10 Frequently Asked Questions About Payroll Processing

by Ken Boyd

5 min read

Processing payroll is one of the most complex and time-consuming tasks a business must complete. If you’re new to the process, payroll can be confusing. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about payroll.

What Is an EIN?

The IRS issues employee identification number (EIN) numbers. This 9-digit number is used on federal and state tax filings for businesses, including payroll tax reporting documents. You can apply for an EIN through IRS.gov.

The EIN number can be used for a variety of business entities, including sole proprietorships, S corporations and C corporations. Assume, for example, that you operate a C corporation, Ganz Manufacturing. Your corporation can operate under more than one fictitious name, and you can use the same EIN number. Ganz Furniture and Ganz Tool and Die, for example, could be fictitious names used by the same corporation.

This policy simplifies the tax filing process. You’ll need to register your fictitious names in the state where your business is headquartered.

What Is an I-9 Form?

Employers use Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals. Every U.S. employer must have a completed Form I-9 for each worker hired, whether or not the individual is a U.S. citizen. To complete the form, an employee provides documents as evidence of their identity, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport.

An employer must retain each Form I-9 for a specific period of time, and a state or federal government official may ask to inspect the forms. Government agencies review I-9 forms to verify that each employee is authorized to work in the U.S.

What Is a W-4 Form?

Each worker completes IRS Form W-4 to indicate the amount of tax withheld from gross pay for federal income taxes. Employees complete similar forms for state income tax withholding.

How Do I Determine Payroll Taxes?

Once a W-4 is completed, the employer uses IRS guidelines to calculate the dollar amount of federal income taxes withheld. Each state has similar guidelines to calculate state tax withholdings.

The payment schedules are published in IRS Publication 15.

What Does Withholding Actually Mean?

Withholding refers to the dollar amount of federal and state income taxes that an employer collects from a worker’s gross pay. The dollar amount is determined based on the IRS W-4 form and the state’s withholding form. The company sends the taxes withheld to the IRS and the state’s department of revenue.

The dollar amounts withheld are reported to the worker on Form W-2 after year-end. It’s the employee’s responsibility to file their personal tax return and calculate their tax liability. The worker subtracts the W-2 taxes withholdings from the tax liability, and any remaining amount of taxes owed should be paid when the tax return is filed. This process applied to both federal and state taxes.

What Are Third-Party Liabilities?

In addition to withholding taxes, employers may also withhold the worker’s share of payments for insurance premiums, retirement plan investments, and other benefits. The worker decides on the amounts withheld for the payments. Once these payments are withheld from gross pay, the employer forwards the payments to each third party (insurance company, investment firm, etc.).

When Do I Need to File W-2s and 1099s?

W-2 and 1099 forms are issued for different reasons. A W-2 is issued to an employee to report gross wages earned, tax withholdings, and other withholdings from gross pay. If you have wages withheld to pay for insurance premiums or to fund a retirement plan, those amounts are reported on a W-2.

The IRS requires employers to mail W-2 forms to workers no later than January 31st of the year following the end of the tax year. So, 2017 W-2s must be mailed by January 31st of 2018.

If your firm has paid at least $600 to a vendor for a product or service, you must issue a 1099-MISC form to that vendor. Freelance workers are considered vendors and are issued a 1099-MISC form. The IRS also requires employers to mail 1099-MISC forms to vendors no later than January 31st of the year following the end of the tax year. The employer combines all of the 1099 issued and reports them to the IRS on Form 1096.

What Is Workers’ Comp Insurance?

Businesses purchase workers’ comp (compensation) insurance policies to pay for medical care and other costs if a worker is injured or killed while working on the job. The insurance policy pays for medical expenses and makes payments to the injured party based on a state’s workers’ compensation laws.

The insurance premiums are based on the total dollar amount of payroll a company pays, and the type of work performed the employees. If workers perform manual labor or work in jobs that expose them to physical injury (such as construction), the insurance premiums will be higher.

Construction, engineering and other firms that have a higher risk for worker injury need to have safety plans in place to reduce the risk of workplace injuries. If you can limit worker injuries, you can keep your insurance premiums at a reasonable level.

Am I Required to Have Labor Law Posters?

There are state and federal labor law poster requirements for businesses. The posters address worker rights related to the federal minimum wage, equal employment rights, and worker safety, among others. Companies can purchase “all-in-one” posters for both federal and state labor law requirements. The posters should be displayed so that employees can see them each day. The posters are typically posted in a break room.

What Does a Payroll Company Do?

A payroll company can perform many of the complex tasks required to process payroll accurately. To get started with a payroll company, a business provides the gross pay and withholding amounts for each employee. The payroll company uses current tax laws to calculate the correct tax withholdings and also withholds any benefit payments.

You can give a payroll company access to your corporate bank account, so that the company can send each net pay amount to employees. This outside firm submits the payments withheld to the IRS, state revenue departments, and any other third parties. The company will complete all payroll reports and create W-2s and 1099s at year-end.

Every business should consider using a payroll company. This decision will help you save time and ensure that your payroll processing is accurate.

QuickBooks offers a number of payroll solutions ranging from simply cutting checks to full-service payroll. All payroll products integrate directly with your accounting software to keep your books in order with less work.

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