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1 1 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM Payroll software Using payroll software can speed up the process of calculating pay accurately, and making payments on time. It can reduce the burden of understanding complex payroll legislation and payroll systems operation. As a consequence, it can also reduce administrative costs. Payroll is a business-critical operation for every organisation - people must be paid accurately and on time. It is therefore essential to train staff properly, and implement procedures and disaster recovery plans to ensure payroll system continuity. It is important to select a reliable supplier. Unlike most other business functions, you are dependent on a payroll supplier not only for training, support and help if things go wrong, but also for regular updates when tax and other figures change, and when there are alterations to legislation. The advantages of payroll software The most obvious benefit of payroll software is that payroll calculations - such as tax and National Insurance deductions - can be completed in a fraction of the time that they take to work out manually. Year-end reporting is also usually automated, and both payslips and annual reports are archived in case copies are needed later. Time recording Payroll systems can also incorporate, or integrate with, timesheet systems that record employee attendance or time worked. In this way, information about hours worked, whether collected automatically as a user or operator logs into a system, or manually entered into an electronic form, can be automatically transferred into the payroll system. Reporting Using basic payroll data, together with data on attendance and hours worked, payroll systems can provide a wealth of reports. This allows in-depth analysis of staff costs for the business as a whole, across departments and even individual jobs and contracts. Storing personnel records Most organisations will also keep other data about employees, such as records of annual leave. This type of information is usually associated with the broader

2 2 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM human resources function. You can get payroll systems that will record these additional types of information, avoiding the need for a separate software package. Planning The ability of payroll packages to provide forecasts means you can plan staff costs and budgets by entering hypothetical numbers to see the exact total cost of an employee. Assess the business requirements for payroll software Not every business needs payroll software. If there are no complications, and if the business is relatively small, manual payroll calculations can be quite straightforward. Bought software versus HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) CD-Rom Whether or not you need to buy software depends largely on the size of your business. If you only have a few employees, the cost of the software may outweigh the time you save using it. Payroll software usually requires an annual subscription, in addition to the initial purchase cost, in order to obtain regular updates to tax and National Insurance rates, and information on changing legislation that can affect payroll calculations. HMRC now offers a basic calculator for tax and National Insurance contributions, and provides this free of charge to all employers, on CD-Rom. Although this cannot yet replace either a manual or computerised system completely, it can save time in producing payroll calculations and may be sufficient for some smaller businesses. Who will use the software? When choosing the best option for you, consider the expertise available within your business. For example, who handles your payroll when the company accountant is absent? You may find it easier to train someone else to operate the basic payroll run if they have the benefit of a suitable software package, rather than having to carry out the calculations manually. What will happen if there's a problem? You should also consider business continuity. If you manage payroll using a computer, that computer will become business-critical. Therefore you will need to plan support, back-ups of data and disaster recovery plans. It is always possible to revert to a manual system if there is an emergency, but you should be aware that using payroll software makes you reliant on your computer system. See our guide on business continuity planning in IT. Payroll software capabilities

3 3 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM Payroll software can do many pay-related calculations. However, you will still need to input and maintain certain data for each of your employees. What payroll software can do Any payroll software will take over the routine calculation of ordinary payroll requirements such as tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs). It will also calculate the NICs that you have to pay as an employer. It will allow you to pay people at monthly or weekly intervals, as appropriate. Payroll software will also: calculate student loan and other deductions produce payslips for your employees produce payment reports to allow you to pay employees, showing the amount to be paid to each employee keep records of payments and deductions produce year-end reports and documentation for you and your employees produce the necessary figures or documentation when an employee leaves What payroll software can't do While payroll software will do automatic calculations for you, there will still be administrative work for you to do. In addition to inputting an employee's details when they start their employment, you will need to make changes when their rates of pay increase or decrease. You will also need to change tax codes when notifications are received. You may also need to enter details of hours worked and overtime. There are also many possible deductions from pay such as employer loans and pensions. Even if the software can automatically calculate some or all of these, you will still need to key in the details for each employee to whom they apply. This information will have to be updated when appropriate. Payroll software operation Once computerised, the payroll function should be operated by someone with appropriate knowledge and training. The operator will need to understand the relevant accountancy practices and statutory requirements, especially if you plan to use manual operation in the event of a system failure. See our guide on pay - an overview of obligations. Back-up plans You need a back-up plan for when the usual operator is ill, on holiday or otherwise unavailable. Alternatively, you may want to consider making arrangements for your business' accountants to provide emergency cover. You should have back-up copies of the payroll data, of which at least one should be stored off-site and with appropriate security, eg in a fireproof safe. You may find it most practical for both security and continuity purposes to run payroll

4 4 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM software on a dedicated computer and printer to avoid any disruption to the payroll system by the failure of other software. See our guide on business continuity planning in IT. Privacy You need to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, even if your use of personal data does not require you to register with the Information Commissioner. You must keep only essential information - it should be kept securely for no longer than is necessary, in order to preserve confidentiality and prevent unauthorised access. See our guide on how to comply with data protection legislation. Access to payroll information should be controlled using appropriate passwords and, ideally, physical protection such as an office to which access is restricted. Similarly, you will need to secure paper-based information, such as payslips, probably by employing physical security, eg keeping them locked away. Trial runs and tests, such as a payroll reports run to check that employee data has been entered correctly and that calculations are being performed correctly, should be destroyed. Security There are additional security measures you may need to take. If possible, at least two people should be involved in managing the payroll process, from inputting data to authorising the payroll run. Actual payments should only be made with whatever authorisation is usually appropriate in your business. Comprehensive, accurate and timely reporting can help to reveal any discrepancies, such as mistakes in inputting hours, rates of pay and other data. Payroll software functionality Any payroll software will carry out basic calculations for pay, such as tax and National Insurance deductions. However, if you need to make other deductions you should check that any payroll software you use can handle these. Pay intervals Weekly and monthly pay intervals are standard, but if you have different requirements you should check that these are supported. You may also want to check whether the software can handle pension scheme administration. Multiple usage Smaller businesses may only require support for a single payroll operator at a time, but you should check that multiple user operation is available just in case you need it in future. Reporting Some basic end-of-year reports will be included as standard, but check that

