Estimated tax payments

Overview

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

  • The 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.

Who must pay

Generally, you must make estimated tax payments if in 2019 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 2019 (current year). 90% is $1,800
  • $1,000 in 2018 (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 quarterly payments.

Limit on the use of prior year’s tax

If you’re required to make estimated tax payments and your 2018 California adjusted gross income is more than:

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

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

  • 90% of your tax for 2019
  • 110% if your tax for 2018 (including alternative minimum tax)

This rule does not apply to farmers or fishermen.

Example:

Mrs. Smith’s tax liability was:
  • $5,000 in 2019 (current year). 90% is $4,500
  • $3,000 in 2018 (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 quarterly payments.

High income estimated tax

If your 2019 California adjusted gross income is equal to or greater than:

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

You must figure and pay your estimated tax based on at least 90% of your tax for 2019.

Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Grant’s 2019 joint AGI was $1,250,000. Their tax liability was:
  • $127,518 in 2019 (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.

When to pay

Estimated tax payments are made once per quarter. California differs from federal. To avoid a penalty, you must pay at least:

  • 30% in the 1st quarter. Payment due date: April 15, 2019
  • 40% in the 2nd quarter. Payment due date: June 17, 2019
  • 0% in the 3rd quarter. Payment due date: September 16, 2019
  • 30% in the 4th quarter. Payment due date: January 15, 2020

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 “2019 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.

Check your estimated tax

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