Payroll compliance can be a complicated process. There is employee time to keep track of, tax filing deadlines to meet and laws that change frequently.
Whether you complete payroll in-house or through a professional service, keeping current with regulations and avoiding penalties can help you avoid costly mistakes down the road.
Know Your Tax Obligations
Keeping up with payroll-related laws and regulations is an ongoing task for many small business owners. There are tax filing deadlines to remember, new hire reports, time sheets, and more. If you are careful, you can stay caught up and miss important reporting or filing dates.
For example, federal income taxes are withheld from every paycheck based on the IRS-specified methods for each employee’s wage bracket and exemptions. These taxes are reported to employees and the IRS annually on W-2 forms. Other taxes, like state and local sales or excise taxes, may also be withheld from each paycheck. You’ll need to submit these reports quarterly or annually, depending on the type of taxes your business pays.
You’ll also need to keep records of your business income and deductions and provide copies to employees upon request. Most CPAs recommend retaining these records for at least seven years, and state treasury departments may have additional record retention requirements. Another common small business payroll compliance mistake is misclassifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. If discovered, this can lead to substantial fines and back taxes the company owes.
Keep Accurate Records
The first step in payroll compliance is making sure that you have accurate records. This means capturing all relevant information, double-checking and verifying accuracy, and entering it into your accounting software or sharing it with your bookkeeper. It is also a good idea to keep personal and business purchases separate so that you can see the expenses incurred by your company.
Another common payroll compliance mistake is forgetting to file the correct tax forms on time. This includes quarterly forms, such as Form 941, and year-end forms, such as W-2s and 1099s. Missing these filing deadlines can result in fines and penalties from the IRS.
Consider working with a professional to help with payroll compliance requirements and laws. Accountants, tax advisors, and payroll specialists can help you set up your systems, calculate wages and deductions, and complete the necessary forms. Additionally, they can assist you with filing your taxes on time and ensure that you adhere to all federal and state regulations.
File Your Taxes on Time
In addition to making sure you take the right amounts out of your employees’ paychecks, you must also file the correct paperwork with the IRS on time. Some forms, like 941, must be filed quarterly, while others, such as W-2s and 1099s, must be submitted annually. One common payroll compliance mistake is missing these tax deadlines, which can lead to fines and penalties for your business.
Another important consideration when filing payroll taxes is properly classifying your workers. While there is no 100% official determination of what makes someone an independent contractor versus an employee, you should carefully consider how you classify each worker when hiring new staff and periodically reevaluate your classification processes to ensure accuracy.
To avoid these mistakes and stay compliant, you should consider working with a trusted payroll service provider to handle your small business’s payroll function. They can help you with calculations, forms, and compliance issues, freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business. In addition, they can also help you with other administrative tasks like worker compensation insurance and tax deposits.
Make Payments promptly
Payroll is one of the most complicated aspects of a business, requiring tracking employee time, calculating wages correctly, and ensuring that payroll taxes are paid properly and filing deadlines are met. Missing a deadline or paying an employee less than you should can have serious consequences, and fixing errors promptly is important.
Whether double-checking data entry or having a colleague with security clearances review it, taking steps to guarantee accurate payroll information will help you avoid penalties. Comparing payroll information against previous periods can also help catch errors that may slip through the cracks.
As a small business owner, you are legally required to follow federal and state laws that pertain to payroll. This includes meeting minimum wage and overtime laws, keeping records of employees’ work history, and following child labor standards. It’s also necessary to ensure your business has the right software and processes to meet these requirements. If you don’t, you could face significant repercussions, including fines and lost revenue for your business.
Keep Employees Up-to-Date
Payroll compliance requires adherence to federal and state employee compensation laws. This includes paying employees their correct wage amounts, withholding the proper amount of taxes from each paycheck, and adhering to local and state minimum wage and overtime laws. Additionally, if your business has workers in multiple states, you need to keep meticulous payroll records and organize files based on each worker’s condition of employment.
As we discussed above, many of these regulations change regularly. Staying current on any new rules or requirements that apply to your business is important to avoid penalties. In addition, it’s wise to run reports before they are due so you have time to review them and correct any errors.
While keeping up with payroll compliance may feel overwhelming, focusing on it regularly and ensuring your processes are working smoothly is important. By carefully considering your payroll management needs and ensuring you meet all required regulations, you can avoid costly penalties and protect your business from financial loss.