Payroll Accounting

It is the practice of documenting records for employee remuneration.

Author: Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Investment Banking | Private Equity

Mr. Arora is an experienced private equity investment professional, with experience working across multiple markets. Rohan has a focus in particular on consumer and business services transactions and operational growth. Rohan has also worked at Evercore, where he also spent time in private equity advisory.

Rohan holds a BA (Hons., Scholar) in Economics and Management from Oxford University.

Reviewed By: Patrick Curtis
Patrick Curtis
Patrick Curtis
Private Equity | Investment Banking

Prior to becoming our CEO & Founder at Wall Street Oasis, Patrick spent three years as a Private Equity Associate for Tailwind Capital in New York and two years as an Investment Banking Analyst at Rothschild.

Patrick has an MBA in Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School and a BA in Economics from Williams College.

Last Updated:November 22, 2023

What is Payroll Accounting?

The payroll department is responsible for paying all of an organization's employees. It is the practice of documenting records for employee remuneration. Payroll accountants play a key role in ensuring that records are filed accurately, that employees are paid appropriately for finished work, and that financial processes run smoothly.

In this article, we'll go over what payroll accounting is, what it entails, some instances of the idea, and how to get started with it.

Employee compensation data, such as money withdrawn from each paycheck, taxes, and benefits received, are filed and tracked through it. 

Payroll accountants use financial journal entries to describe an organization's activities and overall cash flow. Payroll entries are part of a general ledger, which organizes all financial data.

Human resources may extract all of an employee's payroll information and submit it to their manager for inclusion in their performance review.

It is only concerned with all employee-related company expenditures. Payroll may be made easier using accounting software. Payroll accounting may assist organizations in effectively expanding and avoiding overextension.

Every business needs accounting, but has anyone ever heard of payroll accounting? As the name implies, this accounting specialization focuses on everything related to payroll - not just salaries and wages but also benefit expenses and payroll taxes.

Payroll provides a better knowledge of each employee's cost, which is critical for sensible growth.

Regardless of someone’s sector, the best accounting software can help anyone better understand their payroll and how it affects the bottom line.

Without comprehensive payroll accounting records, determining an employee's cost is practically difficult.

Whether someone manages payroll in-house or outsourced to a payroll agency, be sure someone’s payroll and accounting software are tightly integrated.

This not only gives anyone a better idea of how much each person costs their company, but it also helps someone plan for future growth and selects when to hire additional employees.

Smart business managers keep a careful eye on every dollar that comes in and goes out, especially when it comes to the most expensive expenditure - their employees.

importance payroll accounting

It is a system for keeping track of payroll-related company costs. Employee compensation, payroll taxes, employer parts of federal benefit withholdings, employee benefit payments, and other deductions are all included.

Payroll accounting software ensures that anyone not only keeps track of their payroll bills but also that they follow all local, state, and federal employment requirements and don't break any tax laws.

Without payroll accounting, someone can't obtain an accurate picture of his employees' entire costs.

When anyone needs to expand their workforce, it can be tough to grasp the extra cost of each new person they recruit and determine whether to hire full-time employees, contractors, or part-time hourly workers.

Professionals who focus on the necessity of it are needed inside an organization that aspires for good business and office administration and wishes to comprehend tax legislation.

It is critical not just from a financial management standpoint but also from a legal and technological standpoint.

So, in terms of finances, someone wants to make sure that he is paying employees the right amounts, that they're being paid appropriately, and that the company isn't splurging money in the wrong places.

From a legal standpoint, someone will normally be required to record what he is paying his employees to the Treasury, or in this case, SARS, so that they can appropriately monitor tax and payroll deductions and match them up with tax returns for the firm and the persons being paid.

In terms of the law, anyone’s company must follow optimum tax procedures. A company must declare employee wages to SARS and pay the appropriate tax on behalf of its employees.

This is done so that SARS may compare the amount of tax received from each employee to the amount of tax payable after the tax year.

What is included in payroll accounting?

Payroll accountants must use their analytical abilities to enter pertinent data into the ledger appropriately. For financial and regulatory considerations, all costs, obligations, and assets must be documented.

Here's a complete list of things someone should include in his employee compensation documentation:

  1. Salary, bonuses, and commissions are all included in the gross salary.
  2. Employer and employee taxes are withheld.
  3. Salary, insurance premiums, and savings plans are all withheld.
  4. Expenses for employer-provided fringe perks

1. Salary, bonuses, and commissions are all included in the gross salary.

  • Someone must account for all of an employee's wages within the fiscal year. 
  • This covers the yearly salary, supplementary compensation, and, if appropriate, overtime pay. 
  • Check with someone’s boss and human resources to see whether overtime compensation has been granted for a specific employee if his company offers it. 
  • Someone should also check to see whether any workers were paid a commission on sales they completed for the company.

