Estimated tax paymentsEstimated tax installments

Overview

Estimated tax is the tax you expect to owe for the current tax year after subtracting:

  • Credits you plan to take
  • Tax you expect to have withheld

Typically if you have an employer, tax payments are automatically deducted from your check and sent to us. When you file a tax return, you find out if you’ve:

  • Paid too much (you get a refund)
  • Paid too little (you owe taxes)

If you expect to owe over a certain amount, you must make estimated tax payments throughout the year.

How to pay

Online
To make your payment online. Visit our payment options.
Mail
Franchise Tax Board
PO Box 942867
Sacramento CA 94267-0008
  • Use Estimated Tax for Individuals (Form 540-ES) vouchers to pay your estimated tax by mail
  • Make your check or money order payable to the “Franchise Tax Board”
  • Write your SSN or ITIN and “2020 Form 540-ES” on it

There is a separate payment form for each due date. Be sure you use the form with the correct due date shown in the top margin of the form.

Visit Instructions for Form 540-ES for more information.

Who must pay

Generally, you must make estimated tax payments if in 2020 you expect to owe at least:

  • $500
  • $250 if married/RDP filing separately

And, you expect your withholding and credits to be less than the smaller of one of the following:

  • 90% of current year’s tax
  • 100% of prior year’s tax (including alternative minimum tax)

Example:

Mr. Smith’s tax liability was:
  • $2,000 in 2020 (current year). 90% is $1,800
  • $1,000 in 2019 (prior year). 100% is $1,000
Since the prior year amount is less than the current year, Mr. Smith must pay at least $1,000 in 4 payments.

Limit on the use of prior year’s tax

If you’re required to make estimated tax payments and your 2019 California adjusted gross income is more than:

  • $150,000
  • $75,000 if married/RDP filing separately

Then you must base your estimated tax based on the lesser of:

  • 90% of your tax for 2020
  • 110% of your tax for 2019 (including alternative minimum tax)

This rule does not apply to farmers or fishermen.

Example:

Mrs. Smith’s tax liability was:
  • $5,000 in 2020 (current year). 90% is $4,500
  • $3,000 in 2019 (prior year). 110% is $3,300
Since the prior year amount is less than the current year, Mrs. Smith must pay at least $3,300 in 4 payments.

High income estimated tax

If your 2020 California adjusted gross income is equal to or greater than:

  • $1,000,000
  • $500,000 if married/RDP filing separately

You must pay your estimated tax based on 90% of your tax for 2020.

Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Grant’s 2020 joint AGI was $1,250,000. Their tax liability was:
  • $127,518 in 2020 (current year). 90% is $114,766

How to calculate

Use the California Estimated Tax Worksheet in the Instructions for Form 540-ES to calculate your estimated tax.

Recalculating your estimated tax for each payment may increase accuracy.

When to pay

Your tax payments are due in 4 payments. California differs from federal. To avoid a penalty, you must pay on or before the below dates.

Payment Amount Due date
1 30% July 15, 2020
2 40% July 15, 2020
3 0% September 15, 2020
4 30% January 15, 2021

Check your estimated tax

Login or register for MyFTB to view estimated payments you’ve already made.