7 Steps For an Accurate and Successful Corporate Tax Return Filing

Navigating corporate tax compliance can be intricate for businesses, given the diverse filing requirements across states, localities, and international jurisdictions, alongside ever-evolving tax laws. This guide outlines the process of […]

Navigating corporate tax compliance can be intricate for businesses, given the diverse filing requirements across states, localities, and international jurisdictions, alongside ever-evolving tax laws. This guide outlines the process of preparing and filing corporate income tax returns.

Do all corporations need to file income tax returns? Yes, every U.S. company with net income must file a corporate income tax return. However, whether they owe income tax varies. For instance, limited liability companies (LLCs) aren’t separate tax entities and usually don’t pay federal income tax (although some states may require LLCs to pay).

Understanding your tax obligations at the federal, state, and local levels is paramount for any business owner. This knowledge guides you in the accurate filing and timely payment of taxes. The choice of your business structure at the outset dictates the taxes you’ll be responsible for and how you’ll fulfill these obligations. In this article, we provide valuable insights into Federal Corporate Income Tax, Corporate Tax Return procedures, and a comprehensive overview of different taxes in the USA.

Being well-versed in the correct and punctual tax submission processes allows you to dedicate more attention to managing your business, rather than grappling with tax paperwork from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A crucial identifier for your business is the Employer Identification Number (EIN), often referred to as the federal tax ID number. While not mandatory for all businesses, most require an EIN for tax purposes. The IRS mandates EIN registration under certain circumstances:

  • If your business has employees, an EIN is necessary for tax administration.
  • Your business structure may be a partnership or another legal entity.
  • If you maintain a tax-advantaged retirement plan.
  • When withholding taxes on payments to non-resident aliens.
  • For filing tax returns related to Employment, Excise, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
  • In cases involving trusts, estates, real estate investments, non-profit organizations, farmer’s cooperatives, or plan administrators, among others.

Varieties of Taxes in the United States

The taxes a business must handle primarily depend on two key factors: the nature of the business and the state in which it operates. Here, we outline various corporate taxes as administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

  • Estimated Taxes: Freelancers, solo entrepreneurs, S corporation shareholders, and partners are obliged to make projected tax payments if they anticipate owing $1,000 or more when they file their returns. These estimated taxes are paid quarterly, and for new business owners, accurately determining the quarterly amount can be challenging. Precision is crucial, as failure to pay or underpayment can result in penalties. To assess whether your business falls under this category and to compute the amount owed, consult the IRS’s estimated tax guide.
  • Excise Taxes: Excise taxes are levied when specific items, like gasoline, are purchased, often incorporated into the item’s price. They apply to a wide array of businesses, with gasoline being a notable example. Other items and services subject to excise taxes include motor fuel, airline tickets, tobacco, alcohol, and certain health-related goods. For an extensive list, visit the IRS’s excise tax website.
  • Income Taxes: All business entities, except partnerships, are required to report and pay taxes on their annual income. While nearly every state imposes a form of corporate income tax, each state has its distinct tax regulations. It’s essential to comprehend your state and municipal income tax obligations when preparing your annual business taxes.
  • Self-Employment Taxes: Self-employment tax is a contribution towards Social Security and Medicare, securing your access to benefits such as retirement, disability, survivor, and Medicare coverage through Social Security.

Different Types of Taxes in the USA

Tax obligations in the United States are primarily influenced by two key factors: The nature of your business and The location in which you operate. Below, we outline various corporate taxes overseen by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

  1. Estimated Taxes: Freelancers, solo entrepreneurs, S corporation shareholders, and partners who anticipate owing $1,000 or more upon filing their returns must make quarterly estimated tax payments. For those new to business, calculating these quarterly payments accurately can pose a challenge. Precision is crucial because failing to pay the correct amount or underpaying can lead to penalties. To determine if this tax applies to your business and to ascertain the amount owed, consult the IRS’s estimated tax guide.
  2. Excise Taxes: These taxes are levied when specific items, like gasoline, are purchased, often included in the product’s price. Excise taxes apply to a broad spectrum of businesses, with gasoline being a notable example. Other items and services subject to excise taxes encompass motor fuel, airline tickets, tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and various health-related products and services. For a comprehensive list, refer to the IRS’s website on excise taxes.
  3. Income Taxes: Apart from partnerships, all business entities are required to file and pay taxes on their annual income. Corporate Income Tax is enforced in nearly every state, each having its unique tax regulations. It’s essential to comprehend the specifics of Income Tax obligations at both state and municipal levels when preparing your business taxes for the year.
  4. Self-Employment Taxes: Self-employment taxes contribute to Social Security and Medicare coverage. These taxes fund programs such as retirement benefits, disability support, survivor benefits, and Medicare services, all provided through Social Security.

Corporate Tax Filing in the USA

Corporations have the responsibility of submitting tax returns and making payments to the federal government, the state in which they are incorporated, and any states and municipalities where they conduct business. Additionally, corporations may be tasked with collecting and remitting certain taxes paid by others. Non-compliance with reporting or tax obligations can lead to penalties, ranging from interest and fines to potential revocation of a corporation’s license to operate within the state that enforces these obligations.

A corporation can find itself navigating a multitude of tax and reporting obligations, which encompass:

Federal Corporate Income Tax

  • C-Corporations: These entities must file federal tax returns and settle federal income taxes. C corporations encounter double taxation since their income is taxed at both the corporate and personal levels when distributed to shareholders as dividends.
  • S-Corporations: S-corporations are exempt from corporate income taxes. Instead, their earnings and expenses are passed on to shareholders, who report these on their individual tax returns. To qualify as an S corporation, specific tax law criteria must be met, and formal approval via submission to the IRS is required, gaining consent from all shareholders.

