The Complete Guide to Efficient Payroll Processing

Payroll Processing

Payroll processing refers to the complete set of procedures involved in calculating, managing, and distributing wages and salaries to employees within a company. This process includes several key steps:

  1. Data Collection: Gathering accurate information on employee hours worked, salary agreements, bonuses, deductions, and any other compensation-related data.
  2. Calculations: Determining the correct amounts for gross wages, taxes, social security contributions, benefits deductions, and any other withholdings.
  3. Issuing Payments: Distributing the net pay to employees via direct deposit, paper checks, or other payment methods.
  4. Reporting: Complying with government reporting requirements, which may include filing taxes and social security contributions, and maintaining detailed records of all payroll activities.

Payroll processing is critical not only for ensuring employees receive their pay on time and in the correct amount but also for maintaining legal compliance with tax and employment laws. It can be done manually, but most businesses use specialized payroll software or external payroll services to streamline the process and reduce the likelihood of errors. In this article, we will discuss the complete guide to efficient payroll processing. Read the complete article to learn more.

10 Steps involved in payroll processing in Australia

Payroll processing in Australia involves a series of steps designed to ensure accurate and timely payment to employees while complying with relevant legal requirements. Here’s a detailed overview of the typical steps involved in payroll processing in Australia:

  1. Employee Data Collection:
    • Collect and verify employee details, including tax file numbers (TFN), superannuation fund information, and employment terms.
  2. Timekeeping and Attendance Monitoring:
    • Track employee work hours, overtime, leave (such as annual, personal, and parental leave), and other attendance data to calculate payable hours.
  3. Calculating Gross Pay:
    • Calculate gross pay based on the employee’s wage rate (hourly or salary) and the hours worked during the pay period, including allowances, bonuses, and overtime.
  4. Deducting Taxes and Withholdings:
    • Calculate and deduct income taxes using the PAYG (Pay As You Go) withholding system, according to the tax tables provided by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
    • Deduct other withholdings such as union fees, salary sacrifice amounts, and any other pre-tax deductions.
  5. Superannuation Contributions:
    • Calculate and set aside employer contributions to each employee’s chosen superannuation fund, which is currently a minimum of 10.5% of the employee’s ordinary time earnings.
  6. Calculating Net Pay:
    • Subtract all deductions from the gross pay to determine the net pay due to the employee.
  7. Issuing Payment:
    • Pay employees via direct deposit into their bank accounts, which is the most common method, or through other agreed-upon payment methods.
  8. Payroll Reporting:
    • Report payroll details to the ATO using the Single Touch Payroll (STP) system each time employees are paid. This report must include salaries and wages, PAYG withholding, and superannuation information.
  9. Record Keeping:
    • Maintain accurate and comprehensive records for each employee for seven years, including wage calculations, deductions, and payment histories, as required by Australian law.
  10. Year-End Processing and Adjustments:
  • At the end of the financial year, complete any necessary adjustments, provide employees with payment summaries if required for years prior to STP, and prepare for the reconciliation and reporting of payroll taxes and superannuation.

Each of these steps must be executed carefully to ensure that payroll processing is accurate, complies with all regulatory requirements, and is carried out efficiently to maintain the trust and satisfaction of employees.

Setting up payroll systems and software in Australia?

Setting up a payroll system and software in Australia involves a series of well-defined steps to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations, efficient processing, and accurate employee payments. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you set up your payroll system in Australia:

  1. Choose the Right Payroll Software:
    • Select a payroll software that suits your business size and needs. Look for features like Single Touch Payroll (STP) compliance, superannuation calculation capabilities, and integration with your existing financial systems. Popular options include Xero, MYOB, and QuickBooks.
  2. Register for an Australian Business Number (ABN):
    • Ensure your business has an ABN. This is a requirement for running a business and hiring employees in Australia.
  3. Register for PAYG Withholding:
    • Register with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for PAYG withholding to deduct tax from employees’ wages and report it periodically.
  4. Understand Compliance Requirements:
    • Familiarize yourself with the Fair Work Act, the National Employment Standards (NES), and any relevant Modern Awards or enterprise agreements that apply to your employees.
  5. Set Up Employee Information:
    • Collect necessary information from employees, including tax file numbers (TFN), bank account details for salary deposits, and superannuation fund details.
  6. Configure Payroll Details:
    • Set up your payroll calendar (weekly, fortnightly, monthly) and configure the payroll software with the correct tax tables and superannuation rates. Ensure the software can handle different types of employee compensation, such as bonuses, overtime, and allowances.
  7. Integrate Time Tracking and Attendance:
    • If required, integrate your payroll software with time tracking and attendance systems to automate the calculation of pay based on the actual hours worked.
  8. Establish Payroll Policies:
    • Develop clear payroll policies covering pay periods, overtime, leave entitlements, and other payroll-related matters. Communicate these policies to all employees.
  9. Test the Payroll System:
    • Before going live, run tests to ensure the system accurately calculates pay, deductions, and generates payroll records. This is crucial to catch any errors that could lead to compliance issues or employee dissatisfaction.
  10. Train Your Team:
    • Train your payroll administrators and relevant staff on how to use the new payroll system. Ensure they understand both the software and the legal requirements of payroll processing in Australia.
  11. Go Live and Monitor:
    • Start processing payroll using the new system. Monitor the first few cycles closely to address any issues promptly. Regularly update the system for any changes in payroll legislation or tax rates.
  12. Keep Records Securely:
    • Ensure that payroll records are kept securely and in compliance with Australian law, which generally requires records to be kept for at least seven years.
  13. Stay Informed:
    • Continuously stay updated on changes in payroll legislation, including tax rates, superannuation requirements, and employment laws, to ensure ongoing compliance.

