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Charlette has over 10 years of experience in accounting and finance and 2 years of partnerships with HR leaders on freelance projects. It uses this extensive experience to answer your questions about payroll.
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Heather is a staff writer and payroll specialist with several years of experience working directly with small business owners. His expertise ensures that he gives the best answers to your questions about payroll.
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Payroll in Excel is best for businesses that need to pay 10 or fewer employees and operate in states without complex business and tax laws. Since it is a completely manual approach to payroll, it takes time compared to other methods but can certainly be cost effective for growing businesses. Using a template can help with time and efficiency as it includes pre-populated information such as tax rates and overtime formulas. After entering your employee information, you just need to enter the actual hours worked and the template will then automatically populate the current payroll data.
If payroll is still taking too much time or you’re over a spreadsheet, consider using a small business payroll software like Gusto.
It automatically files new hire paperwork, calculates and files payroll taxes, generates year-end W-2s and 1099s, pays via direct pay, and even helps employees select and manage benefits from a single dashboard.
If payroll is still taking too much time or you’re over a spreadsheet, consider using a small business payroll software like Gusto. Automatically files new hire paperwork, calculates and files payroll taxes, generates year-end W-2s and 1099s, and pays via direct deposit. It even helps employees choose and manage their benefits. Sign up today for a free 30-day trial.
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Follow the steps below to run payroll using our free Excel payroll template. If you want to see the process in action, you can also watch our video tutorial on how to make payroll in Excel.
It may take some time to figure out how to make payroll using an Excel template. First, you need to take a look at the template and assess your business needs. A standardized template should have tabs with links to formulas that calculate employee taxes, deductions, and payments for each month. You also need a “Setup” tab where your payroll calculations can pull up standard information such as payroll ratio and enlisted benefits.
Keep the “Setup” tab up to date so you can easily connect each month you run the payroll. This helps with automation and prevents double work.
You may need to add or delete columns to meet the needs of your small business. For example, if your business is located in a location with local income tax (such as New York City), you should reflect this in the payroll Excel template. You can do this by adding the necessary information in the “Set Employee Data” tab. This is where you should always start when making changes, as all other payroll tabs pull source data from here.
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To add a column, select the column letter (eg G, H, or I) you want your new column to precede. Right click your mouse and then select “Add”. Enter a title (on line 3) for your new column (for example, “Local NYC Tax”) and enter rates for applicable employees. Go to all month tabs (from “January Payroll” to “December Payroll”), including the “Year-To-Date Payroll” tab, and enter a new column between columns N and Q (tax columns). Label it “Local NYC Tax.”
You must be consistent when adding new columns to month tabs. If you add the “Local NYC Tax” column to the O column on the “January Payroll” tab, you must add it in the same place on the other month tabs. For the “Payroll Year-to-Date” tab with a summary of 12 months, you’ll also need to add new columns to accurately reflect the details from the monthly payroll tabs.
To delete columns, highlight the column you want to remove, right-click your mouse, and then select “Delete”. If you delete a column from the “Set Employee Data” tab, the rules are the same. If you delete a column from one of the payroll tabs, including the “Payroll Year-to-Date” and “Setup” tabs, you must delete the others.
For example, if you delete “Social Security Tax Rate” in column G of the “Set Employee Data” tab, you must remove the “Social Security Tax” column (column N) on all 13 payroll tabs. Otherwise you will get error messages and your formulas will not work.
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This is the “Set Employee Data” tab. Do not change the Social Security and Medicare tax rates in columns G and H, respectively, because they are fixed.
When adding a column, highlight and right-click the column you want to precede and select Add.
After you enter data in columns A through I, check how cells with formulas automatically calculate the totals in the monthly payroll tabs.
As you add and delete columns, consider whether you can simply replace some of the existing column labels in the payroll Excel template. Besides reducing errors, this will save you time without having to switch multiple tabs.
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To help, we’ve added two columns (N and O columns) to the “Set Employee” tab and labeled them “Other Deduction”. Double-click the description and type a tag on it that more appropriately reflects your needs.
Note that we’ve created the “Other Interruption” columns to be easily customizable so you don’t have to change other tabs to match. There is only one “Other Deductions” column in the 13 payroll tabs, and the data reflected here is the sum of the N and O columns in the “Set Employee Data” tab. If you need to add more columns for interrupts in the “Setup” tab, follow the instructions above to add columns.
You can use the “Other Interruption” columns in the “Setup” tab to enter various interruptions specific to your company.
Although there are two “Other Deduction” columns in the “Setup” tab, the monthly payroll tabs aggregate them into one column.
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Once you’re satisfied with the template layout, you can start creating your employee data. You need the following information to complete the “Setup” tab.
Enter the full names of your employees under column A on the “Set Up Employee” tab. Note that you have to re-enter the names of the monthly payroll tabs. When you do, make sure it matches the name you entered in the “Setup” tab. If there are spelling and format differences, monthly and annual payroll tabs will not be able to calculate automatically.
When you have new hires, enter their details in the “Setup” tab after existing employees; When you enter their names, the information will be transferred to other tabs automatically.
**For employees who have resigned or been laid off, stop adding payroll data for them in their monthly payroll tabs. Don’t leave them out of the “Set Up Employee” tab, otherwise the previous months reflected on their payroll will be updated to $0 and your payroll expense amounts will change from year to date. When you regenerate the payroll Excel template for the next calendar year, you can remove all inactive employees from the “Setup” tab.
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In column B of the “Set Employee Data” tab, enter the straight-time hourly rate for each hourly employee (excluding overtime). For salaried employees, leave this cell blank.
In column C of the same tab, enter the annual salary of each salaried employee. For example, if your staff earns $50,000 a year, enter “$50,000.”
In column D, labeled “Number of Pay Periods per Year,” enter the applicable payroll period based on how often you pay employees.
Enter the federal and state income tax rates for each employee in columns E and F, respectively. Use W-4 forms collected from employees joining your company to find applicable prices. Tax rates depend on the number of benefits your employees receive (usually by the number of dependents) and their filing status (such as married, single, or head of household). Generally, the more allowances employees claim, the lower the tax rates.
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Columns A through F in the “Set Employee Data” tab do not have any formulas in their cells. Use your payroll records to make sure you enter the correct information.
This is the “Year-To-Date Payroll” tab. All data is automatically populated in this tab, so you don’t need to change any information in the cells.
Do not change the Social Security and Medicare tax rates in columns G and H, respectively. These Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) rates are predetermined by the IRS. Keep in mind that Social Security maxes out if an employee receives a salary of $142,800 before the end of the year. If you have employees who earn more than this, you must withhold 6.2% tax when their YTD earnings exceed this amount.
For example, if your employee meets the $142,800 earnings threshold for Social Security in April,
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