part because you’re also responsible for completing a variety of IRS business forms. To help you navigate this complex territory, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of IRS business forms and a brief explanation of each one.
IRS business forms: The basics
When it comes to the IRS, there are many obligations you may have as a business owner. Not only is completing various IRS business forms simply a federal requirement of doing business, but it’s also important to make sure you’re fulfilling your obligations wholly and correctly, to protect your business in the case of an IRS audit. Although not many businesses actually get audited, it’s better to always be vigilant when it comes to your IRS small-business forms — which means knowing the different types and which ones might apply to your business.
Generally, the most prevalent IRS business forms are tax forms. As a business owner, you can be responsible for paying a variety of different taxes: income taxes, excise taxes, taxes for your employees, etc. Ultimately, the taxes you pay — and the corresponding IRS business forms you have to complete and file — will depend largely on your business entity type. However, in addition to the standard tax forms, there may be other IRS small-business forms you need to complete, ranging from a form specific to employee benefits to one to change your business address.
Because IRS business forms can be so exhaustive, we always recommend working with an accountant, tax advisor or enrolled agent who specializes in working with small businesses. These professionals will be the best and most knowledgeable resources available to you who can answer questions, help with the completion of your IRS business forms and ensure that you’re meeting all of the appropriate obligations for your small business.
IRS business forms: Starting a new business
It’s important to have a solid sense of the IRS business forms that you may need to fill out and file with the IRS. The first form on this list is applicable to all business types and is probably the first IRS form you’ll have to complete when starting a new business: Form SS-4.
Form SS-4: Application for Employer Identification Number
IRS Form SS-4, also called the Application for Employer Identification Number, is not a business tax form per se. Unlike many of the other IRS business forms you might have to complete specific to your business’s tax liability, this form is, as its name suggests, used to officially apply for an employer identification number or EIN. An EIN is a unique nine-digit number that is used to identify your business, often called a business tax ID number.
Although sole proprietorships and single-person LLCs with no employees aren’t required to have an EIN, we’d recommend that all businesses complete form SS-4, as there are many benefits of getting an EIN — like making it easier to manage your personal and business finances. To receive an EIN, all you need to do is fill out Form SS-4 and file it with the IRS. The form is relatively straightforward, asking for basic information about your business. It can be easily filed online, as well as faxed or mailed.
IRS business forms: Filing and paying business taxes
The bulk of IRS business forms that you will have to complete will be directly related to business taxes. The exact forms you’ll have to file — and taxes you’ll have to pay — will depend on your specific business. Your business’s industry, employees and entity type can all factor into your business tax responsibility and the forms you must complete to fulfill said responsibility. Out of all of these factors, though, your entity type will probably most greatly impact your business taxes. Here's a breakdown of the tax-related IRS business forms that you may need to complete based on business entity type:
IRS business forms for sole proprietorships
If your business is a sole proprietorship, meaning you’re the single owner and operator, you’ll be generally required to submit income tax forms for your business, as well as file self-employment taxes as an individual. Here are some of the most common IRS business forms you’ll see in this case:
Form 1040: IRS Form 1040 is used to file your individual income tax return. As a sole proprietor, however, you’ll need to complete additional Form 1040 schedules to file this annual return.
Form 1040 Schedule C: Form 1040 Schedule C is used to report the annual income or loss from your business. You use the information from Schedule C to complete your individual Form 1040.
Form 1040 Schedule C-EZ: If you have a smaller business, you may qualify to complete Schedule C-EZ. Like the general Schedule C form, this form reports your business’s annual profit. To file Schedule C-EZ instead of Schedule C, however, you must meet all the IRS requirements as laid out in the Schedule C-EZ instructions.
Form 1040-ES: This IRS business form is used to calculate and pay your estimated taxes. Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding, in this case, due to self-employment. Because you have no employer withholding taxes for you, you’re responsible for paying estimated taxes on a quarterly basis.
Form 1040-SE: Schedule SE is used to determine how much you owe in self-employment taxes. Self-employment taxes are taxes you pay as your portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, since you have no employer removing them from your pay on a regular basis. Schedule SE allows you to calculate your self-employment tax liability, which you then record on your individual Form 1040.
