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How can I put myself on payroll?

I am small business owner and would like to put myself on payroll for business income tax reasons.

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Great question! The Business.com team recently published a guide to How Should Entrepreneurs Pay Themselves? which can help answer your question.

Having documentation of how much paid to yourself is important, so you don't get hit with an unpaid tax amount later. Your business structure determines how you put yourself on payroll. Are you a sole proprietor or do you have business partners?

Second, you can choose a payment plan that makes the most sense for you. The two most popular ways to compensate yourself are:

1. Owner's Draw - You are required to file taxes annually on owner's draw.

2. Salary - In most cases, you are required to file taxes quarterly on salary.

Third, decide how much to pay yourself. Most business owners try to minimize their business expenses by taking as little income for themselves as possible. However, under-paying yourself can hurt the business in the long term. Leave the business with enough cash to cover expenses while compensating yourself a fair and reasonable amount.


Follows these steps:

Step 1: Have all employees complete a W-4. To get paid, employees need to complete Form W-4 to document their filing status and keep track of personal allowances. The more allowances or dependents workers have, the less payroll taxes are taken out of their paychecks each pay period. Note that for each new employee you hire, you need to file a new hire report.

Step 2: Find or sign up for Employer Identification Numbers. Before you do payroll yourself, make sure you have your Employer Identification Number (EIN) ready. An EIN is kind of like an SSN for your business and is used by the IRS to identify a business entity and anyone else who pays employees. If you don’t have an EIN, you can apply for one here on the IRS site. You may also need to get a state EIN number; check your state’s employer resources for more details.

Step 3: Choose your payroll schedule. After you register for your Employer Identification Numbers, get insured (don’t forget workers’ compensation), and display workplace posters, you need to add three important dates to your calendar: employee pay dates, tax payment due dates, and tax filing deadlines (read more about basic labor laws here).

Step 4: Calculate and withhold income taxes. When it comes time to pay your employees, you need to determine which federal and state taxes to withhold from your employees’ pay by using the IRS Withholding Calculator and your state’s resource or a reliable paycheck calculator. You must also keep track of both the employee and employer portion of taxes as you go.

Step 5: Pay taxes. When it’s time to pay taxes, you need to submit your federal, state, and local tax deposits, as applicable (usually on a monthly basis).

Step 6: File tax forms & employee W-2s. Finally, be sure to send in your employer federal tax return (usually each quarter) and any state or local returns, as applicable. And last but not least, don’t forget about preparing your annual filings and W-2s at the end of the year.


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