944 vs 941: Which is Right for You and How to Fill Them

Employers tend to get confused when it comes to reporting wages and taxes on a quarterly or annual basis. Forms 944 and 941 being the most common solutions, the question remains when to file 941 vs 944. Read below to find out if you are a 944 vs 941 payer.

Form 941 vs 944: General

Form 941 and Form 944 are both tax return forms that are to be filed to the Internal Revenue Service, mostly known by its abbreviated name IRS. But what is 941 vs 944?

The two forms also have a similar purpose. Both are used to report wages paid to employees as well as taxes withheld, which can be broken up more specifically into employee wages and tips, federal income taxes withheld, social security taxes withheld, taxes under Medicare, and research payroll tax credit if you have a small business that qualifies for it.

The key 941 vs 944 difference is the filing frequency, the former being a quarterly form and the latter, annual. However, it’s not your personal preferences regarding this aspect that determine which to use. Rather, you need to find out whether you qualify as a 941 vs 944 employer.

Small Business Employee vs Regular Employee: Form 944 vs Form 941

When it comes to the type of employer, 941 vs 944 is all about how much federal income taxes you withhold.

Form 941 is way more common than its counterpart because it is designed for regular employees, that is, all businesses except for those whose federal income taxes withheld over the year make under 1,000 USD.

If you withhold less than this, you are a small business eligible to use Form 944. This requires a written notification from the IRS. You can send a written request or call the service’s phone number if you haven’t received one. A notification will follow if your request is accepted.

New employers can also be eligible for Form 944. This would require them to enter information regarding the highest number of employees expected in the next year as well as the tax liability they expect.  

Tax Form 944 vs 941: What Counts

It is not uncommon for people dealing with the dilemma of US Government Form 944 vs 941 to also wonder what kind of information either form reports. The short answer to this question would be wages and taxes.

Each time an employer pays wages to their employees, they are expected to withhold a certain amount of taxes. These include social security tax, Medicare tax, and federal income tax.

Both 944 and 941 are to be filed even if you have zero tax to report. However, specific exceptions apply to 941 filers (see Pros and Cons). You also don’t need to file 944 or 941 if you have filed a final return the previous year.

941 Filer vs 944 Filer

An important aspect of 941 vs 944, employer’s annual tax return form 944 is to be filed on a yearly basis by January 31, while the due dates for the quarterly 944 are April 30, July 31, October 31, and January 31.

There is no difference in filing 941 vs 944 with the IRS. Either mail or e-file can be used, the latter being the recommended option because it is less susceptible to delays (these are penalizable).

940 vs 941 vs 944

As soon as you have determined your kind of payer, 941 vs 944 seems to be a settled question. Yet, there’s another form that often adds to the confusion, namely 940.

Form 940 deals with federal unemployment taxes, or FUTA, used to make compensation funds for those who have lost their jobs. The reason it is not covered by either of the two forms in question is because you don’t withhold money from employees’ wages for the sake of FUTA.

Whether you use IRS form 944 vs 941 has little to do with 940, just like with W2 941 vs 944. You need to file it on an annual basis if you meet the qualification requirements. These include employing somebody for at least 20 weeks, not necessarily consecutive, over the course of the calendar year, whether full-time or part-time, or paying wages of no less than 1,500 USD to any employee over the same period.

Form 941 vs 940: Pros and Cons

Here is a table comparing the pros and cons of being a 941 vs 944 payer made to clarify the difference for you.

Please note that you cannot answer the question, “How do i know if I file a 944 vs 941?” based on this table. Instead, see Small Business Employee vs Regular Employee to find out if you are a 941 vs 944 depositer.

941 (Regular Employee)

1. Can be filed either by mail or by e-file;
2. Default withheld tax amount reporting form for business owners;
3. No special request or notification needed;
4. Exceptions granted to seasonal employers when there are no taxes or wages.
1. Quarterly filings;
2. Has to be filed even if no taxes have been withheld (unless a final return was filed in the prior year or you qualify for an exception, see Pros).

944 (Small Business Employee)

1. To be filed annually
2. Can be filed either by mail or by e-file
3. Can be filed by February 11 if you have made your tax deposits in full for the year.
1. Requires an IRS notification to be accepted
2. Has to be filed even if no taxes have been withheld (unless a final return was filed in the prior year)


This section contains the answers to some common questions concerning 941 vs 944 forms.

What are the rules for a 941 vs 944?

The question of when do you use a 944 vs a 941 is all about your employer type (see below for more detail). Otherwise, the rules are similar. When it comes to federal filing, 941 vs 944 differ in terms of deadlines (read below). The former is to be submitted on a quarterly basis, while the latter is an annual option. Both are to be filed even when there are no wages or taxes, with some exceptions for 941.

Which is the type of employer: 941 vs 944?

Small businesses withholding not more than 1,000 USD of taxes over a year, and some new businesses are eligible for 944 provided that they have received an IRS notification. Regular employers are to file 941. Note that household employers and farm employers are not expected to use 941. Special versions of 941 exist for employees who aren’t subject to income tax withholding according to US legislation. When it comes to a self employment form, 944 vs 941 are both inapplicable.

When to file 941 vs 944?

Reporting frequency is the key difference of 941 vs 944 IRS forms. 941 is quarterly, with due dates on April 30, July 31, October 31, and January 31 for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter, respectively. The annual 944 form is to be filed not later than January 31 each year.

Of the two IRS forms here, 944 is the annual option. Please mind that it’s not just about frequency but rather your payer type (discussed above), so make sure you qualify for annual reporting before you use 944.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *