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That says to me that making a large payment for the 4th quarter isn't enough to mitigate making payments that were too small for the first 3 quarters.


It is how timely is defined. I believe it means that quarterly payments are made on time and are sufficient to meet a safe harbor. If it means only that quarterly payments are made on time but may be insufficient to meet a safe harbor then your statement is correct.

IRS instructions are not authoritative. You need to look to the Code and Regs.

26 CFR 1.6153-1 Payment of Estimated Tax by Individuals
(a)In general.

(1) The time for payment of the estimated tax by individuals for calendar years shall be as follows:

Date of filing declaration Dates of payment of estimated tax
(i) On or before April 15 In 4 equal installments - one at time of filing declaration, one on or before June 15, one on or before September 15, and one on or before January 15 of the succeeding taxable year ...

[The original is in a table format. I couldn't duplicate it here. Additional subparagraphs address the procedure when the estimated declaration isn't required until later in the year and other special situations not relevant to this discussion.]

Based on the language of the Reg, "timely payment" is both on-time and in the correct amount.

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