5 5 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM everything you need is supported. If necessary, look for a package that will calculate and prepare P11D forms and provide the relevant figures to give to employees to allow them to complete their tax returns. See our guide: introduction to Self Assessment. Data presentation All payroll software will tell you the amounts that need to be paid to employees and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), but check that this information can be used in a way that meets your requirements. For example, you may want the software to print cheques for you, or just to give you figures to help write cheques yourself or use for electronic payment. Personnel records Additional features may include the calculation and recording of holiday entitlements, self-service to allow employees to request or book annual leave online, and tracking sick leave. In addition, some packages may be able to keep records such as job position history, previous employment history, education and academic qualifications, references, skills and competencies and training records. Integration Integration with the main accounting system to enable payroll costs to be automatically transferred is highly desirable. Expenses information is required to complete P11D forms, so it helps if the payroll system offers or integrates with expense reporting systems. If the system can record information regarding car administration, this can also help with the preparation of data used in completing P11Ds. Reporting and analysis using payroll software At a minimum, payroll software must produce payslips. However, it is also useful if you can run pay and personnel-related reports. Payslips Before you acquire any software, check whether it can print onto normal stationery or whether a special size or pre-printed stationery is required, and if so, how much it costs. It usually makes more sense to print any necessary forms directly onto blank paper or labels if the quantities are small. It can also be useful to be able to reprint payslips in the event of a problem. Check whether the software needs special stationery for employee P60 forms at the tax year-end. Again, printing the form onto plain paper is often the better option. For more information on P60s, see our guide: introduction to Self Assessment. To ensure privacy, payslips should be printed on a printer that employees do not have access to. In some cases, you may prefer to use security stationery that

6 6 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM cannot be read until opened by the recipient. If this is important, you should also check that the software is compatible with such stationery. Reports Payroll systems will provide information either on paper or electronically to update nominal ledgers, and a whole range of other reports are possible. Some will allow a high level of detail in the information passed to the ledgers, allowing accounting to distinguish between departments, managers and even individual jobs. Software can also report on compliance with National Minimum Wage legislation and, if time and attendance information is recorded, the Working Time Regulations. For more information on these, see our guides on understanding national minimum wage law and hours, rest breaks and the working week. If sickness and holidays are recorded in the payroll package, then these can readily be reported on too, together with other absences such as maternity, adoption and paternity leave. Choosing a payroll software supplier Payroll software is extremely complex and it is essential that you choose a dependable supplier. Check that the supplier is successful, financially viable and can provide excellent references. These factors should take precedence over the temptation to choose existing suppliers. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) accredited software Ensure that software is accredited under the HMRC Payroll Standard Accreditation Scheme. This scheme covers accreditation in: calculation of tax and National Insurance contributions electronic exchange of HMRC returns and payments customer service handling of statutory records, credits and deductions The Scheme is updated regularly and all software packages are tested annually to ensure that they remain compliant with current legislation. Find out about the Payroll Standard Accreditation Scheme on the HMRC website - Opens in a new window. An alternative is to use the HMRC Employer CD-Rom, which comes as part of the New Employer Starter Pack. You can order the pack by contacting the HMRC New Employer Helpline on Tel You can read about the Employer CD-Rom on the HMRC website - Opens in a new window. Electronic filing Electronic filing of HMRC returns and payments can save time and trouble. Any supplier should provide electronic filing for some forms, and ideally all those that can be filed electronically.

7 7 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM If you employ fewer than 50 employees you can get a tax-free payment from HMRC if you file certain end-of-year forms online. Read our guide on how to file returns online. Ask potential suppliers how quickly they've responded to producing software for new electronic submissions. Costs and updates Whilst the purchase cost should be considered, most of the costs will be in operating, supporting and updating the software. You will have to pay an annual subscription for updates on rate and legislation changes. Check how much the update subscription will cost, and how and when updates will be made available. Find out how long the supplier continues to provide updates. Some suppliers provide updates for only a few years, so you need to upgrade to a newer version of the software. Some suppliers have experienced problems with updates introducing bugs that haven't been caught by testing. Check that when updates are applied, they can be rolled back in the event of any problems. Support Because of the critical nature of payroll operations, excellent support is a must. If a problem with the software occurs on payday, it must be resolved immediately. Check the levels of support offered by the supplier, in particular, the cost and response times. See our guide on how to choose and manage your IT supplier. Related guides on businesslink.gov.uk Use our interactive tool to find out about the main online transactions you can make with government Computer software: the basics Get the most from IT in your business Choose and manage your IT supplier Basic IT skills Make the right IT choices Accounting software Business continuity planning in IT Pay - an overview of obligations Comply with data protection legislation Information security best practice

8 8 of 8 9/23/ :41 PM Keeping your systems and data secure Introduction to Self Assessment Understanding national minimum wage law Keep the right staff records IT support for your staff Related web sites you might find useful Payroll Standard Accreditation information on the HM Revenue & Customs website Payroll software information on the Payroll World website Employer CD-Rom information on the HMRC website You can find this guide by navigating to: Home > IT & e-commerce > Business applications > Payroll software Crown copyright 2010

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