Payroll Checklist: Know What to Do to Avoid Penalti es 

Monica DiPaola
Focused on You. Dedicated to Your Success.
October 21, 2019

There is a lot of guidance online and in various publications on what you need to do to avoid penalties due to payroll errors. Business Management Daily recently published its  Payroll Checklist which is worthy of sharing with you. 

What I like the most about this document is that it provides checklists to help you stay on track on a pay period, monthly, and quarterly basis. Here are the checklists for various different periods:

After every payday:
  • List each earning and deduction category and tie those figures to Form 941, Line 2.
  • Map and reconcile each payroll earning and deduction category to the general ledger.
  • Post employees’ benefit/payroll adjustment data. Include: third-party paid sick pay and manual and void checks.
  • Run payroll adjustments for year-to-date corrections.
  • Get input from other department (e.g., Accounts Payable, Finance, HR and Benefits) to track taxable payments to employees that aren’t made through the Payroll department. Tax and post adjustments, as necessary.
  • Break out taxable executive benefits and get input from the appropriate departments (e.g., Executive Compensation Committee) to track taxable payments to executives. Tax and post adjustments, as necessary.

After every month:
  • Reconcile your tax register and bank accounts.
  • Research outstanding checks that are older than 30 days; post unclaimed checks to an unclaimed earnings escrow account.
  • Document gross-to-net calculations for manual checks; ensure that manual checks and voids are entered properly; review the general ledger accounts.

After every quarter:
  • For income tax withholding, create a worksheet to reconcile taxable wages, from Form 941, Line 2 to taxable wages, as recorded in a wage summary report; also, reconcile the tax amount, from Form 941, Line 3 to taxable wages, as recorded in a wage summary report.
  • Create a worksheet to reconcile your state tax liability to state taxable wages, as shown in a wage summary report; also, reconcile state taxes withheld to state taxes deposited.
  • Tie federal income tax withholding totals to state income tax withholding totals.
  • For Social Security tax withholding, create a worksheet to reconcile taxable wages, from Form 941, Line 5a to taxable wages, as recorded in a wage summary report; also, reconcile the tax amount, from Form 941, Line 5a to the taxable amount, as recorded in a wage summary report.
  • For Medicare tax withholding, create a worksheet to reconcile taxable wages, from Form 941, Lines 5c and 5d to taxable wages, as recorded in a wage summary report; also, reconcile the tax amount, from Form 941, Lines 5c and 5d to the taxable amount, as recorded in a wage summary report.
  • Create a worksheet to reconcile FUTA tax liability to FUTA taxable wages, as recorded in a wage summary report; also, reconcile FUTA tax amounts to FUTA tax calculations.
  • Create a worksheet to reconcile SUTA tax liability to SUTA taxable wages, as recorded in a wage summary report; also, reconcile SUTA tax liability to SUTA tax amounts.
  • Tie FUTA totals to SUTA totals.
  • Create a worksheet that reconciles the Form 941 totals and wage summary totals to Forms W-2/W-3.
  • Balance quarterly reports and Forms 941 to the general ledger.
  • After filing Form 941 for the quarter, make interest-free adjustments of underreporting errors by filing Form 941-X by the due date of Form 941 for the quarter during which the error is discovered, and pay any tax due. Also, file Forms W-2c/W-3c, as appropriate.

In addition, the report highlights specific activities which should be performed each month. Here are the checklists for the remainder of 2019:

Payroll Checklist: October
  • Set up a year-end committee, assign tasks and completion dates. Include: Accounting, Finance, HR, Benefits, Mailroom and IT. Create an online log so everyone can see the progress of all participants.
  • Confirm employees’ addresses and update your computer-generated mailing labels, as necessary.
  • Ask employees to confirm their Social Security numbers; if your payroll system masks Social Security numbers, unmask them so employees can confirm them.

Payroll Checklist: November
  • Mark November 1, or any later date, as the cut-off date, if you use the special accounting rule for noncash fringe benefits.
  • By November 10 (or the next business day, if November 10 is a nonbusiness day), file Form 941 for the third quarter with the IRS. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.
  • Once your third-quarter Form 941 is filed, check your records against the totals on all three forms. Identify any over-or under-reporting of income or wages and adjust tax overpayments or underpayments on your fourth-quarter Form 941.

Payroll Checklist: December
  • Schedule bonus payrolls.
  • Notify employees if you’re not withholding on their personal use of company cars or are using the special accounting rule to value noncash fringe benefits.
  • Double check employees’ pretax deductions, coding for Form W-2, Box 12 and year-to-date figures

There is also guidance on independent contractors:

For each independent contractor:
  • Review vendor contracts for vendors’ Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs). Begin backup withholding for vendors who didn’t provide their TINs prior to payment. Solicit TINs by sending them Form W-9.
  • Track amounts paid to independent contractors; Form 1099-MISC reporting is necessary for vendors who receive cash payments of $600 or more during the calendar year.
  • Track vendors who accept credit card, debit card or other electronic payments; Form 1099-MISC reporting isn’t required for those vendors.

The report is very comprehensive. Click here for a copy.

Feel free to contact any member of our team to help with your payroll at 610-828-1900 (PA) or 732-341-3893 (NJ). You can contact Monica DiPaola, manager at Monica.DiPaola@MCC-CPAs.com or me at Marty.McCarthy@MCC-CPAs.com . We are always happy to help.

Martin C. McCarthy, CPA, CCIFP
Managing Partner 
McCarthy & Company, PC 

Disclaimer: This alert is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Information contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used as tax advice, and cannot be used by the recipient to avoid penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. We strongly advise you to seek professional assistance with respect to your specific issue(s).