2. Employer and employee taxes are withheld.

The amount of tax withdrawn from an employee's salary must be tracked separately. When employees fill out their W-4 form on the first day of work, they can choose how much they wish to withhold.

The following are some instances of taxes deducted from an employee's paycheck that cost employers:

  • Income taxes levied by the federal government
  • Taxes on Social Security
  • Taxes on Medicare
  • Income taxes levied by the state (if necessary)

3. Salary, insurance premiums, and savings plans are all withheld.

  • Employers may withhold a portion of an employee's healthcare payments, retirement savings plans, or contributions to charity organizations, depending on the benefits they provide.
  • This allows anyone to segregate how portions of an employee's salary are withheld for reasons other than taxation.

4. Expenses for employer-provided fringe perks

  • Payroll accountants must include the costs of providing health and dental benefits, paid vacations, retirement, and worker's compensation, if applicable.
  • All of the information gathered here can assist someone in budgeting and determining whether or not someone can increase the perks provided to employees.

How to initiate payroll accounting

Take a look at these steps for getting started with payroll tracking if someone needs some help:

  1. For payroll accounting, sort the major items.
  2. Determine the documentation for employees.
  3. Calculate the total amount owed.
  4. Payroll expenses must be documented.
  5. Make a tax return

1. Sort the major items.

  • When someone first establishes a firm, anyone will need to figure out how they will pay their staff. 
  • The forms of remuneration someone provides can influence an employee's longevity as well as the amount of work necessary to complete tasks and projects set by their boss.

Let's take a look at the preliminary decisions someone will need to make:


  • To get a Federal Employer Identification Number, someone must first register his firm with the Internal Revenue Service. Decide how much anyone wants to pay their staff once they have finished. 
  • Employees should be compensated following what rivals in their field are paid. Conduct a SWOT analysis to uncover rival pay and determine whether the compensation someone provides is a competitive advantage for his company. 
  • How anyone pays in wages has an impact on how they record payroll data.

Periods of payment

  • Consider if someone wants his staff to be paid hourly or every year. Part-time employees are usually paid by the hour, so think about how many they will need and how many hours they will be working.
  • Decide whether anyone wants to pay staff once a month or once a week. Employees are frequently paid on a semi-monthly or bi-monthly basis.


  • Recognize someone’s flexibility in terms of the benefits someone can provide.
  • Find out what someone’s competitors are offering in terms of remuneration from industry professionals.
  •  This makes it comparable to the market in which someone works.
  • Health insurance and 401(k) plans are two of the most popular perks, but someone will need to figure out how much he will contribute to the plan and how much the employee will deduct from their income.

2. Determine the documentation for employees.

Once anyone has nailed down their payroll procedures, they can assemble all of the documents they will need workers to fill out when they first start working for someone. In this manner, the data users enter is instantly put into the payroll system.

For payroll accounting reasons, employees must complete the following forms:

  • I-9 form: Each U.S. citizen must complete this paperwork before working for an organization, and they must present the proper kinds of identification, such as a driver's license, Social Security card, and birth certificate, as needed by the federal government.
  • W-4 form: The W-4 assesses an employee's tax status as well as whether or not they wish to take advantage of additional dependent allowances. This information is important when filing taxes since it reveals how much the government may deduct from their paycheck.
  • Form for authorizing direct deposit: If an employee wants their check deposited into their bank account, they must complete this form. When it comes to entering employee information, direct deposit is a superior alternative for the payroll accountant who wants to avoid manual payments.

3. Calculate the total amount owed

  • A centralized software system is a must when it comes to filing payroll information.
  • This saves someone’s time at all stages of the procedure, such as online submitting essential funds and paperwork, and it may give him reminders about forthcoming deadlines on important activities.

4. Payroll expenses must be documented

  • To set up the documentation of the organization's financial transactions, create a Charts of Account Setup list.
  • Anyone can use what's included above to account for their costs and obligations directly, and they can illustrate expenses by deducting the amount withheld or eligible for taxes.

5. Make a tax return

  • Find out the net pay of someone’s employees by subtracting all deductions from the gross pay.
  • The sum of that figure gives the employee and the government a final number of how much they'll receive per paycheck.
  • Also, retain all documents required by local, state, and federal law in the case of an audit.

How to set up payroll accounting

Payroll processing might be difficult, but accounting software makes it much easier.

To receive an accurate view of someone’s payroll expenditures and to assure compliance with labor and tax regulations, it's critical to set up his payroll process effectively.

The six stages of setting it up for the small business are as follows:

1. Install and configure accounting software

  • Anyone will have to monitor all of their payments manually if they don't have good accounting software, which might be challenging.
  • This may be made considerably easier with the correct accounting software.

