Trusted Blogs & Resources Trusted Brand Reviews brings you expert insights to guide your payroll processes and human resource management. Discover practical strategies to optimize these systems through HRIS and software automation, freeing up time and resources and boosting productivity. Payroll What to Do if You Overpaid Your Employee Wages Using Payroll Software Managing a business's payroll can be difficult—even if you're using payroll software to handle the hard work for you. Some automated solutions offer a lot of payroll software features, but despite that, mistakes can happen. Regarding payroll management, one of the most common mistakes is overpaying.
Overpaying happens when the employer incorrectly calculates the amount they're supposed to pay the employee. In the majority of cases, this is due to improperly calculating the number of hours worked or omitting deductions. This is exactly why many companies do their best to manage and track workers' compensation. A simple and unintentional problem like this could lead to legal issues for your business.
» Suspect overpayments are because of other reasons? Implement internal checks to prevent fraud and employee misclassification
Contact the Employee Immediately
The first and most important step after overpaying is to contact the employee immediately. This way, you can explain the situation and ask the employee when they can return the money. In some cases, employees may not have the funds available immediately and may need a few days or weeks to repay the debt. Regardless of the circumstances, it's important to be understanding and work out a repayment plan that works for both sides.
If the overpayment happened because of an error on the employer's part, it's necessary to apologize for the mistake. Usually, employees will be understanding and will work with you to repay the amount. However, if you don't handle the situation properly, it could lead to resentment from the employee's side and even legal action. Therefore, make sure to share the details with the employee and keep them informed until the problem is resolved.
» How do you avoid overpayments in the future? Ensure you understand the difference between employee compensation and benefits
How to Correct an Overpayment
After you've contacted the employee and agreed on a repayment plan, it's time to take care of the overpayment itself. Essentially, this process will depend on your payroll software. Usually, the easiest thing to do is to void the original check and generate a new one with the corrected amount. If you're unable to void the transaction, consider the following options.
Employee Makes a Repayment
When voiding the transaction isn't possible, getting the employee to simply repay the overpaid amount is the simplest solution. Even though handling the payment this way is simple, remember to be cautious. If the employee repays you in cash, be sure to get a receipt that includes the date, amount, and purpose of the repayment. This way, you'll have a record of the repayment and can avoid any future issues.
Even though getting the employee to repay is the simplest option, it might not always be possible. So, your next best choice would be payroll deduction. If you choose to deduct the overpayment from the employee's wage, you'll need to update the amount of the deduction in your payroll software.
It's important to note that you can only deduct the overpayment if the employee agrees to the deduction in writing. While this can be a disadvantage of this method, it also means you will have a paper trail to refer to if necessary. Payroll software will make the process much easier for you, as it will make the necessary adjustments automatically by calculating the deductions for you.
Confirm State Law Procedures
An important practice many employers neglect when it comes to overpayment is getting legal advice. It's highly recommended to check your state's laws on wage overpayments before taking any steps, or even consult a professional to handle the matter for you. In some states, there are specific procedures that must be followed when an employer overpays an employee.
For example, in California, employers are required to notify employees of the overpayment in writing and give the employees at least two weeks to repay the debt. If the employees don't repay the debt, the employers can deduct the money from future wages. Normally, details like the deduction limit differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as you won't be able to make deductions below the minimum wage. So, make sure to research your local laws before taking any action, as some actions on the employer's part could negatively affect the employee.
» Considering branching out your business? Outsource to a PEO to ensure payroll compliance in each location
Overpaying an employee can be a stressful situation for both the employer and the employee. However, by using payroll software to handle the hard work for you, the issue can be resolved quickly and efficiently. This is one of the main benefits of manual vs automated payroll. In addition to helping you manage wage overpayments, a reliable payroll software solution will also prevent similar mistakes from happening again.
» Want to invest in payroll software? Read TBR's payroll software reviews Payroll 3 Essential Documents Needed for Online Payroll Processing in the United States As a business owner, you probably love the feeling of seeing your company grow while you practice your craft. However, as you've likely already noticed, the growth of the business means bigger responsibilities and more administrative tasks. While getting new employees and watching your team grow is an amazing feeling, it can also be quite overwhelming. Trying to keep track of employee hours, vacation days, sick days, and payroll can quickly turn into a full-time job.