By following these steps, you can set up a robust payroll system that not only complies with Australian laws but also supports efficient and error-free payroll processing.

– Calculating gross pay and deductions

Calculating gross pay and deductions is a crucial part of the payroll process. Here’s how to accurately determine these amounts:

Calculating Gross Pay

  1. Hourly Employees:
    • Multiply the number of hours worked by the employee’s hourly wage rate.
    • Include any overtime payments if applicable. Overtime rates are typically higher and are governed by employment agreements or awards.
  2. Salaried Employees:
    • Divide the annual salary by the number of pay periods in the year (e.g., monthly, fortnightly) to get the gross pay for each period.
    • Adjust for any unpaid leave or part-time hours if applicable.
  3. Commissions or Bonuses:
    • Add any earned commissions or bonuses to the regular pay for the period.
  4. Allowances:
    • Include any applicable allowances, such as travel, uniform, or meal allowances, which are part of the compensation package.

Calculating Deductions

  1. Taxes (PAYG Withholding):
    • Calculate the amount of income tax to withhold based on the Australian Tax Office (ATO) tax tables. This depends on the employee’s declaration and total earnings.
  2. Superannuation:
    • Contribute a minimum of 10.5% (as of 2021-2022) of the employee’s ordinary time earnings to their superannuation fund. This rate is set to gradually increase to 12% by 2025.
  3. Medicare Levy:
    • The standard Medicare Levy is 2% of taxable income for most taxpayers. This may be adjusted based on the employee’s income level and other specific conditions such as family size and income.
  4. Other Deductions:
    • Deduct any other pre-tax contributions like salary sacrifice arrangements, which might include payments for vehicles, computers, or extra superannuation contributions.
    • Include post-tax deductions if applicable, such as union fees, workplace giving, or additional voluntary superannuation contributions.

Final Net Pay Calculation

  • Subtract all deductions from the gross pay to determine the net pay that the employee will receive.

Example Calculation:

  • Hourly Employee: 38 hours at $25/hour = $950 gross pay
  • Overtime: 5 hours at $37.5/hour (1.5x normal rate) = $187.5
  • Gross Pay: $950 + $187.5 = $1,137.5
  • Tax: Based on ATO tax tables, assume $200 tax
  • Superannuation: 10.5% of $1,137.5 = $119.44
  • Net Pay: $1,137.5 – $200 (tax) – $119.44 (super) = $818.06

By carefully following these steps, you can ensure accurate payroll processing, which is essential for maintaining compliance with Australian tax and employment laws and ensuring employee satisfaction.

– Payroll schedules and deadlines

Top of Form

Payroll schedules and deadlines are critical components of payroll management, ensuring timely and accurate payment to employees and compliance with regulatory requirements. Here’s an overview of common payroll schedules and key deadlines to consider:

Payroll Schedules

Payroll schedules determine how often employees are paid and can vary based on organizational policies and employment agreements. Common types include:

  1. Weekly: Employees are paid every week, typically resulting in 52 pay periods per year. This schedule is often used for hourly employees.
  2. Fortnightly (Biweekly): Employees are paid every two weeks, resulting in 26 pay periods per year. This is a common schedule for both hourly and salaried employees.
  3. Monthly: Employees are paid once a month, creating 12 pay periods per year. This is most common for salaried employees.

Choosing the right payroll schedule depends on several factors, including cash flow management, the administrative capacity of your payroll team, and legal or industrial requirements.

Key Deadlines

  1. Tax Reporting and Payments:
    • PAYG Withholding: Employers must report and remit taxes withheld from employee wages to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) regularly. The specific timing can vary – some businesses report and pay monthly, while others may qualify for quarterly payments.
  2. Superannuation Contributions:
    • Contributions must be made to employees’ superannuation funds at least quarterly, by the 28th day following the end of each quarter (i.e., 28th October, 28th January, 28th April, and 28th July).
  3. Single Touch Payroll (STP) Reporting:
    • STP reporting is required each time a payroll is processed. The information reported includes salaries and wages, PAYG withholding, and superannuation contributions, and it must be sent to the ATO on or before the employee’s pay day.
  4. End of Financial Year:
    • Although detailed payment summaries are not required under STP, employers must complete a finalization declaration by 14 July each year. This declaration indicates that all required STP information for the financial year has been provided to the ATO.
  5. Payroll Tax:
    • For businesses liable for state-based payroll tax, periodic returns are usually required monthly, with an annual reconciliation due after the end of the financial year in July. The specific deadlines can vary by state.

