What is a Payroll Register?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Payroll registers are hard copy or electronic documents that record all the deductions connected with a specific payroll period. The detail included in a register for payroll makes it possible to confirm how gross salary and wages are calculated, the types of deductions that are made for each employee on the payroll, and the amount of each deduction. A payroll register is normally structured in a multiple-column format, making it easy to understand the data without a great deal of trouble.

Payroll registers are hard copy or electronic documents that record all the deductions connected with a specific payroll period.
Payroll registers are hard copy or electronic documents that record all the deductions connected with a specific payroll period.

The payroll register records any tax deductions that are made from the gross pay. In most countries, the register will include the amount of federal taxes that are withheld from the pay for that period. In the event that other federal deductions are made, such as for a national health system or some type of government sponsored retirement program, those figures are also listed as line items. When state or local taxes are also assessed by those jurisdictions, employers normally withhold those amounts on behalf of the employee, and list those figures on the accounting payroll register as well.

Along with taxes, a payroll register will also list any other applicable deductions. For example, if the employee is under a garnishment for any reason, that amount is listed as a deduction from the gross pay. In situations where the employee makes use of direct deposit to place a portion of his or her earnings into a savings account, that detail will also appear. If the employee has received an advance on salary or wages, each payment on that advance will show up as a deduction on the register.

Line items such as deductions for various benefits offered by the employer will also appear on the payroll register. For example, if the employer provides health insurance coverage where the employee pays a percentage of the premium, the deduction for that percentage is recorded on the payroll register form. In like manner, if the employee is making contributions to any type of retirement program offered by the employer, those deductions will also show up as line items on the document.

Today, accounting software that is used to process payrolls is normally capable of generating a payroll register once the payroll is complete for the desired period. In addition, the software makes it possible to generate a register report for any period desired. This means that the report can cover a single pay period, or compile data relevant to an entire month, quarter, semiannual or annual period with equal ease. The ability to easily create a register for any duration can be especially helpful during audits, as well as when officers wish to look closely at the costs associated with salaries, wages, and benefits over an extended period of time.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- No, because people would riot in the streets if they had to let go of that much money at once. Deductions were put in place so that people wouldn't "feel" their tax burdens so sharply. Those payroll deductions may hurt, but they don't hurt nearly as much as it would to pay thousands of dollars at once.

Besides, what are the chances of people actually saving enough money to meet their tax burdens at the end of the year? What would happen to those people who simply didn't have the money to pay the taxes they owed?

Payroll deductions avoid those problems because, by and large, people who have those deductions overpay their taxes and don't panic every April when taxes are due. In fact, they often get refunds and people love those.


Want to know one of the things that shocks new workers the most? The amount of payroll reductions they have to endure is almost always a surprise. Quite often those young workers are simply not prepared for the large reduction in pay that they experience with their first paycheck. They thought they'd bring home a certain amount of money and are shocked to learn that so much is withheld in taxes.

Wouldn't it be a lot more fair for workers to simply receive their full paychecks and then pay taxes on what they make at the end of the year?

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