Home » Our Blog » 5 Biggest Payroll Mistakes to Avoid
back to the top
signing paycheck

5 Biggest Payroll Mistakes to Avoid

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

Mistakes often are chalked up to human frailty, but those affecting your company’s payroll aren’t so easily dismissed.

Failure to comply with payroll laws can cause increased scrutiny from government agencies, penalties, fines and – in extreme cases – imprisonment. Employee goodwill also could be lost, as workers quickly tend to become disillusioned by payroll mistakes.

Here are the five biggest mistakes employers make when processing payroll and how you can avoid them:

  1. Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors

Misclassifying employees as independent contractors leads to the employer avoiding its share of taxes and the employee’s portion not being withheld. The misclassified employee also loses out on vital benefits and protections, such as employer-sponsored health insurance, overtime and unemployment compensation.

Generally, if you control what type of work will be done and how it will be done by the worker, then the worker is an employee, not an independent contractor. But, determination isn’t always so simple, as there are other variables to consider, such as the type of relationship you have with the worker and how he or she is paid.

  1. Improper Classification of Nonexempt Employees

Nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime, but exempt workers are not. Therefore, when you misclassify nonexempt employees as exempt, they don’t get overtime pay, no matter how many hours they work per week. This practice can lead to a wage-and-hour lawsuit.

Example: A 2015 Department of Labor press release states that a Fargo-based hotel owner was ordered to pay more than $180,000 to 200 current and former employees because he failed to pay them overtime and misclassified some workers as exempt salaried.

Typically, an employee must perform specific job duties and receive an annual salary in excess of a specific amount to qualify as exempt. The rules are intricate, so consider using an HR management tool, if necessary.

  1. Withholding Blunders

Paycheck deductions can be mandatory or voluntary, making the withholding process a multi – faceted one with vast potential for slip-ups. The most common mistakes include:

  • failure to withhold federal and state taxes;
  • improperly setting up the employee’s tax information;
  • inaccurate calculation of pretax and post-tax deductions, such as cafeteria plan premiums and wage garnishments;
  • making incorrect deductions from exempt employees’ salaries;
  • excluding taxable fringe benefits – such as gift cards and certain awards and prizes – from the employee’s income;
  • excluding specific expense reimbursements from the employee’s taxable wages;
  • providing employees with a Form 1099-MISC instead of a W-2; and
  • issuing incorrect W-2s.

  1. Late Tax Payments and Filings

The IRS typically requires biweekly or monthly deposits of withholding taxes and the employer’s share of taxes. In addition, most employers must file W-2s along with quarterly and annual returns. Note that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has made the filing process even more detailed for employers. What’s more, the state has its own deposit and filing criteria.

Penalties vary for failure to pay, make timely deposits and file. For instance, IRS late-deposit penalties range from 2 percent to 15 percent, depending on when you make the deposit.

You may be hard-pressed to remember all the different withholding, payment and filing procedures. Consider using checklists (or flowcharts) and calendars to keep you on track.

  1. Subpar Recordkeeping

Nothing prolongs a payroll audit more than shoddy recordkeeping. And nothing makes an audit go more smoothly than sufficient documentation. To accomplish the latter, follow the payroll recordkeeping laws required by the federal and state government. Payroll records include documentation relating to minimum wage, overtime, equal pay and child labor.

Under federal law, you must retain payroll records for at least three years except for those dealing with wage calculations, which you can keep for two years. You also must establish a complete and accurate timekeeping system for your nonexempt employees to use. On top of federal law, you must also observe state and local regulations when it comes to recordkeeping.

Many employers entrust their payroll to a competent provider, reducing the likelihood of errors even more. However, make sure you are going with a payroll provider with strong financials and one that has been in the business for at least 10 years.


by Bryan Bagby

Author Bio: Bryan is a seasoned payroll and tax professional with over seven years of industry-related experience. During his time as tax manager, Bryan created a development plan, empowering leaders to build on their skills, while also championing an inner-department communication strategy. Bryan’s dedication to providing service excellence ultimately led to his new role as the director of Paycom service. Bryan is an expert on employer taxes, development, customer service and leadership. Outside of work, Bryan enjoys playing golf and attending his kid’s athletic events.

2017 Social Security Wage Base Increases to $127,200.

2017 Social Security Wage Base Increases

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

The Social Security Wage Base increases to $127,200

With the largest hike in U.S. history set to take effect on January 1, 2017, the new Social Security wage base will increase from $118,500 to $127,200. This $8,700 increase marks the first wage base increase in two years and the highest percentage increase since 1983. Employees with wages equal to or larger than $127,200 will notice an additional $539.40 allocated toward Social Security on their 2017 tax returns.

