Payroll Taxes 101: A Beginner’s Guide for Employers

Payroll Taxes

For employers new to the world of payroll management, understanding payroll taxes is a crucial yet often daunting task. In Australia, payroll taxes encompass a range of state and federal obligations that can significantly impact a business’s financial health and compliance status. From state-based payroll taxes to federal Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding and superannuation contributions, each component requires careful attention to detail. In “Payroll Taxes 101: A Beginner’s Guide for Employers,” we demystify these requirements and provide you with practical insights to ensure smooth, compliant payroll operations, helping you navigate the complexities with confidence.

Understanding different types of payroll taxes in Australia

In Australia, employers need to understand and comply with a variety of payroll tax obligations at both the state and federal levels. These taxes and contributions directly impact business costs and ensure employees receive their rightful benefits. Here’s a comprehensive overview of the different types of payroll taxes in Australia:

1. State-Based Payroll Taxes

  • Definition: A tax imposed by each state and territory on employers whose total wage bill exceeds a certain threshold.
  • Key Features:
    • Thresholds and Rates: Each state and territory has different thresholds and rates. For example:
      • New South Wales: Threshold of $1.2 million and a rate of 5.45% (as of 2023).
      • Victoria: Threshold of $700,000 and a rate of 4.85%.
    • Grouping Rules: Employers with multiple related entities may need to group their payrolls and calculate tax on the combined total.
    • Exemptions and Rebates: Some states offer exemptions or rebates for specific industries or employment types.

2. Pay As You Go (PAYG) Withholding

  • Definition: A federal system where employers withhold income tax from employee wages and remit it to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
  • Key Features:
    • Calculation: Tax is withheld based on employee declarations (e.g., TFN Declaration) and ATO tax tables.
    • Reporting and Payment:
      • Employers report and pay PAYG withholding either monthly or quarterly, depending on their withholder status.
      • PAYG withholding is reported through Single Touch Payroll (STP).

3. Superannuation Guarantee (SG) Contributions

  • Definition: Mandatory contributions made by employers to an employee’s superannuation fund to help them save for retirement.
  • Key Features:
    • Rate and Ordinary Time Earnings (OTE):
      • The current SG rate is 10.5% (as of 2023) and will increase gradually to 12% by 2025.
      • Contributions are calculated based on the employee’s OTE.
    • Minimum Threshold:
      • Employers must contribute for employees earning more than $450 in a calendar month.
    • Payment Deadlines:
      • SG contributions must be made quarterly, by the 28th of the month following the end of each quarter.

4. Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT)

  • Definition: A tax paid by employers on certain benefits provided to employees or their associates, such as family members.
  • Key Features:
    • FBT Year: Runs from 1 April to 31 March.
    • Tax Rate: The current FBT rate is 47% of the grossed-up taxable value.
    • Common Fringe Benefits:
      • Company cars, low-interest loans, and entertainment expenses.
    • Exempt Benefits: Some benefits, like portable electronic devices, may be exempt under specific conditions.

5. Workers’ Compensation Insurance

  • Definition: Insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured at work.
  • Key Features:
    • State-Based Requirements: Each state has its own workers’ compensation scheme.
    • Premium Calculation:
      • Premiums depend on the employer’s industry, payroll size, and claims history.
    • Exemptions and Self-Insurance:
      • Some states allow larger companies to self-insure, given they meet specific requirements.

6. Other State and Federal Payroll Taxes

  • Training and Employment Levies:
    • Some states impose levies for training programs or to fund specific industry employment schemes.
  • Payroll-Related Reporting:
    • Single Touch Payroll (STP): A federal system requiring employers to report payroll information to the ATO in real-time.
    • Annual Reconciliations: Many states require employers to complete annual payroll tax reconciliations.