Managing payroll is one of the most important aspects of running your own business. If your employees aren't properly compensated, they'll immediately start job hunting and looking elsewhere. When processing payroll, it's absolutely necessary to have the right documents prepared. Every time a new employee joins the team, you'll have to go over the legal and administrative process of handling documents.
» New to online payroll? Follow these tips to set up online payroll
1. New Employee Documents
The first set of documents you need when setting up payroll for a new employee is their basic information. This will include items such as their full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and similar relevant data. All of this information is necessary in order to correctly fill out the necessary tax forms.
In addition to the employee's basic information, you'll also have to get some forms ready. This includes W-4 forms, state withholding allowance, 1-9 forms, and more. Without these forms, it will be nearly impossible to properly calculate and manage the taxes you need to pay for each employee.
Although it's sometimes overlooked, we recommend looking into documents for employee benefits too. This includes health insurance and retirement plans like your employee's 401k.
» Want to ensure employees are managed correctly? Discover the difference between employee compensation and benefits
2. Business Documents
In addition to the employee documents, you'll also need to have some paperwork filled out for your business. After all, payroll isn't just about calculating an employee's salary—it's also about making sure your business is compliant with the law.
To start, you'll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). As a business owner, you can apply for this number through the IRS website. Once you have your EIN, you'll be able to process payroll and file taxes through your business bank account.
Next on the list are state and federal tax forms. These will depend on the location of your business and the type of business you have. For example, if you have a sole proprietorship, you'll need to file a 1040 schedule C. On the other hand, if you have an LLC, you'll need to file a 1120S.
3. End of Year Documents
Finally, you'll need to have some documents ready for tax season. The truth is that payroll taxes aren't just deducted from each paycheck, as you'll also have to pay your share as an employer.
Necessary documents include W-2 forms for each employee, 1099 forms for contractors, and your business tax return.
If you don't have these documents ready, you might end up owing the IRS a lot of money come tax time. Not to mention, you might also get hit with some hefty penalties.
» Want to stay tax compliant? Understand the difference between payroll tax vs income tax
As you can see, there are a lot of essential documents you'll need in order to process payroll for your business. From employee information to tax forms, it's important to have everything ready before you get started. Moreover, these documents differ from state to state, so it's crucial to get the right information before you submit the documents.
Along with other payroll processing tips, it's also recommended to outsource at least some of the tasks to specialists. In the majority of cases, outsourcing is quite a viable option, as it will get a big portion of the hard work done for you. Trying to bear the responsibility of manually handling all documents is difficult, and one mistake could cost you a lot.
» Thinking of outsourcing HR functions? Investigate different types of PEOs Payroll Payroll Analyst vs. Payroll Specialist: 3 Key Differences In many fields, it is easy for colleagues to cross wires, step on each other's toes, and even perform the other person's work. This is common in the payroll department, where a lot of staff members may be unable to differentiate between a payroll analyst and a payroll specialist. But there is quite a distinction between these two roles, and it is critical to understand what defines these positions in any office setting.
What Is a Payroll Analyst?
A payroll analyst plays a critical role in a company's payroll process. This position is typically tasked with two important jobs. The first is ensuring all employees are paid correctly and on time. The second is making sure that the business is in compliance with the complex sets of federal, state, and local tax laws. Ultimately, with the right analytical skills, a payroll analyst can facilitate an environment of top-notch payroll processes.
A payroll analyst's list of employment duties and responsibilities includes:
Review payroll data and documents for errors.Confirm that paycheck amounts match the number of hours worked.Ensure payments are completed on time and in line with the company's policies.Perform routine audits on payroll procedures and records.Prepare and file relevant paperwork for tax deductions, benefits, and garnishments (if applicable).Report to management on any payroll challenges and changes.Stay on top of any changes or updates to federal and state payroll and tax laws.
» Are you still manually processing payroll? Discover the advantages of automated payroll software
What Is a Payroll Specialist?
A payroll specialist is in charge of processing the payroll system and maintaining an employee database with relevant information, such as salary, banking information, name and address, and tax identification. This is more of a behind-the-scenes approach to payroll management as the person will home in on enhancing payroll service performance, working with different departments, and overseeing the company budget.
