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What Is a Payroll Register?


Any company that has employees has to undertake payroll accounting. But for someone who is not an accounting professional, all of the different records for payroll processing may seem needlessly redundant or complicated. The truth is, best business practices require an accurate payroll register, in addition to a journal for payroll (which many people understandably confuse for the payroll register). Here is the quick rundown of the basics of the payroll register, followed by other explanations and tips for running your payroll reports.

The Payroll Register Template

Payroll Register

The simplest way to think of your payroll register is as a checkbook register. Assuming you have a designated account from which wages are drawn each pay period (which you should), the payroll register includes line items for all deposits, withdrawals (each paycheck printed), tax liabilities withheld from employee checks, employer contributions to Medicare and the like, as well as the rolling balance. So, if we were making a payroll register template, the columns in our excel sheet would closely mimic the register that comes with your checkbook, with added columns to specify things like wage, hours worked, tax withheld, etc. on each of those transactions. There is a great payroll register example at this link if our explanation is not adequate or if you are more of a visual person.


The payroll register helps businesses ensure that their payroll processes are accurate and is one of the foremost resources and first lines of defense against any disputes or questions that may arise about a particular paycheck. Does Hank from your sales department need to know how many vacation days he has left for this year? Great! Let’s pull up the payroll register. When Jane thinks you might have overpaid her on that last check, the payroll register is where you will want to go to sort it out.

What is the journal for payroll?

In contrast to the payroll register, the journal for payroll offers a broader look at overall payroll transactions and does not break down transactions by individual employees and paychecks as the payroll register does. Instead, the journal for payroll lumps together the gross wages of all employees, tax payable, insurance payable and the net wages paid to all employees. This report is helpful in getting an overall sense of the financial impact your payroll has on your business. Rather than looking at payroll on a granular level, you are able to see exactly what happened to your financial during every pay period.

What is the payroll report?

That is a trick question. If someone asks you for a payroll report, you will need to make them clarify “which one?” Payroll reports are any document dealing with payroll an Payroll Register d, depending on their intended application, can take on a variety of characteristics to fulfill different HR and accounting needs. If you are needing to supply a payroll report to the IRS, assuming you are not going through some intense audit (in which case, we are sorry), it is almost definitely this form. With any luck, you have enlisted the help of a professional accounting and tax service firm which has kept an impeccable payroll register and journal for payroll, enabling them to fill it out for you significantly faster than the IRS can direct deposit your refund check.

How do I run a payroll report in Quickbooks?

If you still opt to do your accounting in-house with Quickbooks, do not worry. We still love you! In fact, we offer Quickbooks training and have quick tips readily available on our website to empower small business owners ambitious enough to take on bookkeeping in addition to all of their gazillion other responsibilities. To run a payroll report in Quickbooks, you will simply select the “Reports” option, followed by “Employees & Payroll,” followed by “Payroll Summary.” Be sure that the dates you select for the “To” and “From” options are accurate depending on the reason you need that particular report and voilà, you are now an accounting ninja! One quick tip based on feedback from those using Quickbooks: Use the desktop version. While the online version has everything you need, most users find the desktop version be easier to navigate, which allows you more time to get back to running your business!

If it turns out that bookkeeping just is not for you, you find that your time can be better spent managing other areas of your business or if you really like accounting and would like us to help you get your Quickbooks black belt, give us a call. There is no project too big or too small and we respect the fact that the amount of our help needed will vary greatly from business to business. And regardless of how we can be helpful, be sure to check out our summary of small business accounting tips for 2017 before you enter another transaction on any report!