What Does a Payroll Accountant Do?

A payroll accountant is generally responsible for balancing accounts within a company's or organization's accounting system, preparing accounting documents, schedules, and summaries. Most payroll accountants have earned at least a bachelor's degree, such as the Bachelor of Science in Accounting and the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) or Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

One of the most essential accounting functions within an organization is payroll accounting. The role of payroll accountants covers a wide variety of tasks that are essential for timely, accurate, and efficient payroll operations abiding by federal, state, and local laws. Payroll accountants must have a comprehensive understanding of fundamental tasks, such as paycheck calculations, taxation principles, preparing ledgers and journals, transfers, journal entries, and deposits. Payroll accountants also ensure the appropriate disbursement of funds, maintain and update employee leave balance information, and make sure the correct methods for completing forms W-2, W-3, and 941 are utilized. In addition, payroll accountants assist in the design of company compensation packages and private pension plans, including trust-funds, group annuities, profit-sharing, various thrift savings plans, and employee stock ownership.

They must also possess solid knowledge of more complex topics, like:

  • Benefits Taxation
  • Payroll Laws
  • Payroll Policies and Procedures
  • Preparing Financial Statements
  • Preparing Payroll Reports
  • Performing Periodic Internal Payroll Audits
  • Preparing Documents for External and Internal Auditors

Important Facts About Payroll Accountants

Professional Certification Available from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Institute of Management Accountants, The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and the Information Systems and Audit Control Association (ISACA)
Key Skills Attention to detail, strong mathematical foundation, analytical and critical thinking, organization, clear written and spoken communication
Work Environment Primarily in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services
Similar Occupations Bookkeeping clerks, auditing clerks, budget analysts, financial analysts, management analysts, tax examiners, collectors, revenue agents, personal finance advisors

Training and Education

Companies typically hire payroll accountant who have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting. They will need to have a thorough knowledge of accounting theory, concepts, methods, and techniques for applying them to payroll accounting transactions. Strong problem solving skills are also required. Individuals who are interested in payroll accounting careers can take the necessary degree training at traditional colleges and universities or online. Besides taking courses in general education, humanities, business, and life sciences, students may take some of the following core courses:

  • Taxation
  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Strategic Cost Analysis

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to PayScale.com, the majority of payroll administrators earn between $37,000 and $65,000 a year, as of May 2019. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not provide information specific to the field of payroll accounting, the BLS did project that the employment of accountants and auditors of all kinds will likely grow by about 10% between 2016 and 2026, a rate faster than the average predicted for all occupations.

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