A payroll specialist's list of employment duties and responsibilities includes:
Complete work on database programs to execute payroll tasks.Maintain a staff database filled with names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, employee identification, and other related information.Resolve employee complaints regarding payroll, whether it is updating an address or changing bank account numbers.Produce reports to department supervisors about budgets, expenses, and discrepancies surrounding payroll.Work with IT professionals to troubleshoot issues or improve the payroll system.
3 Key Differences
Here are three key differences between a payroll analyst and a payroll specialist:
1. Managerial vs. Administrative
A payroll specialist and a payroll analyst fulfill different objectives in this field.
A specialist will essentially manage payroll by modifying names, updating system processes, or keeping track of any changes to the company's payroll infrastructure. An analyst spots inaccuracies, monitors payroll procedures, and fosters and bolsters reliable payroll data.
» How can you help your payroll analyst prevent fraud? Implement internal controls to avoid fraud
2. Approach to Data
The approach to data is completely different between a payroll analyst and a payroll specialist.
Like the job title, a payroll analyst will focus on analyzing the payroll data, utilizing their impeccable analytical and numerical skills to determine and correct errors. Ultimately, it is about combing through the payroll data.
However, a payroll specialist will concentrate on data capturing and management. The former consists of extracting information from physical forms or electronic documents and converting the information into a payroll database. The latter manages the infrastructure surrounding payroll, from the software used to how it is incorporated into the organization.
3. Size and Scope
Typically, a payroll analyst could be responsible for overseeing an entire company's payroll so they can make sure the firm is operating smoothly, whether it is correct entry times in timesheets or the right payroll information. A specialist, on the other hand, might be responsible for their department only, be it in the accounting section of the office or on the marketing side.
» Should payroll always be situated in HR? Discover whether payroll is HR or finance's responsibility
Although a payroll system could be likened to a monolithic hivemind, it requires a whole host of participants to ensure it is running like a smooth ship. To make sure that the payroll is being maintained and executed properly, the system requires a broad array of payroll experts with the best skill set to maintain a sufficient amount of accuracy, attention to detail, and sufficient knowledge surrounding tax compliance and other applicable laws. It is the division of labor at its finest.
» Does payroll have to be an in-house function? Consider whether in-house payroll or outsourcing will suit your business Payroll 5 Internal Controls to Avoid Fraud in the Payroll and Personnel Cycle Business owners are well-aware that properly processing payroll is no simple task. And of course, it becomes even more complicated when you have a large number of employees or staff with different hourly wages. This is why an increasing number of companies have started taking the payroll process much more seriously, ensuring that every worker is adequately compensated.
The truth is that improperly handled payroll will negatively affect every aspect of your business, which is why having internal controls in place is crucial. There are different types of payroll fraud that can negatively affect a company, like overpaid employee wages, ghost employees, and employee misclassification. If you don't have strict internal controls in place, it's incredibly difficult to prevent payroll fraud or even understand that it's happening.
5 Internal Controls to Implement
Internal controls are important because they protect the resources of a business, helping it properly distribute payroll while keeping its reputation. Let's take a look at the five most important internal controls.
1. Divide Responsibilities
When it comes to payroll, you should never have one person in complete control of the process. This provides them with the opportunity to commit fraud without anyone noticing. So, the best way to avoid this problem is by dividing the responsibilities among different employees and never leaving everything in one basket.
For example, one employee can be in charge of data entry, while another can be responsible for issuing checks. This way, no one employee has centralized control over the process, making it incredibly difficult to commit fraud. Unfortunately, dividing responsibilities in smaller companies with fewer employees is a lot more difficult than expected.
» Do you understand the roles of your payroll staff? Discover the difference between a payroll analyst and payroll specialist
2. Limit Access on Accounting Systems
Another way to protect your business is by limiting access to the accounting software that you use for payroll. In simpler terms, it means that only employees who absolutely need to use the software have access to it. This will make it much harder for anyone to commit fraud, as they would need to hack into the system or find another way to access it.
3. Review Documentation Regularly
It's also important to review the documentation related to payroll on a regular basis. This includes documents like timesheets, employee records, and tax forms. By reviewing this documentation, you'll be able to catch any red flags that may indicate fraud. For example, if an employee's time sheet doesn't match up with their hours worked, that could be a sign that they're inflating their work hours.
