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    Home >> Payroll Accounting Topics

     

    Payroll Entries


    Types of Payroll Journal Entries

    When a business pays its employees, it records the payment transaction with a payroll journal entry, which is incorporated into its financial statements through the general ledger. The key types of payroll journal entries are:

    • Initial recordation. The primary payroll journal entry is for the initial recordation of a payroll. This entry records the gross wages earned by employees, as well as all withholdings from their pay, and any additional taxes owed by the company.
    • Accrued wages. There may be an accrued wages entry that is recorded at the end of each accounting period, and which is intended to record the amount of wages owed to employees but not yet paid. This entry is then reversed in the following accounting period, so that the initial recordation entry can take its place.
    • Manual payments. A company may occasionally print manual paychecks to employees, either because of pay adjustments or employment terminations. 

    All of these journal entries are noted below.

    Primary Payroll Journal Entry

    The primary journal entry for payroll is the summary-level entry that is compiled from the payroll register, and which is recorded in either the payroll journal or the general ledger. This entry usually includes debits for the direct labor expense, salaries, and the company's portion of payroll taxes. There will also be credits to a number of accounts, each one detailing the liability for payroll taxes that have not been paid, as well as for the amount of cash already paid to employees for their net pay. The basic entry (assuming no further breakdown of debits by individual department) is:

      Debit Credit
    Direct labor expense xxx  
    Salaries expense xxx  
    Payroll taxes expense xxx  
         Cash   xxx
         Federal withholding taxes payable   xxx
         Social security taxes payable   xxx
         Medicare taxes payable   xxx
         Federal unemployment taxes payable   xxx
         State withholding taxes payable   xxx
         State unemployment taxes payable   xxx
         Garnishments payable   xxx


    There may be a number of additional employee deductions to include in this journal entry. For example, there may be deductions for 401(k) pension plans, health insurance, life insurance, vision insurance, and for the repayment of advances.

    When you later pay the withheld taxes and company portion of payroll taxes to the IRS, you then use the following entry to reduce the balance in the cash account, and eliminate the balances in the liability accounts:

      Debit Credit
         Cash   xxx
    Federal withholding taxes payable xxx  
    Social security taxes payable xxx  
    Medicare taxes payable xxx  
    Federal unemployment taxes payable xxx  
    State withholding taxes payable xxx  
    State unemployment taxes payable xxx  
    Garnishments payable xxx  


    Accrued Payroll Journal Entry

    It is quite common to have some amount of unpaid wages at the end of an accounting period, so you should accrue this expense (if it is material). The accrual entry, as shown next, is simpler than the comprehensive payroll entry already shown, because you typically clump all payroll taxes into a single expense account and offsetting liability account. After recording this entry, reverse it at the beginning of the following accounting period, and then record the actual payroll expense (as just described under the "Primary Payroll Journal Entry" section whenever it occurs.

      Debit Credit
    Direct labor expense xxx  
    Salaries expense xxx  
         Accrued salaries and wages   xxx
         Accrued payroll taxes   xxx


    Manual Paycheck Entry

    It is quite common to create a manual check, either because an employee was short-paid in the preceding payroll, or because the company is laying off or firing an employee, and so is obligated to pay that person before the next regularly scheduled payroll. This check may be paid through the corporate accounts payable bank account, rather than its payroll account, so you may need to make this entry through the accounts payable system. If you are recording it directly into the general ledger or the payroll journal, then use the same line items already noted for the primary payroll journal entry.

    The volume of manual paycheck entries can be reduced by continual attention to the underlying causes of transaction errors, so there are fewer payroll errors to be rectified with a manual paycheck.

    Related Topics

    Benefits accrual
    Bonus accrual
    Payroll accounting
    Payroll fraud
    Payroll internal controls