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Have you ever wondered what happens to the money your employees earn between paychecks? That’s where accrued payroll comes in. It’s like a behind-the-scenes counter keeping track of all the salaries, wages, and bonuses your employees have accumulated during a pay period, even though they haven’t received the cash yet.  Understanding accrued payroll is crucial for business owners. It helps ensure you have enough funds on hand to cover upcoming paychecks, prevents cash flow disruptions, and maintains a healthy financial relationship with your employees.  While accounting can get complex, this article will break down accrued payroll into easy-to-understand parts, explore its key components, and even show you how to calculate it yourself. Let’s dive in!

What is Accrued Payroll?

Accrued payroll might sound complex, but it’s simply a way to track the money you owe your employees for the work they’ve done. It encompasses all the salaries, wages, bonuses, and other forms of compensation that have accumulated during a specific pay period, even if the paychecks haven’t been issued yet. Think of it as a running total of your employee liabilities. This concept is crucial in maintaining accurate financial records, especially for businesses that use accrual accounting.


Why is Understanding Accrued Payroll Important?

Payroll is the lifeblood of most businesses, especially those in service industries. It’s no surprise then, that it’s often the biggest expense on the books.  While crucial for keeping your team happy and productive, managing payroll can be complex and introduce potential risks.  Understanding accrued payroll is a key piece of the puzzle, offering several benefits:


Components of Accrued Payroll: Breaking Down What You Owe Your Employees

Accrued payroll might sound complex, but it boils down to one key concept: money you owe your employees for work performed but haven’t paid out yet.  This includes various compensation elements, and understanding them is crucial for accurate accounting and maintaining a healthy financial flow. Let’s delve into the six main components of accrued payroll:

1. Salary and Wages: The Foundation of Employee Compensation

Salaries and wages form the bedrock of employee compensation, accounting for roughly 69% of the total expense. Accurate calculation and accounting for this aspect are paramount for:

Example 1: Accrued Hourly Wages

Paul, a warehouse worker at a shipping company, earns $20 per hour. He took a day off to care for his son and worked 33 hours last week (bi-weekly pay period). HR calculates his accrued gross hourly wages as:

33 hours worked x $20/hour = $660

Example 2: Accrued Salary

Carol, Paul’s partner, is a salaried reservation specialist at a hotel, earning $30,000 annually with monthly direct deposits. Despite taking a day off, she’ll still gross $2,500 for that pay period ($30,000/12) as her salary is fixed.

2. Overtime Pay: When Work Exceeds Standard Hours

U.S. law mandates overtime pay for most non-exempt employees at a rate of at least 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for every hour worked over 40 hours in a workweek. This can be a significant accrued expense for businesses, requiring accurate tracking in financial records.

Benefits of accurate accrued overtime tracking include:

Example: Accrued Overtime

Paul takes an extra shift the following week, working 49.5 hours. As a covered non-exempt employee, his gross pay is:

(40 hours x $20/hour) + (9.5 hours x $30/hour overtime) = $1,085

His total accrued pay for the bi-weekly period is now $1,745 ($1,085 + $660).

3. Commission and Bonuses: Rewarding Performance

These variable components are significant compensation expenses and require tracking as accrued liabilities. Without accurate projections, budgeting for these costs can be challenging.

Example: Accrued Bonus

Carol’s peers voted her employee of the month for March 2024, granting her a $200 bonus on her next paycheck. Her accrued gross monthly payroll increases to $2,700 ($2,500 salary + $200 bonus).

4. Paid Time Off (PTO): Time Away with Pay

There’s no federal mandate for paid time off in the U.S.  Companies and employees negotiate PTO policies, leading to variations like:

Example: Accrued PTO

Carol requests a week off to visit colleges with her daughter. Since her company offers unlimited PTO, HR doesn’t need to calculate accrued amounts. Paul’s company provides 80 hours of annual PTO. HR estimated he accrued 47 hours when he requested time off in August.


offering additional security, financial support, and flexibility. Common benefits include:

Example: Accrued Retirement Matching

Not all benefits accrue. Paul’s employer matches his 401(k) contributions. He contributes $100 per bi-weekly paycheck. After a week of work, Paul has accrued $50 of retirement matching from his employer.  In contrast, Carol’s access to the hotel gym doesn’t involve separate accrual calculations because it doesn’t incur additional payroll costs for the company.