» How do you keep thorough documentation? Consider investing in payroll software with essential features
4. Generate and Analyze Reports
Generating reports is another great way to keep track of the payroll process and ensure that everything is running smoothly. These reports will help you spot any irregularities which could be indicative of fraud. Some of the reports that you should generate and oversee on a regular basis include check registers, time cards, and payroll journals.
» How can you easily generate reports? Consider using automated payroll software
5. Document Changes to Employee Details
Whenever there is a change to an employee's personal information, you should always document it. This way, you can keep track of any changes and make sure that they are authorized. Although it rarely happens, fraud like this can be quite devastating for the company's reputation.
So, if an employee changes their address or bank account, you should always get written authorization from them. Any changes to an employee's details must be officially requested so that you can have a paper trail, including changes in salary and status. This way, you can be sure that the changes are legitimate and not being used to commit fraud.
Additional Controls to Consider
In addition to the primary internal controls we mentioned above, there are a couple of other controls that might be helpful.
One way to further protect your business is by outsourcing the accounting and payroll process. This means that you would hire another company to handle these processes for you.
The advantage of having your accounting outsourced is that it would be much harder for your employees to commit fraud, as they wouldn't have access to the accounting software.
» Should you outsource HR and accounting functions? Discover the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing payroll
Conducting Regular Audits
Another way to keep track of the payroll process is by conducting regular audits. In the majority of cases, audits require hiring an outside company to come in and review the process. The benefit of this is that it would help you spot any irregularities and make sure that everything is running smoothly. However, having audits from a third party might be somewhat costly, which is why many companies avoid having them altogether.
By implementing internal controls, you can help prevent payroll fraud from occurring in your business. Internal controls are incredibly beneficial since the consequences of fraud are a lot more costly than the resources required to have these controls implemented. Of course, before implementing any type of internal control, you should consider assessing your company's resources to know what you can implement. Payroll 4 Fundamental Differences Between Employee Compensation and Benefits Even though employee compensation and benefits are often used in conjunction, the truth is that they're quite different, both in purpose and functionality. Understanding the difference between employee compensation and benefits is incredibly important—both for the employee and the employer.
Despite their differences, employee compensation and benefits have one big thing in common—they're both part of the payroll process. So, a business's payroll compliance doesn't just mean calculating salaries correctly, but also consists of properly evaluating and reporting benefits. This is precisely why knowing the correct information regarding employee compensation and benefits is crucial, as all businesses are legally obligated to run payroll.
» How do you ensure payroll compliance? Follow these tips to avoid penalties
What Is Employee Compensation?
Employee compensation is anything that an employee receives in exchange for their work. This can include wages, salary, bonuses, and commissions. However, it does not include things like vacation days or sick days—those are employee benefits.
The essential purpose of employee compensation is to help attract new and competent employees. After all, if employees aren't properly compensated for their work, they're likely to look for other opportunities—and businesses need to avoid that if they want to succeed.
There are a few different types of employee compensation, which are highlighted below.
Wages are the hourly pay that employees receive for their work. For example, if an employee is paid $15 per hour, their wage is $15.
A salary is a set amount of money that an employee receives for their work, and it's not based on the number of hours they work. For example, an employee with a $50,000 yearly salary would receive exactly $50,000 regardless of how many hours they worked.
A bonus is a monetary reward that an employee receives for their work, typically given out based on performance. For example, if an employee meets or exceeds their sales targets, they may receive a bonus. To properly administer bonuses, you must track workers' compensation and have a clear overview of their work history.
Just like a bonus, a commission is also a reward that an employee receives for their work, but it's typically given out based on results. In some companies, if an employee sells a product or service to a new client, they will receive a certain percentage of the sale as commission.
What Are Employee Benefits?
Employee benefits are anything that an employee receives in addition to their salary or wages. This can include health insurance, dental insurance, 401(k) plans, paid time off, and vacation.
The primary purpose of employee benefits is to retain employees by increasing their satisfaction with the company. Most employees would appreciate it if their employer offered them health insurance, for example, in addition to just a salary. So, by offering employee benefits, employers can keep their employees happy and reduce turnover.
