Paying Estimated Tax to Avoid Penalties

With more and more people deriving income from a variety of sources, including side jobs, self-employment and “gig economy” work, the IRS has reported a substantial increase in the number of Americans who underpay federal income tax during the year. Underpayment can lead to an unpleasant spring tax surprise, including substantial penalties and interest charges.
If a significant portion of your income is not subject to paycheck withholding, you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid incurring an Estimated Tax Penalty for 2020. Common income types that may necessitate making estimated tax payments include:
– Business income, which includes rental income, as well as income from self-employment and “gig economy” work (working for a rideshare service, mowing lawns, etc.)
– Royalties and grants, including grants in support of artistic or educational endeavors
– Interest, dividend and alimony payments
– Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Social Security benefits
It is critical for those who have received UI benefits in 2020 to learn whether they must make estimated tax payments before the year ends. Many state unemployment agencies have not withheld taxes from the federal $600-per-week federal UI benefit that was paid under the CARES Act from late March through July, or from the temporary $300 weekly federal UI payment recently implemented by Executive Order. Therefore, even those who had tax withheld from their UI benefits may not have paid enough in federal taxes to avoid penalties.
The IRS encourages Americans who have received any form of non-employee income in 2020 to do a midyear tax checkup, and begin making estimated tax payments immediately if necessary. The third-quarter estimated tax payment deadline was September 15, 2020, but those who missed the deadline can minimize penalties by making a payment as soon as possible. Fourth-quarter estimated tax payments are due January 15, 2021, although taxpayers may generally skip the fourth-quarter payment if they file a 2020 return and pay all tax due by February 1, 2021.
In most cases, taxpayers will avoid 2020 tax penalties if their paycheck withholding and/or estimated tax payments for the year add up to at least 90% of their 2020 tax, or 100% of their 2019 tax, whichever is lower. A tax professional can help you determine whether you need to make estimated tax payments this year, along with when and how much to pay.
IRS online payment portal: