More accurate than a ledger sheet and more usable than a spreadsheet, online payroll services can save you an enormous amount of time and pain.

It's Saturday morning, and while the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and your kids are frolicking in the yard, you're sitting in your office sweating next week's payroll. Or you're writing a check to your payroll service, wondering once again if you can continue to justify that expense in this economy.

But here's some good news: There's a third alternative, one that's been catching hold: Sites that handle payroll for you, with minimal input from you.

These sites automate the three tasks you're charged with when managing your payroll:

1. GENERATING THE PAYROLL.

Online payroll sites do all of the calculations required to determine your employees' gross pay, taxes, and other withholding (deductions for things like health insurance), and net pay.

2. PAYING YOUR TAXES.

Fail to do this and you'll face steep fines from the government. Online payroll sites calculate the taxes you owe to government entities and help you pay them.

3. FILING FORMS.

You're not done just because you've satisfied your tax liabilities you owe forms that report them. Online payroll sites have you covered here.

Why Online Payroll?

If you're already using small-business accounting software to manage your payroll, you know the benefits. You're already automated, so you probably don't want to change. And your payroll data is integrated with your other financial information.

But if you're still doing payroll by hand, you'll find plenty of advantages to using an online service:

  • SPEED
    How much time are you spending each week (or every other week) on payroll? If you switch to managing it online, you'll be able to initiate a payroll run in just a few minutes-really. Once setup is done, all you need to do is enter the hours that hourly workers put in, and add any special pay for overtime, vacation, and bonuses. Online payroll services track vacation and sick pay, so you'll know what an employee is due.
  • STAFF TIME SAVINGS
    Whoever manages your payroll is probably devoting too much time to it. Automate it and spend time building your business, not counting the hours.
  • MINIMAL NEED FOR INPUT
    Just enter a few numbers.
  • NO MANUAL CALCULATING
    Online payroll services are giant calculators; they do all the required math.
  • ACCURACY
    As long as you've done setup accurately and entered all hours correctly, there's no chance of an error.
  • EASY REPORTING
    How do you calculate your payroll liabilities now, and keep tabs on how they relate to your overall cash flow? Online payroll services offer numerous reports, such as Tax Liability and Workers' Compensation, so you'll always know where you are.
  • REMINDERS
    You'll never miss a tax deadline or sweat a last-minute payroll, thanks to the timely to-do lists these sites offer.
  • EASY TAX PAYMENTS
    One of the best reasons to use online payroll sites. Not only do they remind you to pay your regularly scheduled taxes, but, at minimum, they provide signature-ready forms with your data poured. Services like SurePayroll just takes care of the whole shebang for you without any intervention.
  • INTEGRATION
    Payroll is only one slice of your accounting pie, and its numbers need to be integrated with the rest of your financials. Online payroll sites accommodate this by exporting payroll data to popular smallbusiness accounting software like QuickBooks.
  • EMPLOYEE ACCESS
    Wasting too much time answering employee questions about past pay periods? Online payroll sites let your employees have access to pay-stub information on password-protected sites.

Getting Started

As with any financial application, you'll need to spend some time on setup. Round up the information you'll need to get started:

  1. An employee list, including contact information
  2. Any direct-deposit data
  3. Company benefits info
  4. Payroll information for employees (tax withholding, benefits participation, and soon)
  5. Company tax identification numbers, like FEIN (federal employer identification number) and EIN (employer identification number)
  6. Your company pay policies

How long before you can process your first payroll? Not as long as you'd think. Some payroll services let you run a payroll the day you set up your system.

Payroll applications use wizards or menus to walk you through the setup process. Technical support, too, is readily available during this process. Once you've laid this groundwork, you can forget about payroll until it's time to run a cycle, or until taxes are due.

Payroll is-arguably-your most critical financial liability. Do it wrong and both the government and your employees will be on your back. Online payroll services pass the test of accuracy and usability, and they handle tasks that take up a lot time, freeing you to focus on other parts of your business.

 

Source:  Kathy Yakal - PC Magazine

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