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Each quarter stands alone, and income spikes in one quarter do not allow putting off payment of taxes due to another quarter.

(I could interpret that to read that we made more money in the first quarter and therefore we owe more taxes for the first quarter than we will have paid in with the first quarter's Estimated Tax payment.)

Yes. So in the simplest case, let's say I am not working and had all $40k of my gains from stocks in the 1st quarter. For estimated taxes, I would have to pay all of the estimated taxes in the Q1 estimated taxes payment, instead of spreading the total out between the 4 quarters.

But as you pointed out, your other option is the safe harbor rule to pay 100% (depending on your income level) of your 2001 taxes, in which case you can just spread those out equally.

I don't think the estimated taxes take into account you consistently making all of your money in the 1st quarter. But take a look at the forms you would have to fill out at tax time and run through a sample now. It's been 2 years since I had to fill that one out, so I don't remember the exact wording.

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