IRS business forms for partnerships
If your business is a partnership, you’ll be responsible for paying taxes for the partnership as a whole, as well as the individuals that make up the partnership. As a partnership, you’ll have to complete Form 1065, which is an annual information return to report the income, gains, losses, deductions and credits for your business. To determine each partner’s share of the business income and losses, you’ll each complete a Schedule K-1. You'll then use the calculations from Schedule K-1 to complete Form 1065.
As a partnership, however, your business does not pay income tax. Instead, this tax burden is passed on to the individual partners. In this case then, as a member of a partnership, you may be responsible for many of the forms discussed previously, including Form 1040, Form 1040-ES and Form 1040-SE. Depending on your business, you might also have to complete Form 1040 Schedule E, which reports supplemental income and loss from your partnership.
IRS business forms for corporations
For corporations, the specific IRS small-business forms that you’ll need to complete for tax purposes will ultimately depend on whether you’re an S corporation or C corporation.
If you’re a C corporation, your business is legally separated from you, and therefore, you’ll pay income tax for your business using Form 1120. Form 1120 is an annual report of income, gains, losses, deductions and credits that determines the income tax liability of a corporation.
As a shareholder of your corporation, you’re taxed on your personal tax return, Form 1040, when profits are distributed as dividends. If you’re a shareholder that participates in the business’s operations, you’re considered an employee. Only the salary your receive as an employee, then, is subject to self-employment taxes.
For an S corporation, on the other hand, you’ll fill out:
Form 1120S: Form 1120S is an annual report of the income, gains, losses, deductions and credits for an S corporation. Just as Form 1040 Schedule-C reports your business’s income or loss in relation to your personal tax return, Form 1120S affects your personal tax return. However, unlike Schedule C, it is filed with the IRS separately from your personal return.
Form 1120S Schedule K-1: The Schedule K-1 for Form 1120S should be completed by all shareholders of your S corp business. Similarly to the Schedule K-1 for partnerships, this form calculates each shareholder’s responsibility for the profit or loss of the business. Form 1120S Schedule K-1 does not need to be filed to the IRS, but instead is used by the shareholders to complete their individual tax returns.
Additionally, if you’re an S corporation shareholder, you may be responsible for Form 1040 Schedule E as well as Form 1040-ES as part of your personal tax return.
Finally, for both types of corporations, you may be responsible for Form 1120-W. Form 1120-W calculates the estimated tax that corporations need to pay on a quarterly basis. Estimated taxes can apply to both C corps and S corps and their 1120 tax forms depending on the specific circumstances.
IRS business forms for limited liability companies
Determining which IRS business forms you’re responsible for as a limited liability company, or LLC, is a little more complicated. For tax purposes, the IRS can consider an LLC as a corporation, partnership or part of the LLC owner’s tax return, also called a disregarded entity.
If the latter is the case for your LLC, you, as the owner, will report the income and expenses of your LLC using Form 1040 Schedule C or E.
On the other hand, if your LLC has at least two members, it’s considered a partnership, and you’ll have to file Form 1065, as well as a Schedule K-1 for each partner. Additionally, LLCs filing partnership returns generally pay self-employment tax on their share of partnership earnings, which means adding Form 1040-ES or Form 1040-SE to your individual return.
Lastly, if your LLC is regarded as a corporation, you’ll complete Form 1120 or Form 1120S.
If you want to change how your LLC is classified for federal taxes, you can complete Form 8832. This form allows you to specify how you’d like your LLC to be classified with the IRS, as a C corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship.
IRS business forms: Additional tax forms
Although the forms listed above will probably be the ones you’ll see most often for business tax purposes, there are a handful of additional forms that may be necessary for you to complete based on your circumstances. Some of these forms include:
Form 1040 Schedule F: Schedule F reports business profits and losses from farming. This form is similar to Schedule-C, but specific to farm owners.
Form 1045: This form can be used to apply for a quick tax refund relating to the carryback of an unused general business credit, the carryback of a net operating loss in certain situations or the carryback of a net section 1256 contracts loss.
Form 720: IRS Form 720 is used to report and pay your business’s federal excise tax liability on a quarterly basis. Excise tax is a tax imposed on specific goods or services that are manufactured or imported into the U.S., like gasoline, coal and tires. Your business only needs to complete Form 720 or any of its related forms if you deal in the goods or services for which excise taxes are due.
