Taxes must be paid as you earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. If the amount of income tax withheld from your salary or pension is not enough, or if you receive income such as interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains, prizes and awards, you may have to make estimated tax payments. If you are in business for yourself, you generally need to make estimated tax payments. Estimated tax is used to pay not only income tax, but other taxes such as self-employment tax and alternative minimum tax.
If you don’t pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, you may be charged a penalty. You also may be charged a penalty if your estimated tax payments are late, even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return.
Individuals, including sole proprietors, partners, and S corporation shareholders, generally have to make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when their return is filed.
Corporations generally have to make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe tax of $500 or more when their return is filed.
You may have to pay estimated tax for the current year if your tax was more than zero in the prior year. See the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals (PDF), or Form 1120-W, Estimated Tax for Corporations (PDF), for more details on who must pay estimated tax.
You don’t have to pay estimated tax for the current year if you meet all three of the following conditions.
You had no tax liability for the prior year
You were a U.S. citizen or resident for the whole year
Your prior tax year covered a 12-month period