A church recently received notification of its new federal Employer's Identification Number (EIN) which stated that it must file Form 940, Form 941, and Form 1120. Why does the church have to file these and can it avoid doing so?
Churches as tax exempt organizations are not subject to filing corporate income tax returns (Form 1120). Further, as tax exempt organizations, churches are not subject to federal unemployment tax (Form 940).
Most churches are however responsible to file Form 941 on a quarterly basis. On this form, churches report employee earnings and withholdings, and employer taxes due.
Form 944 may be requested instead of Form 941. But a new employer must request the opt out by calling or writing the IRS. For the opt-out deadline, see Rev. Proc. 2009-51: Rev. Proc. 2009-51. Smaller churches will find it advantageous to file the Form 944 as it is filed only once a year.
However, some small churches with only a solo-pastor who has no federal withholding submit only an annual Form W-2 and file neither Form 941 nor Form 944. Be aware, once a church begins filing Form 941 or Form 944, the church needs to continue filing even if the church has no employees for a period of time.