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Estimated Taxes Safe Harbor

Tax season can be a daunting time for many individuals and businesses, especially when it comes to calculating and paying estimated taxes. To alleviate some of the complexity and uncertainty, the tax code includes safe harbor provisions. These provisions provide taxpayers with a simplified and reliable method for estimating and paying their taxes, reducing the risk of penalties and interest. In this article, we will delve into safe harbor provisions as they apply to estimated taxes, helping taxpayers navigate this aspect of their financial obligations with confidence.

What are Estimated Taxes?

Before diving into safe harbor provisions, it's essential to understand the concept of estimated taxes. Estimated taxes are periodic tax payments made by individuals and businesses to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) throughout the year. They are generally required if a taxpayer has income that is not subject to withholding, such as self-employment income, rental income, dividends, or interest. When you work for an employer that withholds taxes every paycheck, this is usually something that you do not have to worry about.

Safe Harbor Provisions Explained:

Safe harbor provisions offer taxpayers relief from penalties and interest that may arise due to underpayment of estimated taxes. They provide taxpayers with alternative methods for calculating and paying their estimated taxes, allowing for flexibility and reducing the risk of penalties.

There are primarily three safe harbor provisions available to taxpayers:

  1. 90% of the Current Year's Tax Liability: Under this safe harbor provision, taxpayers must pay at least 90% of their current year's tax liability through estimated tax payments. By meeting this requirement, taxpayers can avoid penalties and interest.

  2. 100% of the Previous Year's Tax Liability*: This provision allows taxpayers to pay 100% of their previous year's tax liability instead of calculating their current year's tax.

*NOTE: For individuals: If the taxpayer's adjusted gross income (AGI) on their previous year's tax return was $150,000 or less ($75,000 or less for married individuals filing separately), they need to pay 100% of their previous year's tax liability. If the AGI exceeds these thresholds, they must pay 110% of the previous year's tax liability.

By following these safe harbor provisions, you can avoid any penalties or fees associated with underpayment of estimated taxes. However, just because you pay the safe harbor amount, doesn't mean you wont owe taxes or be due a refund at the end of the tax year. It is important to assess your income and tax burden as the year progresses so you can ensure you do not receive an unexpected tax bill come tax day.

As always, consulting with a tax professional can provide personalized guidance and ensure compliance with the latest tax regulations. Our tax professionals can prepare your taxes, determine your estimated tax payments for the year and help coach you as the year progresses.

Author – Andy Roed

I am a tax professional and financial coach focusing primarily on helping travel agents. I am someone who is married to a travel agent, loves to travel and loves everything finance. The intersection of these passions has led me to a career that I am truly passionate about. My goal is to help travel agents get control of both their business and personal finances as well as helping to alleviate the stress with tax time.

If you found this article interesting and are interested in more like it or are looking for someone to help you with all things taxes and finance please visit me at or join our Facebook Community.

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