How does a limited company’s payroll work?

PAYE payroll company

When you set up your own limited company, one of the most important things to consider if you also have employees is a payroll system.

In practical terms, a  payroll service will calculate the gross and net pay of all company employees and its directors, following deductions for taxes, pensions, child maintenance, and so on. This is the fundamental basis of PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn).

The software will work out how much income tax, employers’ and employees’ National Insurance Contributions need to be set aside to pay to HMRC.

Outsourced payroll common for smaller companies

In larger companies, there will be an dedicated accounts team tasked with payroll management. However, small company owners will typically outsource this task to an accountant , typically as part of an ongoing accounting package, which covers all aspects of a company’s tax and accounting needs.

Getting started

Before you can start paying employees, you (or your accountant) will first have to register your company as an employer with HMRC.

You then need to work out how much you are going to pay yourself (and any employees). You may decide to pay yourself a small salary beneath the prevailing National Insurance thresholds, for example.

For staff, you need to take into account National Minimum Wage legislation. This doesn’t apply to the company’s directors, however.

You will then decide how frequently to pay yourself and your staff. Many limited company owners opt for a monthly payroll.

How does the payroll process work in practice?

When it is time to pay your employees (often this is monthly), your payroll software will record their pay, and calculate any deductions  (including tax).

On top of their wages, employees may be entitled to receive a wide array of additional types of pay, such as statutory sick pay and maternity pay. You can read a full list here.

Deductions, which are also processed by the payroll system, include Student Loan payments, pensions and child maintenance payments.

Your payroll software will then work out how much Employers’ National Insurance your company will have to pay on each employee’s salary.

In the 2017-18 tax year, this amounts to 13.8% of each employee’s salary over £156 per week.

The software must then create a payslip for each employee, which clearly shows the ‘gross’ and ‘net pay for the period in question.

Once these activities have been completed, you should submit a Full Payment Submission to HMRC, which contains all of these calculations.

Almost all small limited companies use an accountant to run the payroll software on their behalf.

Other ongoing payroll tasks

Alongside producing your regular payroll, there are a number of ongoing tasks to complete each year.

You must report each time an employee leaves or joins your company payroll, they join your workplace pension, or changes address.

You must also provide your employees with a P60 following the end of each tax year, which shows the total pay and deductions for the year.

By 6th July each year, employers must report any expenses and benefits received by employees during the previous tax year – upon which further National Insurance Contributions may be payable.

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