» What if an employee is misclassified? Discover how employee misclassification can impact employee benefits
4 Fundamental Differences
Here are four of the most important differences between employee compensation and benefits:
The first big difference between employee compensation and benefits is how they're taxed. Employee compensation is subject to federal income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax, while employee benefits are generally not subject to these taxes. This taxation difference is important to keep in mind, as it can impact your business' performance.
» Which taxes must employers pay? Discover the difference between payroll tax vs income tax
2. Nature of Payment
Employee compensation and benefits also differ in the nature of the payment. Employee compensation is purely monetary—i.e., the employee knows how much they will receive after they get the job done and have appropriate expectations. But benefits bring more than monetary value, as they improve the employee's perception of the company they're working for.
Not all employees are eligible for all benefits, but all employees are eligible for compensation.
Usually, this eligibility depends on the type of benefit, the length of employment, and the employee's performance. Employees don't have much choice when it comes to choosing their compensation, as they can't determine their own salary. But they have some choice regarding the benefits they'll receive.
Employee compensation is typically administered by the employer, while employee benefits are typically administered by a third party which the employer pays. Administration is also an important aspect because it can impact how much time and money your business spends on each.
» Who is responsible for administering payroll? Discover whether HR or finance manages payroll
Employee compensation and benefits are the two most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to attracting new employees and retaining the old ones. While they share some similarities, there are also some fundamental differences between them—namely, taxation, eligibility, and administration.
As a business owner, it's important to keep these differences in mind as you develop your business's employee compensation and benefits programs since they can impact the way your business manages payroll as well as its functionality. Payroll Are Businesses Legally Obligated to Run Payroll? Paying employees is one of the leading legal obligations of an employer in the U.S. Under no circumstances can an employer withhold an employee’s pay, not even a portion. Companies that do not pay their employees can face issues with federal and state employment agencies if reported or if such non-payments are discovered during an audit.
While businesses do enjoy the liberty of choosing how to administer payroll and on which days to hand out paychecks, there are other factors that companies must legally comply with in each jurisdiction.
Why Payroll Is Mandatory
Because payroll is mandatory, it is in every employer’s interest to ensure good recordkeeping, such as documenting payment amounts, recording relevant deductions, inserting hours worked, and monitoring overtime. This can help an employer in case an employee files a complaint against them, because the employer can show proof of payment. If the complaint moves beyond the business, state or federal officials will also ask for payment records. As a result, employers should take this issue seriously, particularly in the event of being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Businesses must follow the U.S. Department of Labor standards regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and record keeping. Complying with tax laws—income tax, labor laws, and federal regulations—is imperative for businesses. The best way to facilitate an environment of effective tax compliance is by integrating payroll software into your day-to-day operations. Of course, there will be a discussion of manual vs automated payroll, but as long as you have payroll software, you can ensure better compliance.
» How do you choose payroll software? Discover essential payroll software features
Employers should also keep track of employee benefits enrollment, such as healthcare plans, life insurance plans, retirement plans, and stock ownership. Employees should receive the correct deductions at the right time, and employers should not manipulate these numbers. Deductions must be made at each pay cycle, and a system should keep track of the benefit plans and their schedule.
» What are employee benefits? Discover the differences between employee compensation and benefits
Wages are easily a business's greatest expense, therefore payroll analysis can help with cash flow. Poor cash flow is one of the biggest reasons why some employers resort to non-payment of wages. However, this will not be acceptable in any court, and employers will still be held accountable for any wages that they owe their employees. Businesses should be aware of their internal costs and match them with expected revenue to know things are under control. If there are any issues, close monitoring of the cash flow can enable employers to identify the causes and find effective solutions.
Establishing Trust With Employees
Non-payment of wages, regular lateness in payment, or incorrect amounts is always inadvisable because it destroys the employees’ trust in their employer. If they don’t trust their company, their work is likely to suffer, eventually hurting the company's bottom line. Therefore, smart employers understand the importance of keeping their employees happy because the more satisfied they are, the better their productivity and efficiency will be. Especially in this day of job-hopping and remote opportunities, employers must ensure they can retain talent. Therefore, non-payment of wages or paying employees non-competitive salaries will hurt the employer more than the employee in the long run.
Put simply, payroll can serve as an excellent tool to enhance employee engagement and happiness and facilitate a terrific company culture.