Managing these schedules and adhering to deadlines requires careful planning and efficient payroll systems. Employers must ensure they have robust processes in place to meet these deadlines consistently to avoid penalties and ensure compliance with Australian employment and tax laws.

– Electronic payment options and direct deposit

Electronic payment options and direct deposit are increasingly popular methods for processing payroll due to their convenience, speed, and security. Here’s a breakdown of how these methods work and their benefits:

Electronic Payment Options

  1. Direct Deposit:
    • This is the most common form of electronic payment for salaries. Employers deposit wages directly into employees’ bank accounts, typically via an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transaction. This method is efficient, reduces paper waste, and ensures employees receive their pay promptly and securely.
  2. Electronic Payment Cards:
    • For employees who do not have bank accounts, payroll cards (a type of debit card) can be used. Employers load the employee’s pay onto the card, and the employee can use it like a debit card or withdraw cash at ATMs.
  3. Online Payment Systems:
    • Services like PayPal or other online payment platforms can also be used for payroll, allowing employees to receive their pay into their online accounts. These platforms are particularly useful for freelance or contract workers.

Direct Deposit Benefits

  1. Convenience:
    • Both employers and employees benefit from the convenience of direct deposits. Employers save time and resources by automating payments, while employees don’t have to visit the bank to deposit checks.
  2. Security:
    • Direct deposit eliminates the risk of lost, stolen, or forged checks. The electronic transfer of funds directly into bank accounts reduces the risk of fraud.
  3. Reliability:
    • Employees receive their pay on time, regardless of holidays or unexpected events that can delay physical check delivery.
  4. Cost-Effective:
    • Reducing or eliminating the use of paper checks can save businesses significant amounts of money on printing and processing costs.
  5. Environmental Impact:
    • By reducing the need for paper in the payroll process, direct deposits are more environmentally friendly than traditional paper checks.


To implement direct deposit and other electronic payment methods, businesses need to:

  • Obtain consent from employees to pay wages via these methods.
  • Collect banking information securely, including account numbers and routing numbers for direct deposit.
  • Set up the payroll system to handle electronic payments, ensuring compliance with security standards to protect financial data.

Employers should ensure that they comply with any regulations that apply to electronic payments, including providing payment statements electronically if required. Offering multiple payment options can also be beneficial, catering to the preferences of different employees.

 Top 10 Payroll Solutions Australia

In Australia, there are several top payroll solutions that businesses of various sizes rely on for efficient and compliant payroll processing. Here are ten of the most popular and highly regarded payroll software solutions:

  1. Xero – Well known for its ease of use, integration capabilities, and excellent for small to medium-sized businesses. It offers full integration with Xero accounting software.
  2. MYOB – Offers a range of payroll solutions tailored to both small and larger businesses. It’s particularly appreciated for its comprehensive features that cover payroll, tax, and superannuation reporting.
  3. QuickBooks – Popular for its user-friendly interface and efficient payroll processing capabilities. It is ideal for small to medium-sized enterprises and integrates smoothly with other financial management tools.
  4. ADP – Offers scalable payroll solutions that serve well for both small businesses and large enterprises. ADP is recognized for its robustness and ability to handle complex payroll requirements.
  5. Payroll Guru – A specific solution tailored for Australian payroll requirements, known for its accuracy in tax and superannuation calculations.
  6. Sage MicrOpay – A more sophisticated payroll solution that caters to medium and large-sized organizations, offering detailed reporting and compliance management.
  7. KeyPay – Popular among modern businesses looking for cloud-based payroll solutions with strong compliance features and flexible payroll processing.
  8. Aurion – Known for its comprehensive payroll and HR management features, suitable for large organizations with complex payroll needs.
  9. Employment Hero Payroll – Provides an all-in-one HR and payroll platform that helps ensure compliance with Australian employment laws and simplifies payroll processing.
  10. Ascender Payroll – Offers a high degree of customization and is well-suited for enterprises with specific payroll processing needs.

These solutions provide a range of features, including automatic updates to keep up with changes in legislation, integration with HR systems, and tools for managing superannuation and tax deductions accurately. When choosing a payroll solution, businesses should consider factors like the number of employees, specific industry requirements, and desired integration with other business systems to ensure they select the best option to meet their needs.


What is the meaning of payroll processing?

Payroll processing involves the calculation, distribution, and recording of employee wages and salaries within an organization.

What are the steps in the payroll process?

The payroll process typically includes steps such as gathering employee time data, calculating gross pay, deducting taxes and other withholdings, issuing paychecks or direct deposits, and maintaining accurate records.

What are the payroll processing activities?

Payroll processing activities encompass tasks like employee data management, timekeeping, payroll calculations, tax withholding, benefits administration, and generating payroll reports.

What is the payroll processing cycle?

The payroll processing cycle refers to the recurring sequence of steps involved in administering payroll, from collecting employee data to distributing pay and reporting.

What is payroll process flowchart?

A payroll process flowchart visually represents the steps involved in payroll processing, helping to illustrate the workflow and identify potential areas for improvement or risk.

What is the most common payroll cycle?

The most common payroll cycle is typically bi-weekly or monthly, where employees are paid every two weeks or once a month.