State Corporate Income Tax

  • State-level corporate income taxes often mirror federal taxation. State tax statutes frequently make direct references to the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Typically, state corporate income taxes are net income taxes, focusing on the taxable portion of a corporation’s gross income. This is calculated by adjusting federal taxable income with statutory additions, subtractions, and modifications.
  • When a corporation conducts business or earns income within its state of incorporation, it automatically becomes subject to that state’s corporate income tax.

Property Tax

Property taxes are relevant to corporations, akin to individuals and other business entities. These taxes are imposed on property ownership or usage, including the property’s assessed value.

Property taxes encompass real estate, tangible personal property, and intangible personal property.

  • Real Property: This category includes land, buildings, structures, improvements, and fixtures on the land.
  • Tangible Personal Property: This refers to physical items subject to ownership (excluding money) and not considered part of any real property.
  • Intangible Personal Property: These are assets like notes, bonds, stocks, and financial commitments that represent a specific value. Property tax on real estate is levied in every state, while tangible personal property tax is applicable in many states. Intangible personal property tax applies in fewer states.

Here’s a streamlined guide to preparing and filing corporate tax returns:

  1. Determine Your Corporation Type: Begin by identifying whether your corporation is a C corporation or an S corporation. By default, most U.S. corporations are C corporations. You have the option to choose S corporation status, which passes tax obligations to owners’ personal tax reporting.
  2. Identify Tax Deductions: Calculate the tax deductions available for write-offs. The IRS permits deductions for current business expenses, necessary operational costs, specific investments, real estate purchases, employee compensation, certain taxes, insurance payments, and more. Section 162 of the Internal Revenue Code outlines allowable business expenses.
  3. Pay Estimated Taxes: Estimate your tax liability on the net income. If you’re a C corporation, make quarterly estimated tax payments to state and federal authorities. S corporations usually pass tax responsibilities to shareholders, so they typically don’t pay income taxes. However, S corporations may need to pay estimated tax in certain situations, such as when they have built-in gains, excess net passive-income tax, or investment credit recapture tax totaling $500 or more. C corporations often must pay estimated taxes to one or more states.
  4. File Your Federal Tax Return on Time:
    • C corporations use Form 1120 for federal income tax filing, while S corporations use Form 1120-S. Shareholders of S corporations report their share of income through a Schedule K-1 on their personal returns.
    • C corporations generally file by the 15th day of the fourth month after their fiscal year-end, which is typically April 15 for those ending on Dec. 31. The exception is corporations with a fiscal year ending on June 30, which must file by Sept. 15.
    • S corporations usually file by the 15th day of the third month, typically March 15.
    • You can request a 6-month extension to file using IRS Form 7004, but it doesn’t extend the payment due date.
    • Penalties for late filing range from 5% of outstanding tax, increasing over time.
    • E-filing is mandatory for C and S corporations through approved software or authorized tax professionals.
  5. File State Tax Returns on Time:
    • Corporate income tax due dates vary by state, although many align with federal deadlines.
    • State filing requirements, tax types, and calculations differ by state, including gross receipts taxes in some states.
    • State tax obligations depend on factors like apportionment, corporate tax rates, deduction rules, and payment schedules, which vary by jurisdiction.
  6. File Local Tax Returns on Time: Corporations may have tax obligations to local jurisdictions, including cities, counties, or regions. While local authorities might not always require estimated tax payments, it’s crucial to understand and comply with local tax regulations that pertain to your business. Typically, local tax return due dates align with state taxes, but it’s wise to verify this information before submitting.
  7. Address International Taxation: For U.S.-based companies engaged in international business, navigating global corporate tax requirements is essential. These businesses must adhere to specialized rules and guidelines for filing and paying taxes on a global scale. Additionally, the IRS permits companies to apply for a foreign tax credit, which offsets U.S. tax liabilities by accounting for taxes paid to other countries on income generated from international operations.


In the complex realm of corporate taxation, a precise and successful tax return filing is paramount. These seven steps serve as a foundational guide to navigating the intricacies of corporate tax compliance. However, the corporate tax landscape is multifaceted and ever-evolving. Should you encounter challenges or uncertainties, don’t hesitate to seek the expertise of our professionals. With their guidance, you can ensure a smooth and accurate corporate tax return filing that aligns with your financial objectives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary for every corporation to file a tax return?

No, not all corporations need to pay income tax. C corporations and S corporations are the primary types, and their tax obligations differ. C corporations pay corporate income taxes, while S corporations pass tax obligations through to their shareholders.

How can I determine my corporation’s tax deductions?

Corporations can deduct various business expenses necessary for operation, employee salaries, certain investments, and more. Section 162 of the Internal Revenue Code outlines allowable business expenses.

Do S corporations need to pay estimated taxes?

Generally, S corporations don’t pay income taxes themselves, but their shareholders do. However, S corporations may need to pay estimated taxes on specific taxes, such as built-in gains or passive income.

Are local tax returns necessary for corporations?

Local taxing authorities may require tax payments from corporations in addition to federal and state taxes. Due dates and requirements for local taxes can vary, so it’s essential to check the rules that apply to your business.

Do U.S.-based companies engaged in international business have to file international taxes?

Yes, U.S. businesses with international operations must adhere to specialized rules for filing corporate taxes globally. The IRS permits companies to claim a foreign tax credit to offset U.S. tax obligations for income earned abroad.

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