» What happens if an employee is misclassified? Discover how to avoid employee misclassification
Repercussions for Payroll Non-compliance
Payroll non-compliance can lead to a broad array of consequences for businesses. If an employer still refuses to pay their employees, several actions can be taken against them.
The first issue is that an injunction could be filed against an employer.
Employees can also file a lawsuit if they have been discharged without pay. Employees can also file a lawsuit to recover back wages owed to them.
Monetary penalties can also be imposed on an employer if they violate payroll requirements or repeat these violations.
Finally, if an employer continues to violate payroll obligations, they can face criminal charges, including fines and imprisonment.
» How can you ensure payroll compliance? Follow these tips to avoid penalties
Payroll laws will differ for each state or country. Wherever your business is situated, it is important that your company complies with these laws, rules, and regulations to avoid any negative fallout. So, it is always advisable to confirm the relevant laws. Indeed, payroll is a mandatory aspect from both a legal perspective and for effective business operations.
» Still uncomfortable with managing payroll? Consider outsourcing to a PEO Payroll Payroll Tax vs. Income Tax: Which Should Employers Pay? As an employer, you are responsible for withholding taxes from your employees' paychecks and remitting those funds to the government. Oftentimes, however, employers are confused regarding the type of taxes as well as the amount they must withhold, which is why the difference between payroll and income tax is misunderstood.
Due to this confusion, employers might pay both types of taxes in excess, which leads to reduced profits and bleeding revenue for the company. But, of course, everyone wants to ensure payroll compliance and avoid paying hefty fees. So, to avoid this, it's important to understand the difference between payroll and income tax, since every company is legally obligated to run payroll.
» How do you ensure payroll compliance? Follow these tips to avoid penalties
What Is Payroll Tax?
Payroll tax is imposed on employers based on the salary and wages paid to their employees. In the United States, for example, there are two payroll taxes: Social Security tax and Medicare tax.
Social Security tax is a federal payroll tax that's used to fund the Social Security program, which provides benefits to retired and disabled workers, as well as their families. The tax rate for Social Security is 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the employee, for a total of 12.4%.
Medicare tax is also a federal payroll tax that's used to fund the Medicare program, which provides health insurance to retired and disabled workers, as well as their families. The tax rate for Medicare is 1.45% for the employer and 1.45% for the employee, for a total of 2.9%.
What Is Income Tax?
Unlike payroll tax which is imposed on businesses, income tax is imposed on individuals based on their annual income. In the United States, there are two types of income taxes: federal and state.
Federal income tax is imposed by the federal government on all taxable income. The rates for federal income tax range from 10% to 37%, based on how much you earn every year. Individuals that earn more than $540,000 annually are in the highest tax bracket, so they'll have to pay 37% of the amount over $540,000.
State income tax is imposed by individual states on all taxable income. The tax rates for state income tax vary from state to state, but they are generally lower than the federal income tax rates. Some states like Alaska and Florida have no state income tax at all, while California's rates range from 2% to 13%, depending on your income.
Regarding income tax, it is primarily used to provide funding for national defense as well as foreign affairs.
What Tax Should Employers Pay?
As an employer, you are primarily responsible for paying payroll tax, as you are not responsible for paying taxes on your employees' earnings. Payroll tax is based on salaries, while income tax is based on the revenue streams an individual receives, which are not your responsibility.
Keep in mind that you are also required to withhold income tax from your employees' paychecks and remit those funds to the government. However, this is not considered payroll tax since it's money that's being withheld from the employee, not the employer. Therefore, you are only responsible for paying payroll tax, not income tax.
» Who is responsible for payroll? Discover whether HR or finance must perform this function
Now that you've understood the key differences between payroll and income tax, you'll know how to remain tax-compliant while maximizing the revenue for your company. You'll have to remember that you hold full responsibility for the payroll tax of your business, while income tax is the responsibility of your employees.
Of course, you might need to pay income tax on the earnings you personally receive since the owner of the company is also considered to be an employee. With this knowledge, you can be sure that you'll always be payroll compliant, helping you avoid penalties for non-compliance, which can be quite costly.
» Still uncomfortable with tax compliance? Consider outsourcing to a PEO Hr function 3 Types of PEOs: Payroll, Tax, Admin, HR, Compliance, and More Payroll is a crucial aspect of business, but managing it can become overwhelming, whether it's ensuring tax compliance, monitoring compensation, or filling out forms to ensure the HR department is confirming the company's compliance with local labor laws.