Form 4562: This form is used to report the depreciation or amortization of property or vehicles used for your business and therefore, claim a tax deduction.
Form 8829: Form 8829 is used to determine if you can claim a tax deduction for any of your home expenses. Generally, this form applies if your business is based in your home or if you use your home to conduct business on a regular basis.
Form 5329: This form is used to report additional taxes on retirement plans for your small business — such as IRAs, Coverdell ESAs, QTPs, Archer MSAs, HSAs or any other qualified retirement plans.
Form 8283: Form 8283 is used to report and claim a deduction on noncash charitable gifts that your business has made of more than $500.
Form 8606: This IRS form reports nondeductible contributions you made to traditional IRAs, distributions from traditional, SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, conversions from traditional SEP or SIMPLE IRAs to Roth IRAs and distributions from Roth IRAs.
Form 8903: This form is used to determine your domestic production activities deduction, or DPAD. However, this deduction was repealed and is now only applicable for tax years prior to 2018.
Form 7004: Completing Form 7004 allows you to request an automatic extension of time to file certain business income tax, information and other returns, such as Form 1065 and 1120.
As you can see, there are many different variations for the IRS business forms you may need to complete for tax purposes. The forms that your business files for taxes, as well as those you’ll have to file with your personal taxes, will largely depend on your entity type as well as by the specifications the IRS lays out in their tax forms instructions documents.
IRS business forms: Operating a business
Although the bulk of the IRS small-business forms that you’ll need to complete will specifically relate to business and personal taxes, there are some other IRS forms that you may need to file that more generally apply to your business operations. Here are some of the most common forms:
Form 2553: Similar to Form 8832, Form 2253 is used by a corporation or other eligible entity to elect to be treated as an S corporation for taxes.
Form 2848: You use this form to authorize an individual, like your certified public accountant or business lawyer, to represent you before the IRS.
Form 4797: This form is used most generally to report the sale or exchange of business property. This form is also used to report other dispositions of assets and gains or losses from certain property dispositions.
Form 8822-B: Form 8822-B is used to notify the IRS if you’ve changed your business mailing address, business location or responsible party.
IRS business forms: Managing business employees
Regardless of your entity type, if your business has employees, there will be a number of IRS business forms that you may need to complete as an employer. These forms may report tax and income information for your employees, as well as employee benefits to the IRS:
Form W-2 and W-3: Form W-2 is an annual form that must be completed and filed with the IRS, as well as given to each employee. This form reports the employee’s wages and tax withholdings for the tax year. Form W-3 is used to transmit employee W-2s to the Social Security Administration.
1099-MISC Form: Similar to a W-2, the 1099-MISC Form is an annual form that is filed with the IRS and given to your contractors to report wages you’ve paid them and any tax you’ve withheld for them during the tax year.
Form 1099-R: Another version of the 1099 form, Form 1099-R is used to report any distributions you’ve made for pensions, annuities, retirement or profit-sharing plans, IRAs, insurance contracts, etc. in the given tax year. Form 1099-R must be filed for each person whom you’ve made distributions for, as well as given to each of those individuals. If you maintained any IRAs for your employees, you’ll also have to complete Form 5498 for each Form 1099-R.
Form 940: IRS Form 940 is an annual report of your business’s federal unemployment tax obligations detailing how much was owed the previous year, how much has been paid and any outstanding balance.
Form 941: Form 941 must be filed on a quarterly basis to report income, Social Security and Medicare taxes that you’ve withheld from your employee paychecks. You also use IRS Form 941 to calculate your Social Security and Medicare tax responsibility as an employer.
Form 943: Form 943 reports any wages and tax withholding that you made within the year specifically for agricultural employees.
Form 944: If your business has a lower employment tax liability — $1,000 or less — you may be eligible to complete Form 944 instead of Form 941. Although Form 944 also reports the taxes that you’ve withheld from employee paychecks, it can be filed annually instead of quarterly.
Forms 3921 and 3922: Both Form 3921 and Form 3922 are forms that corporations file in relation to the transfer of stock to an employee within the given year.
In addition to those listed here, there might be additional IRS forms for your business to complete in regards to employee benefits — including employee pension accounts, stock ownership plans and retirement trust accounts — depending on the benefits you offer.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.