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Filing taxes is never a welcome task as an individual, and even less so as a business owner. As the owner of a small business, your tax obligations are greater and more involved, meaning you’re responsible for completing a variety of IRS business forms throughout the year.
Since filing your business taxes is only a part of your business responsibilities—and perhaps one of the most complex and tedious—you may be pressed to remember what kind of IRS small business forms are out there, what they entail, and which apply to your specific business. We’re here to help. We’ve compiled this comprehensive list of IRS business forms and will briefly explain each one—including the purpose of the form and what types of businesses may need to complete it.
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, of course, 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 therefore, the 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.
This being said, however, 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, therefore, 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.
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, and can be easily filed online, as well as faxed or mailed.
The bulk of IRS business forms that you will have to complete, however, 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. Therefore, we’ll break down the tax-related IRS business forms that you may need to complete based on business entity type:
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:
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 will then use the calculations from Schedule K-1 to complete Form 1065.
As a partnership, however, your business does not pay income tax, and 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 we 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.
For corporations, the specific IRS small business forms that you’ll need to complete for tax purposes will ultimately depend on whether you’re a 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:
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.
Determining which IRS business forms you’re responsible for as an LLC is a little more complicated. For tax purposes, the IRS can consider an LLC as a corporation, partnership, or part of the LLC’s 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.
Although the forms we’ve 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:
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, as we’ve mentioned, will largely depend on your entity type as well as by the specifications the IRS lays out in their tax forms instructions documents.
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:
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:
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.
As you can see, the list of IRS forms for businesses is extensive—and it’s always changing. Moreover, the exact forms that you’ll need to complete for your business will vary depending on many factors, including your entity type, industry, and more. This being said, with all of the current IRS forms that may relate to different facets of your business, it can be difficult to determine your quarterly and annual responsibilities as a business owner.
Therefore, we’d recommend always consulting with a business tax professional to assist you with your IRS tax forms, especially as your business grows. Professionals like a business tax advisor, certified public accountant, or tax lawyer will be able to help you determine your tax obligations, as well as help you complete the necessary forms correctly and according to the IRS time-frame. Additionally, these professionals will be able to give you personalized advice regarding your business operations and serve as a constant point of reference for general IRS business forms or tax questions you may have.
Along these lines, you may also find it helpful to utilize an accounting, payroll, or HR software to streamline your management of these respective parts of your business—all of which will be important when it comes to completing the various IRS business forms. Even if you have a professional to assist you, having your information organized, up-to-date, and easily accessible, will optimize the steps you need to take to complete and file IRS forms.
At the end of the day then, although you may have to complete several IRS forms for your business—from Form 1040-SE to W-2s to Form 941—preparing in advance and devoting adequate resources to the process will ultimately benefit you and your business in the long run.