This is why it can be imperative to hire a professional employer organization, also known as a PEO. But what is this anyway?
» Who is responsible for payroll? Discover whether HR or finance should carry responsibility
What Is a PEO?
A professional employer organization (PEO) is a type of human resource outsourcing service where the PEO performs employee administration tasks such as payroll and benefits management on behalf of a business. Certain PEOs may offer additional strategic services, but their core concept is to provide HR-related services to existing businesses. PEOs generally cater to small and medium-sized businesses. The arrangement is referred to as co-employment.
» Should you do payroll in-house or outsource? Discover the best approach for your business
Why Utilize a PEO?
There are several reasons why businesses may choose to utilize a PEO. It ensures enterprises properly abide by their payroll requirements by ensuring the functions of employee benefits, compensation and payroll, worker's compensation, and employment taxes are handled appropriately while fulfilling all legal obligations.
PEOs can offer significant support to businesses that may not have the necessary HR expertise or systems capabilities to manage essential functions such as payroll and employee benefits efficiently. Some companies simply do not have the staff or the time to focus on transactional HR functions. By using a PEO, these businesses can relieve some of their HR-related burdens:
Benefits administrationPayroll managementWorker's compensation administrationUnemployment administrationFamily and medical leave act administration
While using PEOs can be beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses, it's important to keep in mind that if not managed properly, using a PEO can result in loss of control of essential processes such as payroll. Therefore, it's important to ensure that the PEO used is reputable and legitimate, as they will have access to internal documentation if an agreement is completed. Additionally, choosing the right type of PEO is also very important. Otherwise, there is a risk that an outside company could potentially influence the existing traditions and culture of a business.
Finally, if there is an HR department already, the employees may feel diminished if an outside co-employment arrangement is made. The employees may also not be satisfied that a third party handles crucial functions related to their wages and benefits.
All these issues must be considered before choosing to use a PEO or selecting the type of PEO agreement.
» Do businesses still outsource HR functions? Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing
3 Types of PEOs
1. Classic PEO
A classic PEO is one where employee taxes are reported and deposited under the PEO's federal employer identification number (FEIN). Hence, the employees of a business are covered under the PEO's master policy, and the PEO is responsible for managing any claims. Under such an arrangement, a PEO requires the employer to sign a client service agreement to define each party's responsibilities and terms of coverage clearly.
2. Administrative Services Organization (ASO)
An ASO agreement with a PEO gives companies the option to utilize some outsourcing benefits without entering into a co-employment arrangement. Hence, only selected HR functions are outsourced with an ASO. Since the agreement with an ASO doesn't work under a co-employment model, the organization remains the employer of record. It's also responsible for all the legal obligations associated with such a role.
ASOs are highly flexible and will only step in when a business requires them to and will only manage the aspects that a company allows them to administer. In addition, ASOs are primarily used when firms want to free up some time or resources, consolidate multiple functions with a single vendor, or do not have the expertise to handle tricky HR administrative issues.
3. Human Resources Outsourcing Organization (HRO)
An HRO agreement allows a third party to administer and manage HR and payroll-related functions for a business. The goal is to allow that business to focus on other growth-related objectives while ensuring the payroll function is handled appropriately by people with more significant expertise and capability.
Different HRO agreements can range from fundamental HR services to strategic planning and administrative support. HROs offer various services depending on a business's requirements:
Payroll and tax administrationEmployee training and developmentWorkplace safety and policy managementHiring and recruitmentCompliance and risk management
HROs are often beneficial as they allow businesses to selectively outsource certain functions and retain those they wish to maintain themselves. As a result, HROs can be highly flexible for businesses, enabling these entities to retain control where needed.
While a PEO can serve specific needs, businesses still need to find one that can carry out their needs and requirements. Indeed, not all companies share the same suite of demands, and not all PEOs are one-size-fits-all operations. Because of this, it requires in-depth research and due diligence of PEO providers. Make inquiries and find one that is tailored to your budgetary constraints and corporate demands.