5. Benefits: More Than Just a Paycheck

Employee benefits are non-cash compensation offered on top of regular salary or hourly wages. These benefits provide employees with additional security, financial support, and flexibility, making them a crucial part of any comprehensive compensation package. Here’s a deeper dive into some common benefits and how they can impact accrued payroll:

6. Taxes and Deductions: Employer Obligations

Accrued payroll taxes and deductions represent money owed to various government agencies and other entities. Employers withhold these from employee paychecks and also have their own matching or additional liabilities to remit.

Here’s why taxes and deductions are crucial:

Example: Accrued Taxes

Carol lives in Nevada, a state with no income tax. Her employer still withholds Medicare, Social Security, and federal income taxes. They also pay matching FICA taxes and a 6% FUTA tax on her first $7,000 of annual income.

Conclusion: Understanding Accrued Payroll for a Healthy Business

By understanding the components of accrued payroll, you can ensure accurate financial reporting, maintain positive cash flow, and meet your legal obligations to your employees. Payroll software can automate calculations and streamline the process, but a basic grasp of these components is essential.

Additional Tips

By following these steps, you can manage your accrued payroll effectively and keep your business running smoothly.


How to Calculate Accrued Payroll: A Step-by-Step Guide

Accrued payroll can seem complex, but it boils down to accurately calculating what you owe employees for work performed but haven’t paid out yet. While the specifics may vary depending on your company’s compensation packages and legal obligations, here’s a breakdown of the general steps involved:

  1. Calculate Gross Outstanding Payroll: This forms the foundation. Payroll teams typically multiply the hourly rate by the number of hours worked for non-exempt employees to determine their accrued wages. For salaried employees with a fixed monthly salary, you may need to prorate the amount based on the pay period if it doesn’t align perfectly with a calendar month.
  2. Add Additional Pay:  Don’t forget overtime, commissions, or bonuses earned during the pay period. These elements add to the gross accrued payroll amount.
  3. Factor in Employer Liabilities: Beyond employee wages, companies are responsible for their own share of payroll taxes and contributions. This includes Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes.
  4. Consider Benefits Contributions:  Remember, employee benefits like health insurance or retirement plans often involve employer contributions. While employee contributions deducted from their paychecks aren’t included, you’ll need to factor in the company’s portion.

Remember, these are general steps.  Consulting with a payroll professional is recommended for businesses with complex benefit structures or specific industry regulations.


Example of Accrued Payroll?

Imagine you run a retail store with hourly employees who get paid every Friday for the prior week’s work. It’s December 31st, and your employees have clocked in for the week from December 27th to December 31st.

Here’s accrued payroll in action:

This example showcases how accrued payroll reflects the money you owe your employees for completed work, even if the official payday falls within a future accounting period.


Types of Accrued Payroll

Accrued payroll might sound complicated, but it simply refers to the money your business owes employees for work performed but not yet paid out. This can encompass various expenses, and understanding these types is crucial for accurate accounting and financial health. Here’s a breakdown of some key categories to keep in mind:

  1. Salaries and Wages: This is likely your largest accrued payroll component. It includes wages earned but not yet paid (accrued wages) and salaries for the current pay period. Remember to track gross wages before taxes and deductions, as this represents the total liability to your employees.

Net Pay vs. Gross Pay: Net pay is what employees receive after deductions. While important for employee compensation, net pay isn’t relevant for accrued payroll calculations.

  1. Paid Time Off (PTO):  If you offer PTO, it’s an accrued payroll liability. Even if unused, employees have earned the right to that time off, and you owe them its value. This is especially true for accrued PTO, where employees earn time each pay period. Additionally, if an employee leaves, you may owe them accrued PTO as part of their final paycheck.
  2. Payroll Taxes: Don’t forget about your employer tax obligations! Payroll taxes are a significant liability, encompassing withholdings for:

Accurately accounting for these ensures you meet your IRS and other regulatory requirements.

  1. Bonuses and Commissions: If you offer performance-based compensation like bonuses or commissions, these also contribute to accrued payroll. Since they’re earned but not yet paid, they become part of your employee compensation liability.

By understanding these types of accrued payroll, you can ensure your financial records are accurate, maintain cash flow, and meet your legal obligations to your employees.


What is Accrued Payroll? A Comprehensive Guide

Accrued payroll is a fundamental concept in accounting, especially for businesses that compensate employees. It refers to the money your company owes employees for work performed but hasn’t yet been paid out. This can encompass various components of employee compensation, and understanding them is crucial for accurate financial reporting and maintaining a healthy cash flow.

