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Chris11
New Member

If I make a lump estimated tax payment in the 4th quarter, enough to make me hit 110% of my 2017 taxes, can I avoid an underpayment penalty?

I sold a lot of stock to buy a home, and from what I understand you are supposed to make timely payments (i.e. in the quarter you had the gains) to avoid a penalty. However, I am wondering if the safe harbor of paying 110% of my 2017 taxes will let me defer paying until years end so I can set that money aside to earn some interest in the meantime.

1 Reply
TomYoung
Level 13

If I make a lump estimated tax payment in the 4th quarter, enough to make me hit 110% of my 2017 taxes, can I avoid an underpayment penalty?

Well, it might, but only if most of your income comes in in the last quarter of the year and then you "annualize" your income to calculate the underpayment penalty.

The underpayment penalty is calculated on a quarter by quarter basis.  The first pass of the calculation assumes that your income comes in evenly throughout the year.  So if you delay paying estimated taxes until the final payment is due in January, 2019 it's clear that you'd end up "underpaid" for the first 3 quarters of the year, incurring an underpayment penalty for each quarter, even though you paid 110% of last year's tax liability.

There is an alternative way of calculating the penalty if, in fact, your income does come in very unevenly through the year: that's called "annualization" and it consists of scheduling out your actual receipt of income for each quarter.  Then you calculate any underpayment penalty based on that income flow vs. withholding and estimated tax payments made on a timely basis for that quarter.

Assuming you had no withholding during a year and only made your 110% estimated tax payment in January, 2019 the only way you could avoid having an underpayment penalty would be if all your income came to you in the 4th quarter.


Tom Young

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