» Still unsure about outsourcing to a PEO? Optimize your in-house team instead by reading TBR's payroll software reviews Payroll Employee Misclassification: What It Is and How to Avoid It When Processing Payroll Having your payroll process properly handled as a business is an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, the truth is that the payroll process is often overlooked even though it's probably the most important function in a business. If the payroll process is handled incorrectly, it could lead to unsatisfied employees at best or significant legal trouble at worst.
What Is Employee Misclassification?
In simple terms, employee misclassification refers to the act of incorrectly characterizing an employee as an independent contractor. According to Harvard Business Review, almost 20% of employers will misclassify at least one employee in their lifetime—even accidentally. The truth is that misclassifying employees can be quite damaging to a business, as it leads to big legal issues and hefty fines.
Why Is Employee Misclassification Immoral?
Apart from it being illegal to misclassify an employee as an independent contractor, it's also morally wrong.
Non-compliant With Tax Laws
The most important thing to know about employee misclassification is that it's non-compliant with tax laws. Businesses that choose to misclassify their employees will face significant penalties from the IRS.
Additionally, they will also be required to pay back any taxes that were not properly withheld from their employees' paychecks. Businesses pay different taxes for independent contractors and full-time employees, which is why an institution like the IRS could get involved. This can be a very costly mistake for businesses, as the penalties can quickly add up. In addition to the fines, your company's reputation will be permanently stained, which might make your clients and prospective employees run elsewhere.
» How do you remain tax compliant? Follow these tips for payroll compliance to avoid penalties
Calculating Incorrect Deductions
Another big problem with employee misclassification is that it can lead to businesses calculating incorrect deductions. This is because businesses are required to withhold different amounts for independent contractors and different ones for their employees. Therefore, when businesses misclassify their employees as independent contractors, they may withhold too little in taxes and benefits, which can lead to big problems down the road.
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Depriving Employees of Benefits
Employees who are misclassified are also deprived of certain benefits. This is because businesses are not required to provide benefits for independent contractors, including health insurance, paid time off, and more.
Normally, this can be a big problem for employees, as they may not be able to get the benefits they expected. Additionally, it can also lead to issues for businesses, as they may be required to provide these benefits retroactively if they're caught misclassifying their employees.
» What are employee benefits? Discover the differences between employee compensation and benefits
How to Avoid Employee Misclassification
Now that we've seen the problems that can arise from employee misclassification, let's take a look at how businesses can avoid it.
Professional Employment Contracts
It's important to have professional employment contracts in place that outline the employment terms between the business and the employee. This should include the employee's duties and liabilities, as well as how they will be paid, both in compensation and benefits. This is important because it will help to avoid any misunderstandings down the road. After having a well-defined contract, it's beneficial to also track workers' compensation and make sure that everything is properly calculated.
Company Employment Policy
Another important step is to have a company employment policy in place. This policy should state the classification of each type of employee. Having this policy will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there is no confusion about who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. Normally, it's recommended that an employment policy is reviewed on a regular basis and updated as needed.
Conducting regular audits is another good way to avoid employee misclassification. In the majority of cases, these audits should be conducted by an independent third party. They will review the employment contracts, company policies, and payroll records to ensure that everything is in order. If any discrepancies are found during the audit, it should be addressed immediately.
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Contract a PEO
Contracting a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) has many benefits outside of payroll management, including handling some HR and payroll responsibilities for your business like employment contracts, company policies, payroll processing, and more. This can be a great way to avoid employee misclassification as the PEO will be responsible for ensuring that everything is in order.
» How do you choose a PEO? Consider the different types of PEOs
Consequences of Employee Misclassification
In addition to being morally wrong, employee misclassification can lead to big legal consequences for businesses.
Paying Outstanding Tax Amounts
Probably the most common consequence of employee misclassification is that businesses are required to pay outstanding tax amounts, including any taxes that were not withheld from employee paychecks, in addition to interest and penalties on these amounts.
Businesses may receive fines and penalties for employee misclassification. In general, the fine and penalty amount will vary depending on the jurisdiction. In some cases, businesses may be required to pay a percentage of the outstanding tax amount, while in others, businesses may be fined with a flat rate.
Taking Legal Action
Finally, employees may take legal action. This can include things like filing a lawsuit or a complaint with the Department of Labor. For example, if an employee expected to have health insurance but they were misclassified, you might receive a lawsuit from both the employee and the insurance company.