The maximum Social Security tax any employee will pay is $7,886.40. Employers still are responsible for the remaining $7,886.40.

FICA Tax Rate Remains Unchanged

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA tax) for 2017, which is the combined total of the Social Security tax rate of 6.2 percent and the Medicare tax rate of 1.45 percent, will remain at 7.65 percent. The FICA tax is applied to all wages earned. An additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax will continue to be applied to all wages paid in excess of $200,000. As in 2016, paying the additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax will remain the responsibility of the employer on behalf of the wage earner.

Make sure your payroll provider has accounted for the 2017 withholdings increase and consider the best way to share this federal tax update with your employees.

What this Means for the Self-Employed

The 2017 social security wage base for self-employed individuals will also be $127,200 and the maximum social security tax for a self-employed individual will be $15,772.80. The combined social security tax rate of 12.4 percent and Medicare tax rate of 2.9 percent brings the self-employment tax rate total to 15.3 percent, but it is important to remember there is no Medicare tax limit on self-employment income.


by Amy Double

Author Bio: Amy, a tenured professional in sales and marketing with over 10 years of experience, is dedicated to creating content focused on helping organizations achieve their business goals. As an experienced writer, Amy is committed to researching and blogging about topics that affect businesses across multiple industries, including manufacturing, hospitality and more. Outside of work, Amy enjoys reading, entertaining and spending time with family.


How to Train your Workforce Using 1 Item in Your Pocket

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

Everyone needs training, whether it’s basic, new-hire, how-to-get-started training or professional development. Training employees provides your company with a competitive edge in business for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you end up with knowledgeable, capable employees who are as invested in the company as you are with them.

And guess what? You’re already training your employees, whether or not you realize it. From employee orientation on day one to continuing education, you’re training your business on the essentials. The thing is, you could be training in a simpler way.

Streamlining your company’s training and learning program doesn’t have to be time-consuming or intimidating. Take Paycom Learning, for instance. If you have a camera-equipped phone or a PowerPoint slideshow, you have the materials you need to create a training! In a couple of easy steps, you can save your company time and money by creating easy, everyday trainings.

Record Your Training

Nearly two-thirds of Americans have smartphones. Simply take that phone out of your pocket and record a video (or an audio message) of the training. For example, one of the first things a new hire needs to learn is how to utilize the features of his or her desk phone. You also may want to train your restaurant hosts on how to properly welcome guests. A two-minute video with a rundown of various details is an easy way to knock out basic getting-started tasks.

Upload Training to Paycom Learning

When you are finished recording, just upload the file to Paycom Learning and assign it to employees. They’ll be able to access the training via Employee Self-Service, from wherever there is an internet connection. Employees love easily accessible information; 75 percent of millennial workers are eager to utilize online learning. Podcasts are an easy way for employees to access training at their convenience, such as on their daily commute to work.

Measure Results

If you want to ensure your employees are retaining the information, considering adding a quiz. You also can monitor who has completed assigned training and easily review results.

Four Ways to Utilize Training

If you’re wondering how training applies to your company, here are four ways companies can utilize training:

  1. Practical, on-the-job training: Who is the expert in certain areas of your business? Record him or her demonstrating how to work the company alarm system, emergency procedures, email set-up and other trainings that otherwise would happen in person.
  2. Compliance training: What training is needed to comply with industry regulations? For example, how to properly wash your hands for food service or the procedures for reporting an on-site accident. Ensure that all employees are correctly and consistently trained.
  3. New-hire training: How many new hires do you have annually and how much time does it take to train them on the same standard tasks? Cut down on the time it takes to get them up-to-speed by simply recording one training and uploading it to Paycom Learning.
  4. Communicating important messages: How do you track who has seen an important companywide memo? Instead of mass-emailing employees, record important messages such as quarterly financial updates or the company’s vision statement, and post them to Paycom Learning. You then can generate reports on who has or hasn’t viewed the message.

When it comes to training, you’re already doing it, but don’t overcomplicate it. Training is easy when you use Paycom Learning.

