How to Get Payroll for Small Business

Managing payroll is a critical task for any small business owner. It ensures that employees are paid accurately and on time, while also maintaining compliance with tax regulations and labor laws. However, setting up and managing payroll can be complex and time-consuming. This guide will walk you through the steps to get payroll for your small business, making the process as straightforward as possible.

Why Payroll Management is Important

Effective payroll management is essential for several reasons:

  • Employee Satisfaction: Timely and accurate pay boosts employee morale and retention.
  • Legal Compliance: Ensures compliance with federal, state, and local tax laws and regulations.
  • Financial Management: Helps in accurate financial reporting and budgeting.

Steps to Get Payroll for Small Business

Step 1: Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

  1. Apply for EIN: An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is required for tax reporting purposes. You can apply for an EIN through the IRS website.
  2. Use EIN for Tax Reporting: Use your EIN for all payroll tax forms and correspondence with the IRS.

How to Get Payroll for Small Business

Step 2: Understand Payroll Laws and Regulations

  1. Federal Laws: Familiarize yourself with federal payroll laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping requirements.
  2. State Laws: Understand state-specific payroll laws and regulations, such as state minimum wage rates and employee classification rules.
  3. Local Regulations: Check for any local payroll requirements in your city or county.

Step 3: Choose a Payroll System

  1. Manual Payroll: Suitable for very small businesses with a limited number of employees. Requires careful record-keeping and calculation.
  2. Payroll Software: Invest in payroll software that automates calculations, tax filings, and direct deposits. Popular options include QuickBooks, Gusto, and ADP.
  3. Payroll Service Provider: Consider outsourcing payroll to a payroll service provider. This can save time and reduce the risk of errors. Providers like Paychex and Square Payroll offer comprehensive payroll services.

Step 4: Set Up Payroll Procedures

  1. Employee Information: Collect and organize employee information, including Social Security numbers, tax withholding forms (W-4), and direct deposit details.
  2. Pay Schedule: Determine a pay schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly) that works best for your business and employees.
  3. Time Tracking: Implement a time-tracking system to accurately record employee hours worked. This can be manual timesheets, punch clocks, or digital time-tracking software.

Step 5: Calculate Payroll

  1. Gross Pay: Calculate the total earnings for each employee, including regular wages, overtime, bonuses, and commissions.
  2. Deductions: Deduct federal and state income taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and any other applicable deductions, such as health insurance premiums or retirement contributions.
  3. Net Pay: Calculate the net pay by subtracting all deductions from the gross pay. This is the amount the employee takes home.

Step 6: Pay Employees

  1. Direct Deposit: Set up direct deposit to electronically transfer funds to employees’ bank accounts. This is the most convenient and secure method.
  2. Paper Checks: Alternatively, you can issue paper checks. Ensure that checks are signed and distributed on payday.

Step 7: File Payroll Taxes

  1. Federal Tax Filings: Regularly deposit federal payroll taxes and file quarterly tax returns (Form 941) with the IRS. Annually, file Form 940 for federal unemployment taxes and issue W-2 forms to employees.
  2. State and Local Tax Filings: Comply with state and local tax filing requirements. This may include state income tax withholding, unemployment insurance, and other local taxes.

Step 8: Maintain Accurate Records

  1. Employee Records: Keep detailed records of each employee’s earnings, deductions, and tax withholdings. Maintain these records for at least three years.
  2. Payroll Reports: Generate regular payroll reports to review and reconcile payroll information. This helps ensure accuracy and compliance.

Tips for Efficient Payroll Management

Automate Processes

  1. Use Technology: Leverage payroll software to automate calculations, tax filings, and payments. This reduces the risk of errors and saves time.
  2. Set Up Reminders: Use calendar reminders or software alerts to ensure timely tax filings and payments.

Stay Informed

  1. Update Knowledge: Regularly update your knowledge of payroll laws and regulations. Subscribe to payroll newsletters or join industry groups for the latest updates.
  2. Training: Provide payroll training for employees responsible for payroll management to ensure they understand the latest requirements and best practices.

Outsource When Necessary

  1. Consider Outsourcing: If payroll management becomes too complex or time-consuming, consider outsourcing to a payroll service provider. This can provide peace of mind and allow you to focus on growing your business.
  2. Evaluate Providers: Choose a reputable payroll service provider with good reviews and comprehensive services tailored to small businesses.

Common Questions About Small Business Payroll

How Much Does Payroll Software Cost?

The cost of payroll software varies based on the number of employees and the features required. Basic plans start at around $20-$30 per month, while more advanced plans can cost $100 or more per month.

Can I Do Payroll Myself?

Yes, you can manage payroll manually if you have a small number of employees and are comfortable with calculations and record-keeping. However, using payroll software or outsourcing can reduce the risk of errors and save time.

What Are the Penalties for Payroll Errors?

Penalties for payroll errors can include fines, interest on unpaid taxes, and legal action. Accurate payroll management is crucial to avoid these consequences.

How Often Should Payroll Be Processed?

Payroll can be processed on various schedules, including weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly. Choose a schedule that aligns with your business operations and employee preferences.


Setting up and managing payroll for your small business is a critical task that requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure accurate and efficient payroll management. Whether you choose to handle payroll manually, use software, or outsource to a service provider, maintaining compliance and keeping your employees satisfied are key to your business’s success.

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