  1. Australian Taxation Office (ATO): Payroll Tax
  2. State Revenue Office (SRO) Websites:
  1. New South Wales: Revenue NSW
  2. Victoria: State Revenue Office Victoria

Top of Form

– Employer and employee tax obligations

In Australia, both employers and employees have specific tax obligations that must be met to ensure compliance with the law and the smooth functioning of the tax system. Here’s a breakdown of the key tax obligations for each party:

Employer Tax Obligations

  1. Pay As You Go (PAYG) Withholding:
    • Responsibility: Employers must withhold income tax from employee wages based on rates provided by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
    • Reporting: This withholding must be reported and paid to the ATO regularly through the Single Touch Payroll (STP) system.
  2. Superannuation Guarantee (SG) Contributions:
    • Responsibility: Employers are required to contribute a percentage of their employees’ ordinary time earnings to a superannuation fund. As of 2021-2022, the rate is 10.5% and is scheduled to gradually increase to 12% by 2025.
    • Payment: These contributions must be made at least quarterly.
  3. Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT):
    • Responsibility: Employers who provide certain benefits to their employees or their families, such as company cars or private health insurance, must pay FBT.
    • Calculation and Payment: FBT is calculated at the end of the FBT year (March 31) and paid by the employer.
  4. Payroll Tax:
    • Responsibility: Employers whose total wage bill exceeds a threshold specific to each state or territory are required to pay payroll tax.
    • Reporting and Payment: This tax is usually paid monthly to the respective State Revenue Office, with an annual reconciliation required.
  5. Workers’ Compensation Insurance:
    • Responsibility: Employers must provide workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees in case of a work-related injury or illness.
    • Compliance: This involves purchasing an appropriate insurance policy and ensuring premiums are up to date.

Employee Tax Obligations

  1. Personal Income Tax:
    • Responsibility: Employees are responsible for ensuring that their PAYG withholding tax accurately reflects their annual income.
    • Reporting: Employees typically do not need to report these amounts themselves as employers report and pay it through STP. However, employees must file an annual tax return to reconcile their total income and tax withheld.
  2. Medicare Levy:
    • Responsibility: Most Australian residents pay a Medicare Levy, which is 2% of their taxable income, to fund the public health system.
    • Payment: This levy is typically included in the PAYG withholding calculated by employers.
  3. Superannuation Contributions:
    • Voluntary Contributions: Employees can choose to make additional contributions to their superannuation fund through salary sacrificing or after-tax contributions.
    • Reporting and Limits: Contributions are reported by the fund, and there are caps on how much can be contributed each year at concessional and non-concessional rates.
  4. Declaration and Updates:
    • Responsibility: Employees must provide accurate and current information to their employers, such as a Tax File Number (TFN) and any changes in residency status or financial circumstances that might affect their tax.

Filing and Payment Deadlines

Meeting filing and payment deadlines is essential for compliance with Australian tax laws and avoiding penalties. Here’s a detailed guide to the key deadlines for payroll-related filings and payments:

1. Pay As You Go (PAYG) Withholding

Employers are required to withhold taxes from employee wages and report and remit them to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

  • Monthly Payers:
    • Who: Businesses with an annual withholding amount of $25,001 – $1 million.
    • Deadline: 21st day of the following month.
    • Example: PAYG withheld for February is due by 21st March.
  • Quarterly Payers:
    • Who: Small businesses with an annual withholding amount up to $25,000.
    • Deadlines:
      • Q1 (Jul-Sep): 28th October
      • Q2 (Oct-Dec): 28th February
      • Q3 (Jan-Mar): 28th April
      • Q4 (Apr-Jun): 28th July
  • Large Withholders:
    • Who: Businesses with an annual withholding amount exceeding $1 million.
    • Deadline: Must remit within 7 days of each withholding.

2. Superannuation Guarantee (SG) Contributions

Employers are required to make superannuation contributions to their employees’ super funds.

  • Quarterly Deadlines:
    • Q1 (Jul-Sep): 28th October
    • Q2 (Oct-Dec): 28th January
    • Q3 (Jan-Mar): 28th April
    • Q4 (Apr-Jun): 28th July
  • Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) Statement:
    • Deadline: 28 days after the quarter in which the SG contributions are due.
    • Note: Required if SG contributions were not paid on time.

3. Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT)

Employers who provide certain benefits to employees must pay Fringe Benefits Tax.

  • FBT Year: 1 April to 31 March.
  • Lodgment and Payment Deadline:
    • Self-Preparers: 21st May.
    • Tax Agent Lodgment: 25th June (if lodged electronically by a registered tax agent).