Holly Faurot

by Holly Faurot

Author Bio: Faurot, vice president of client relations, has served in a number of roles during her tenure at Paycom, including regional vice president, sales training manager and sales consultant. A born leader and a 2012 honoree in Oklahoma’s 30 Under 30 awards, she has helped a number of individuals and clients achieve success through her energetic spirit. The product of a dairy farm in Kenefic, Okla., Faurot was taught at a young age the importance of working hard, being honest and having a desire to help others.

master compliance

3 Ways Your HR Team Can Master Compliance

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google Plus Share through email Print it More share options

Complex rules, weighty administrative responsibilities, zero margin for error: When it comes to complying with employment legislation, the burden for U.S. businesses — both large and small — is substantial.

Small and medium-sized businesses in particular must manage their resources wisely, and can find it increasingly difficult to allocate the staff – and the time – to manage all of their company’s obligations for complying with today’s labor legislation. Larger businesses, with thousands of workers employed across state lines, face the challenge of ensuring HR teams are following the right rules. It’s no wonder managing compliance can feel overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be. Implementing a few best practices can make it easier to master the growing compliance burden and protect your company.

Here are three best practices to help you master compliance.

1. Automate Your Compliance Processes
Not only are government agencies producing a ton of rules and regulations, but businesses also have to deal with the mounting complexity of those regulations. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a perfect example. It’s one of the most complex pieces of federal legislation ever conceived, and despite many HR leaders’ best efforts, the nuanced nature of government regulations, like ACA, makes manually tracking and storing information time consuming and precarious.

Enter automation.

Automation improves a business’s efficiency and takes some of the guesswork out of complex processes. Specifically, the right system should be able to automate tasks like tracking garnishment payments and sending required COBRA correspondence. Through automation, businesses gain something truly valuable — peace of mind.

2. Proactively Find Areas of Risk
The risk of noncompliance is real and felt most notably in steep costs. Take the Fair Labor Standards Act as an example.

Not only do businesses have to contend with rising penalties associated with noncompliance, but class-action and wage-and-hour lawsuits add a painful one-two punch. These blows can leave marks. In fact, according to a report from Seyfarth.com, there has been a staggering 115 percent increase in value of the top 10 wage-and-hour class-action settlements since 2014.

But wait, there’s more: Litigation lawyers with splashy ads and the ubiquity of online information actually encourage employees to file claims against their employers. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has increased the number of investigations by 35 percent in the last six years. These investigations are launched independently of employee complaints.

With the odds seemingly stacked against businesses, foresight and planning is crucial. Businesses that have the ability to quickly audit their workforce by gathering easily accessible and accurate data can proactively manage their risk of noncompliance and find opportunities for improvement.

3. Be the Ultimate Resource for Your C-Suite
Big regs can mean big changes for businesses. Take, for example, recent changes to overtime regulations. On its face, overtime expansion looks like a simple question of time and labor. The solution may seem simple as well: Cut a few hours here or reassign a few duties there in order to avoid increased labor costs. However, because the salary threshold essentially has doubled, controlling overtime costs can require many changes to how a large percentage of a company’s workforce is paid and scheduled.

That’s why it’s so important to provide your C-suite with the data and information it needs to make the best decisions for your company.

Experienced executives rely on key event alerts; intuitive, automatic reporting; and legislation overviews to keep them at the top of their game. Additionally, those types of tools give HR leaders crucial time to prepare solutions and points of reference when presenting recommendations in the boardroom.

Just as the Industrial Revolution’s spinning jenny replaced the laborious job of hand-spinning wool and cotton, HR technology can drastically improve a business’s efficiency and output. Automation features like push reporting allow companies to schedule reports for things like expiring employment authorization documents and ACA status changes.

We know when it comes to leading your company through intensifying government regulations, you don’t simply want to make it — you want to master it. With these tips and the right HR technology, you can be well-positioned to do just that.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only. Accordingly, Paycom and the writer of the above content do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of the above information. It does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, or professional consulting. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal or other professional services.

Katy Fabrie

by Katy Fabrie

Author Bio: Katy Fabrie is a Marketing Specialist at Paycom where she assists with executing integrated marketing campaigns. With extensive experience in both writing and research, Katy enjoys crafting content that helps HR professionals develop strategies to reach their goals. Katy has created both digital and printed content for a myriad of local and national companies, and she enjoys continually expanding her HR knowledge base. Outside of work, Katy enjoys reading, running and spending time with her husband, Colby, and dog, Fox.

Subscribe to Paycom's blog

Learn more about Paycom

  • Are you a current Paycom Client?



    • Talent Acquisition

    • Time & Labor Management

    • Payroll

    • Talent Management

    • HR Management

  • Subscribe me to Paycom's newsletter.


We promise never to sell, rent or share your personal information with a third party unless required by law. By submitting this form, you accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.