Payroll expense is the total cost that a company incurs to compensate its employees during a specific period of time. This includes not only the gross wages or salaries that employees earn, but also the additional costs that the company incurs as part of employing those individuals.
Components of payroll expenses typically include:
- Salaries and Wages: This is the gross pay earned by employees before any deductions. It includes regular hourly or salary pay, as well as any overtime, bonuses, commissions, or other forms of compensation.
- Employer Payroll Taxes: In many countries, employers are required to pay certain taxes based on the wages they pay to employees. In the U.S., for example, employers must pay a matching portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as federal and state unemployment taxes.
- Employee Benefits: Many employers provide benefits to their employees, such as health insurance, retirement plan contributions, life insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, and more. The cost of these benefits is part of the total payroll expense.
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Employers often must pay for insurance that provides benefits to employees who become injured or ill due to their job.
All of these costs together make up the total payroll expense for a business. This expense is typically one of the largest costs for a business and is classified as an operating expense. When preparing financial statements, payroll expenses are usually reported on the income statement, which shows the company’s revenues and expenses over a specific period of time.
Example of Payroll Expense
Let’s consider an example. Suppose you run a small business named “City Lights” with five employees, each earning $40,000 a year. Here’s a simplified breakdown of how you might calculate your total annual payroll expenses:
- Salaries and Wages: Five employees each earning $40,000 annually would be a total of $200,000.
- Employer Payroll Taxes: In the U.S., employers are responsible for paying 6.2% for Social Security tax (up to the annual wage base limit) and 1.45% for Medicare on each employee’s wages. For simplicity, let’s ignore the wage base limit. This would amount to 7.65% of $200,000, or $15,300.
- Employee Benefits: Let’s say you contribute 5% of each employee’s salary toward a retirement plan and cover half of a $500 monthly health insurance premium per employee. The retirement contributions would total $10,000 (5% of $200,000), and the health insurance premiums would total $15,000 ($250 per employee per month times 12 months times 5 employees).
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance: The cost varies depending on your industry and other factors, but let’s say it costs you 1% of your total wages, or $2,000 (1% of $200,000).
Add all these expenses together, and your total payroll expense for the year would be $242,300 ($200,000 in wages, plus $15,300 in payroll taxes, plus $10,000 in retirement contributions, plus $15,000 in health insurance premiums, plus $2,000 in workers’ compensation insurance).
Please note, this is a simplified example. Actual payroll costs can be much more complex and can include other expenses, such as paid time off, training costs, and more. Also, tax percentages can vary depending on a variety of factors, so this example may not reflect your actual tax liability. Always consult with a payroll professional or accountant for accurate calculations.