It is mandatory to keep full payroll records for 7 years. An unexpected phone call, letter, or even unscheduled visit from HMRC to inspect company tax and NI returns can be a jolt to the system. For small or medium-sized organisations this could be the first realisation that there is more to payroll than weekly or monthly payments to their employees.
In smaller businesses, payroll may be seen as an incidental function. This in turn could mean a lack of regulatory knowledge much to the eventual detriment of the business as legislative compliance becomes more complex.
Common problem areas are payroll record archiving, time-schedules for end of tax year returns or mandatory online in-year and end of tax tear returns. Getting these wrong can lead to protracted damage limitation discussions with HMRC resulting in a significant diversion of time and resources and possibly financial penalties.
Company growth usually necessitates changes to payroll administration. This will mean the need for a higher level of payroll accuracy according to rigorous industry standards.
End of tax-year returns, absences, maternity payments, child-care and pension schemes, bonus payments, student loans, court-orders and on-time tax and National Insurance payments to HMRC all present a challenge.
Unsurprising then that payroll is often an outsourced function.
The decision to outsource is either a standing policy or driven by a problem with the in-house process. It is therefore important to choose a provider who will work with you to ensure a smooth and efficient payroll service.
Your prospective payroll partner should be able to provide proven competence in the following areas:
Compliance: For keeping abreast of complex and changing legislation.
Flexibility: For dealing with specific needs such as temporary staff, job sheets, electronic payments, employee messaging on payslips, a choice of delivery arrangements including payslip posting to home addresses. Look also for ease of data file transfer between systems to accommodate changes to your internal IT infrastructure.
Scalability: To be able to handle any size of company so that as your business grows the provider will seamlessly continue to meet your requirements.
Accuracy: By providing detailed tailored reports available in a choice of formats; for example, as hard-copy prints, online payslips, pdf files posted to the web or sent as data files. Payroll records archiving is also an increasingly common provision.
Expertise: Establish how long the provider been in business and whether it is a dedicated payroll specialist. Check to see whether its staff holds accredited qualifications from the Institute of Payroll Professionals. Also ensure that the provider has experience of your industry so that it can pre-empt and seamlessly resolve the challenges that may arise wherever possible.
Charges: Are costs easy to understand and do they represent good value? The cheapest price may not deliver the most effective or appropriate service and therefore may cost more over time. Make a point of establishing what the payroll set up costs will be and ask for a published list of other standard costs.
Availability: Choose a provider that offers real time support every working day of the month. You should also be able to have ease of access to a manager for possible problems or a periodic review of contract or service.
Tailored Services: You should expect a provider to be able to offer a product range which takes account of your company’s size, complexity and the knowledge of your staff. Look for a range of options covering traditional bureau processing to fully managed payroll services including internet based payroll facilities.
Technical Support: Ascertain the extent to which this is available whether at payroll or systems level and any additional costs involved.
Service Agreement: A contract is essential. You should fully understand the service you can expect, for example the timescales for processing the payroll and the return of reports and payslips.
A well run and compliant payroll is a sound investment. It allows managers and entrepreneurs to concentrate on their primary task of growing the business while also significantly contributing to employee morale.