Conclusion: Mastering Accrued Payroll for Financial Wellness

Accrued payroll might seem like a complex accounting concept, but understanding its core principles empowers you to manage your business finances more effectively. By recognizing the various components of accrued payroll, from salaries and wages to benefits and taxes, you can ensure your financial records accurately reflect your employee compensation obligations.


Beyond the Basics:

For businesses with intricate payroll structures, consulting with a qualified accountant or payroll professional is highly recommended. They can guide you on:


Accrued payroll is a crucial aspect of financial health for businesses with employees. By mastering this concept, you can ensure accurate accounting, maintain positive cash flow, and meet your legal obligations to your employees.

We hope this blog has empowered you with a clear understanding of accrued payroll.  If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment below, and we’ll be happy to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s delve into some key questions surrounding accrued payroll:

Is accrued payroll an asset? 

No, accrued payroll is a liability. It represents an obligation your company owes to employees, not something you own.

Why do you accrue payroll? 

Accruing payroll ensures your financial records reflect the actual cost of employee compensation for a specific period, even if the payout happens later. This provides a more accurate picture of your company’s financial health.

What does wages accrued mean? 

Wages accrued refers to the portion of wages employees have earned but haven’t yet been paid for. This is typically calculated based on the hours worked during a pay period.

What type of account is accrued accrued payroll? 

Accrued payroll is recorded in a liability account, specifically an “Accrued Salaries and Wages Payable” account.

What is an accrual journal entry? 

An accrual journal entry is a record made in the accounting system to recognize an expense or revenue that has been incurred or earned but not yet paid or received in cash. For accrued payroll, the debit would be to an expense account (e.g., Salaries Expense) and the credit would be to the accrued payroll liability account.

Is salary accrued income? 

No, salary accrued is a liability for the company, not income. Income is money earned by the company, while accrued payroll is money owed to employees.

Is accrued leave salary taxable? 

Yes, accrued leave salary (like unused PTO) is typically considered taxable income for the employee.

Is payroll payable the same as accrued payroll? 

Yes, “payroll payable” and “accrued payroll” are often used interchangeably. They both refer to the same concept: money owed to employees for work performed.

Is accrued payroll a reversing entry? 

No, an accrual entry is not typically a reversing entry. Reversing entries are used to temporarily adjust accounts at the end of a period and then reversed at the beginning of the next period. Accrued payroll entries remain throughout the period until the employees are paid.

What are accruals? Give 2 examples. 

Accruals are accounting entries that recognize expenses or revenue that have been incurred or earned but not yet paid or received in cash. Examples:

What is a simple example of accrued income? 

A simple example of accrued income is providing consulting services to a client and sending them an invoice. You’ve earned the income (accrued it), but haven’t received payment yet.

What is the difference between incurred and accrued? 

Incurred expenses are obligations your company takes on, while accrued expenses are those obligations that have been recognized in the accounting records for a specific period. Accrued expenses are a subset of incurred expenses.

What is the difference between accrued and payable? 

Accrued can refer to both expenses and revenue, while payable specifically refers to liabilities (money owed). So, accrued payroll is an accrued expense that becomes a payable when it’s time to pay the employees.

How to calculate net income? 

Net income is calculated by subtracting total expenses from total revenue for a specific period. Accrued payroll is one of the expenses that needs to be factored in.

What are the golden rules of accounting?

The golden rules of accounting are a set of basic principles that guide the recording of financial transactions. These include:

Debit = Assets + Expenses

Credit = Liabilities + Equity + Revenue

What is the difference between accrued payroll and accrued expenses? 

Accrued payroll is a specific type of accrued expense related to employee compensation. There can be other accrued expenses, such as accrued interest or accrued rent.

Is accrued an expense? 

Accrued expenses are expenses that have been incurred but not yet paid in cash. They are recorded in the accounting system to provide an accurate picture of a company’s financial performance.

What is the difference between accrued and receivable? 

Accrued refers to money owed, while receivable refers to money owed to your company.

What is meant by accrued interest? 

Accrued interest is the interest earned on an investment but not yet received in cash. It’s an example of accrued income for the company.

Is expense a debit or credit? 

According to the golden rule of accounting, expenses are recorded as debits. This means accrued payroll, as an expense, would also be a debit in the accounting system.

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