Running payroll accurately is table stakes for any business, but it’s also more difficult than new managers and business owners may realize. Between employees’ gross pay, net pay, and the various deductions that make up the difference, there’s a lot of information to keep track of. That’s where your payroll register comes in.
The payroll register is a spreadsheet that lists all of this payroll information for each employee across a given time period. You can use the payroll register to run payroll each pay period, file your payroll taxes throughout the year, and reconcile payroll as needed. Below, we’re going to lay out the exact information contained in a payroll register, tell you what you can use it for, and explain how to create your own.
What information does the payroll register show?
The payroll register should consist of a row for each employee, with columns for each of the following pieces of information for the time period you’re looking at:
- Date range for payroll register
- Employee name
- Employee ID number
- Employees’ federal tax allowances
- Pay rate
- Regular hours worked
- Overtime hours worked
- Gross pay
- Total pay withheld, with sub-columns breaking down the exact amounts withheld for:
- Federal income taxes
- State income taxes
- Local taxes
- Social security
- Net pay
Each employee’s gross pay should equal their pay rate multiplied by total hours worked, with an extra multiplier for any overtime hours. Note that you may need to make multiple entries for individual employees if they work more than one position at different pay rates within the time period you’re looking at. Net pay should then equal the gross pay minus the total pay withheld. The amount withheld will depend on a combination of your state tax rates and the allowances claimed by each employee. The bottom of the spreadsheet should also give you the totals for any of these numbers, so you can measure hours, pay, and withholding for your entire roster across the time period.
In addition to employee wage and withholding data, your payroll register can also show employer contributions for the following taxes for each employee:
- Social security
- Federal unemployment tax
- State unemployment tax
While not every payroll register has to show employer tax contributions, including them can give you a more thorough look at what your business is paying out over time and allow you to use your payroll register for more tasks.
What should I use my payroll register for?
The first and most obvious way to use the payroll register is when you’re running payroll. Pull up the payroll register for a given pay period, and you have all the information you need to pay out wages, fill in employees’ pay stubs, and set aside the appropriate amount for payroll taxes.
The payroll register is also helpful when it comes time to deposit your payroll taxes each month, file for your quarterly returns, prepare your W-2 and W-3 forms, or reconcile your payroll accounting. All you have to do is put together a payroll register for the appropriate time period and pull the total amount withheld and due from you for the different types of taxes you owe — this is also an example of why it’s useful to include employer contributions on your payroll register.
How do I create my payroll register?
If your business uses a payroll or accounting software, you should be able to use it to pull up a payroll register for any time period. The only issue is how you get your employees’ hours into that software. If you use paper timesheets or punch cards to track hours, you’ll need to enter them into your payroll software manually. If you use a workforce management software or similarly automated timekeeping program, you can import your employees’ time and attendance data instantly.
If you’re not using a payroll software, then the entire process will be manual. Head to any office supplies store and buy a blank payroll register. From there, you’ll need to keep the register up to date with each employees’ hours throughout each payroll period and manually calculate their gross pay. You’ll then need to calculate how much to withhold for each type of tax and subtract that to get net pay — you can use the IRS’ withholding tables to figure out what to withhold for federal taxes, and find similar tables for state taxes on your state’s Department of Revenue website.