2. Make a separate account for each sort of cost

  • Someone will need to create accounts for each item that's part of his payroll, such as employee salaries, commissions, bonuses, payroll taxes, 401(k) matching, and FICA withholding, as part of his account.
  • Even if someone has payroll software that automatically makes and categorizes payments to his employees, it's still vital to double-check these payments regularly to verify they're accurate with the ting software setup.

3. Employees should be paid on a recurrent basis

  • Anyone may program their accounting software to make regular payments to their staff once they have set it up.

4. Sort payment parts into categories

  • For each covered cost, divide anyone’s payments to workers into several categories (Medicare, taxes, etc.).

5. Payments must be processed

  • Someone will make regular payments to his employees as they finish their job, and he will monitor all of his company's parts of those payments in his payroll application.

6. Reconcile regularly

Even if someone has payroll software that automatically makes and categorizes payments to his employees, it's still vital to double-check these payments regularly to verify they're accurate and broken down appropriately.

Anyone may process payments by themselves or through a third-party payroll provider once they have set up their payroll accounting system.

Someone may also generate reports that break down his spending by category, making tax filings and other paperwork easier to prepare.

It may assist with a variety of other accounting operations, including financial accounting, in addition to these normal responsibilities. This allows anyone to see their employee-related spending in greater detail.

How accounting software can help anyone with payroll

Accounting software is an essential tool for small businesses, especially when it comes to managing and tracking employee payroll.

Anyone can handle individual payments, set up automated payments, and interact with third-party payroll providers with the correct accounting software.

By labeling costs and performing thorough reports, someone may obtain a clearer picture of his employees' entire costs.

Here are some duties that accounting software may help someone with when it comes to payroll:

1. Set up recurring payments

Someone may set up recurring payments for each pay run with the correct software. Automating the process saves him time and money, allowing anyone to focus on more important responsibilities.

2. Payments should be broken out

Each employee's remuneration can be divided into the proper categories.

3. Produce comprehensive accounting reports

Payment records can be compiled for a single pay run or for a certain time. As the number and mix of their staff evolve, anyone may also examine variations in payroll expenditures over time.

4. Connect to other systems

Accounting software may work with a variety of financial systems, including someone’s financial accounting data. The majority of tools can even export records to files that can be viewed in spreadsheet software.

5. Payments can be started, stopped, or changed

When workers join or leave someone’s firm, their remuneration changes, they relocate, and the taxes applied to their paychecks change, or tax rates change; someone can add, delete, or adjust payments.

Accounting software provides a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to payroll, but it can't handle everything. Most crucially, while accounting software can help anyone prepare tax forms for their small business, most accounting software does not have tools for automatic tax file preparation or submission.

Anyone may need to utilize additional software or an internet portal provided by their local taxation authority for this.

Without comprehensive payroll records, determining an employee's cost is practically difficult.

Whether someone manages payroll in-house or is outsourced to a payroll agency, someone is sure that payroll and accounting software are tightly integrated.

This not only gives someone a better idea of how much each person costs his company, but it also helps anyone plan for future growth and select when to hire additional employees.

Because labor expenditures are most organizations' largest expense, accounting, and payroll software are frequently tightly integrated. Reduce anomalies in their financial records by using these connectors.

Managers keep a careful eye on every dollar that comes in and goes out, especially when it comes to the most expensive expenditure - their employees.

examples of Payroll Accounting

To ensure that payroll is appropriately recorded, someone can enter data in three different ways:

Initial recordings are as follows

Recordings are the most common way to enter payroll data. This only applies to the salaries, taxes, and withholdings of employees, not the corporations.

Wages earned

This entry is made at the end of a company's accounting period. This can be done either regularly or yearly, depending on the size of the firm and the urgency with which external stakeholders need to analyze financial data.

Manual payments

When someone needs to send a check straight to an employee's home address, he will need to input a manual payment. If anyone modifies an employee's compensation, they may need to issue a check to account for the difference.

Consider the case of a company that must pay $1,000 to an employee. Federal income taxes are due for $100, state income taxes are due for $150, and FICA is due in the amount of $50.

Assist the payroll executive with the preparation of journal entries and the recording of the transaction.


  • $1,000 would be recorded as gross salary in the income statement's expenditure account and hence would be reflected as a credit.
  • Then, as a balancing act, debit the balance sheet's FICA, State income taxes, federal income taxes, and salary payable liabilities account.
  • It's worth noting that a rise in a liability account is credited, but an increase in an expenditure account is debited.

As indicated below, the journal entry would be as follows:


Researched and authored by Fatemah Kamali | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by Savan Sabu | LinkedIn

Free Resources

To continue learning and advancing your career, check out these additional helpful WSO resources: