A separate Form 941 is filed for each quarter. The first quarter is January through March. The second quarter is April through June. The third quarter is July through September. The fourth quarter is October through December. Form 941 is generally due by the last day of the month following the end of the quarter. For example, wages you pay during the first quarter, January through March, must generally be reported on Form 941 by April 30th. If the due date for filing a return falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, you may file the return on the next business day.
Some employers with small payrolls, including government employers, file an annual return, Form 944, instead of Form 941 each quarter. Form 944 generally is due on January 31st of the following year (e.g., January 31, 2012 for the 2011 tax year). The purpose of Form 944 is to reduce burden on small business taxpayers by allowing certain employers to file one employment tax return per year to report social security, Medicare, and withheld federal income taxes, and in most cases pay the employment tax with the return. Form 944 is designed for employers with an annual liability of $1,000 or less for social security, Medicare, and withheld federal income taxes.
Employers are not permitted to file Form 944 unless they are notified by the IRS that they qualify to file this form. Employers who may be eligible to file Form 944, because their estimated annual employment tax liability is $1,000 or less, have to contact the IRS to elect to file annually (Form 944). Employers required to file Form 944, who want to file Forms 941 instead, must notify the IRS they are electing to file quarterly Forms 941 and opting out of filing Form 944. For further information, see Revenue Procedure 2009-51 and the Form 944 Instructions.
Employers notified to file Form 944 whose businesses grow during the year and exceed the $1,000 eligibility threshold must still file Form 944 for the year. Employers who exceed the eligibility threshold will be notified by the IRS that their filing requirement has been changed to Form 941 for a particular year.