How to ensure your payroll department is an asset

It’s common for personnel within an organization to view their payroll department solely as an expense to the company.

Imagine that expense quickly converting to a large liability if your payroll staff does not have the education and knowledge of current labor and tax laws at the federal, state, and local levels. Improper and untimely payments to an employee or governmental agency can create hefty fines, penalties, and interest for your company during a Department of Labor audit for minimum wage, overtime, or pay frequencies, or a tax revenue audit for incorrect tax withholding and quarterly/annual filings and deposits. Your company could also be at risk for default judgments on incorrect garnishment withholdings, late payments, and/or answers to courts.

With recent changes to federal regulations, such as the Tax and Jobs Act of 2017, the upcoming changes to Form W-4, and many states and localities implementing specific wage and hour laws, it can be overwhelming for a one-person or small payroll department to comprehend, retain, and implement new information.

But, there are numerous payroll resources that can add value to your organization and to your employees.

Pay for membership and meeting fees for your staff in a local chapter of the American Payroll Association (APA).

This is a great way for your payroll department to network with peers who will likely have the same challenges of understanding and implementing new laws passed by your surrounding municipalities, within your state or by bordering states. Most local chapters meet on a monthly or quarterly basis and offer a helpline and/or job board for their members.

The APA constantly updates the payroll community of upcoming legislation changes. It also offers several online or printed subscriptions and have an abundant resource library for its members.

Provide exam vouchers for your staff to obtain certification designations.

The APA offers two levels of certification: Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). The FPC exam is open to all those who wish to demonstrate a baseline of payroll competency and consists of 150 questions, and the candidate is given three hours to complete it. The Certification Board of the APA requires CPP candidates to meet certain criteria even before taking the exam, which consists of 190 questions. Candidates are given four hours to complete the CPP, and the exams are open twice a year, in the spring and fall.

Provide registration fees and travel accommodations for statewide or regional payroll conferences in your area.

Your support of continuing education can be instrumental to the retention of your payroll staff.

Celebrate National Payroll Week with your entire organization, not just the payroll department.

National Payroll Week is held during the first week of September every year. The focus of this week should be to celebrate all employees and the professionals who pay them. It’s also a great opportunity for your organization to highlight the payroll department. Depending on your budget, your celebration can be simple or extravagant.

With the right tools and networking opportunities, your payroll department can become an asset to your company by reducing risk of audits, establishing lawful policy and procedures, improving employee retention, and overall company culture.

This article was written by Cindy Mastrofrancesco, CPP, is vice president of Payroll Operations and president-elect of the Memphis Chapter of the American Payroll Association (APA). It originally appeared in the Memphis Business Journal.