4. Payroll Tax (State-Based)

Payroll tax is a state-based tax on employers whose total wage bill exceeds the state’s threshold.

  • Monthly Deadlines:
    • Generally due on the 7th day of the following month (exact dates vary by state/territory).
  • Annual Reconciliation Deadlines:
    • NSW: 21st July
    • VIC: 21st July
    • QLD: 21st July
    • WA: 21st July
    • SA: 21st July
    • TAS: 21st July
    • ACT: 21st July
    • NT: 21st July

5. Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Employers must provide workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees in case of work-related injury or illness.

  • Annual Payment Deadlines:
    • Vary by state but usually required within 30 days of receiving the premium notice.

6. Single Touch Payroll (STP)

Employers must report payroll information to the ATO using Single Touch Payroll.

  • Filing Deadlines:
    • Employers must report payroll information to the ATO on or before the day employees are paid.
    • End of Financial Year (EOFY) Finalization:
      • Small Employers: 14th July
      • Large Employers: 14th July

7. Income Tax Return

Income tax returns must be filed annually by both individuals and businesses.

  • Individual and Business Income Tax Returns:
    • Individuals and Partnerships: 31st October.
    • Companies and Trusts:
      • If lodging directly: 31st October.
      • If lodging through a tax agent: between 31st October and 15th May (depending on the entity).

– Calculating and reporting taxable wages

In Australia, taxable wages include all payments made to employees that are subject to income tax withholding (PAYG) and payroll tax. Here’s a guide to understanding, calculating, and reporting taxable wages:

1. What Are Taxable Wages?


  • Salary/Wages: All regular salary and wages, including allowances and commissions.
  • Bonuses and Incentives: Performance bonuses, commissions, or incentive payments.
  • Allowances: Travel, meal, and uniform allowances.
  • Leave Payments: Payments for annual leave, long service leave, and personal/carer’s leave.
  • Superannuation Contributions: Employer contributions, excluding salary sacrifice.
  • Fringe Benefits: Taxable value of benefits provided to employees.


  • Exempt Fringe Benefits: Work-related portable electronic devices, remote area housing benefits, etc.
  • Workers’ Compensation: Payments under an approved workers’ compensation scheme.
  • Termination Payments: Genuine redundancy and early retirement scheme payments within the prescribed limits.

2. Calculating Taxable Wages

Steps to Calculate Taxable Wages:

  1. Determine Gross Wages:
    • Add up all gross wages, including bonuses, allowances, and leave payments.
  2. Add Fringe Benefits:
    • Include the grossed-up value of any taxable fringe benefits.
  3. Include Superannuation Contributions:
    • Include mandatory superannuation contributions (excluding salary sacrifice).
  4. Adjust for Payroll Tax Exemptions:
    • Deduct any exempt wages or benefits specific to payroll tax rules (e.g., maternity leave payments).

Example Calculation:

  • Employee Gross Salary: $70,000
  • Overtime Payments: $5,000
  • Bonuses: $3,000
  • Travel Allowance: $1,500
  • Superannuation Contribution (10.5%): $70,000 x 10.5% = $7,350
  • Fringe Benefit (Car Use): Grossed-up value = $10,000

Total Taxable Wages:

  • Salary: $70,000
  • Overtime: $5,000
  • Bonuses: $3,000
  • Allowances: $1,500
  • Superannuation: $7,350
  • Fringe Benefits: $10,000
  • Total: $96,850

3. Reporting Taxable Wages

Pay As You Go (PAYG) Withholding:

  • Report wages and withholdings to the ATO via Single Touch Payroll (STP) each payday.
  • Provide employees with an annual Income Statement.

Payroll Tax:

  • Register with your state or territory’s Revenue Office if your total annual wages exceed the threshold.
  • File monthly payroll tax returns and an annual reconciliation.
  • Example Thresholds:
    • NSW: $1.2 million
    • VIC: $700,000
    • QLD: $1.3 million

Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT):

  • Submit an FBT return if taxable fringe benefits were provided during the FBT year (April 1 to March 31).
  • Pay any FBT liability by the due date.

Superannuation Contributions:

  • Pay contributions quarterly to each employee’s super fund.
  • Report contributions via SuperStream or your payroll software.

– Tax credits and incentives for employers

In Australia, employers can take advantage of various tax credits and incentives designed to support business growth, innovation, and workforce development. Here are some key incentives available:

1. Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive

  • Definition: A government program that provides a tax offset to companies engaging in eligible research and development activities.
  • Eligibility:
    • Must be an Australian company conducting eligible R&D activities.
    • Expenditure must be at least $20,000, unless conducted through a registered Research Service Provider.
  • Incentive:
    • Refundable Tax Offset: 43.5% for entities with an aggregated turnover below $20 million.
    • Non-Refundable Tax Offset: 38.5% for entities with an aggregated turnover of $20 million or more.

2. JobMaker Hiring Credit

  • Definition: An incentive for employers to hire additional young job seekers.
  • Eligibility:
    • Hiring employees aged 16 to 35 who have been receiving certain welfare payments.
    • Employers must increase their headcount and payroll.
  • Incentive:
    • $200 per week for employees aged 16-29.
    • $100 per week for employees aged 30-35.
    • Available for up to 12 months per eligible employee.

3. Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC)

  • Definition: An incentive to encourage businesses to take on new apprentices and trainees.
  • Eligibility:
    • Employers who engage new apprentices or trainees between 5 October 2020 and 30 June 2022.
  • Incentive:
    • 50% wage subsidy of up to $7,000 per quarter per apprentice/trainee.

4. JobTrainer Fund

  • Definition: A partnership between the federal government and states to provide free or low-cost training courses.
  • Eligibility:
    • Employers who hire trainees in eligible courses.
  • Incentive:
    • Provides access to free or low-cost training for employees in sectors facing skills shortages.

5. Instant Asset Write-Off

  • Definition: Allows eligible businesses to immediately write off the cost of certain new or used assets.
  • Eligibility:
    • Businesses with an aggregated turnover of up to $5 billion.
    • Asset must be first used or installed between 6 October 2020 and 30 June 2023.
  • Incentive:
    • Full cost of eligible assets can be deducted in the year of purchase.

6. Payroll Tax Rebates (State-Based)

  • Definition: State-based rebates and concessions to help businesses reduce their payroll tax burden.
  • Examples:
    • NSW: Jobs Action Plan provides a rebate of up to $6,000 for each new job.
    • VIC: Regional employers can receive a reduced payroll tax rate.
    • QLD: Payroll Tax Rebate for employers hiring apprentices and trainees.

7. Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) Exemptions and Reductions

  • Definition: Certain benefits provided to employees may be exempt from FBT or eligible for reductions.
  • Examples:
    • Portable Electronic Devices: Laptops, tablets, and mobile phones are exempt if primarily used for work.
    • Work-Related Items: Tools, protective clothing, and briefcases are exempt.
    • Relocation Assistance: Exempt if related to an employee’s relocation for work purposes.


What is payroll tax in Australia?

Payroll tax is a state-based tax imposed on employers whose total wage bill exceeds a specified threshold. Each state and territory has its own tax rate and threshold, and it applies to wages, salaries, allowances, and bonuses.

What is included in payroll tax SA (South Australia)?

In South Australia, payroll tax includes wages, salaries, bonuses, allowances, commissions, superannuation contributions, and the taxable value of fringe benefits. The current threshold is $1.5 million, and the rate is 4.95% for employers exceeding this threshold.

How is payroll tax calculated in WA (Western Australia)?

In Western Australia, payroll tax is calculated based on the total taxable wages paid. For wages exceeding $1 million but below $1.5 million, the rate is 5.5%. For wages over $1.5 million, the rate is 6.5%.

What is payroll tax in Tasmania?

In Tasmania, payroll tax applies to businesses with total annual wages exceeding $1.25 million. The tax rate is 4% for wages between $1.25 million and $2 million, and 6.1% for wages over $2 million.

Why is payroll tax charged?

Payroll tax is charged to fund public services and infrastructure provided by state governments. It represents a significant source of revenue for states and territories.

How much is $75,000 a year after taxes in Australia?

For a salary of $75,000 in Australia, the approximate take-home pay after taxes and Medicare levy (without any deductions or offsets) is around $58,500 annually, or about $1,125 per week.