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How Long Do You Have to Keep HR Payroll Records?

HR payroll records

Maintaining HR payroll records is a vital step for every business owner to take. Although less clear as to which information your company must preserve and for how long, the result is that the financial file is about to explode before you know it. As small firms grow and expand, it becomes evident that maintaining a file for every employee’s documentation is just not an option. However, it might be difficult to determine whether it is appropriate to clean both the actual and virtual file cabinets. That being said, the issue remains as to how long payroll data must be kept.

Payroll records are required for what reasons?

Your business must take responsibility for its financial dealings. In order to avoid fraud charges and heightened scrutiny, you must be able to establish that you complied with standards at the time, regardless of whether laws change (including the ambiguity surrounding the Affordable Care Act) or personnel depart.

Payroll records may be requested by anybody, not only the government. In the case of a compensation disagreement or civil litigation, current and former workers may need access to these documents. You can protect your company and its management against false charges if you keep accurate records of your activities.

Payroll records must be kept for a certain amount of time in order to be retained by the IRS.

Employers should save four years of tax records. This statute of limitations is waived if such an employment tax return has not been submitted by the taxpayer, and there is no expiry date for uncovering fraud. Your tax documents should be kept in a secure location and easily accessible in order to prevent an audit from spiraling out of control and creating long-term suspicion.

The following papers are included in a taxpayer’s tax history:

Tax Forms

  • Payroll and Tax Statement Forms W-2 (Earnings) and W-3 (Taxpayer Identification Number) (Transmittal of Income & Tax Statements)
  • Employer Withholding Allowance Certificate Form W-4
  • Either the 941 (quarterly federal tax return of the employer) or 944 (yearly federal tax return of the employer)

Additionally, you need to maintain records of the benefits in addition to the regular tax forms you’ll require.

Retirement Documents:

  • Accounts Contribution Individual Retirement Agreement Form 5305-SEP (Simplified Employee Pension)
  • Form 5305A-SEP (Agreement for Contribution to an Individual Retirement Account in the Event of a Salary Reduction)
  • Simplified Employee Savings Incentive Match Plan (SIMPLE)—Not for Use with such a Designated Financial Institution (Form 5304-SIMPLE).
  • Simplified Employee Savings Incentive Match Plan (SIMPLE)—for use with such a designated financial institution—Form 5305
  • Adoption agreements and any profit-sharing, 401(k), and defined benefit plan modification paperwork

Affordable Care Act Documents

  • 1095-B tax form (Health Coverage)
  • The 1094-B form (Transmittal of Health Information Coverage Returns)
  • 1095-C, the year-end tax return form (Employer-Provided Health Insurance  Coverage and Offer)
  • The 1094-C form (Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Coverage and Offer  Information Returns)

How Long Do Payroll Records Have to Be Retained?

For a period of three years, save all payroll data pertaining to employees. With regard to payroll records and timesheets, this is the general rule of thumb to follow. It’s important to include:

  • All workers’ names, residences, & Social Security numbers
  • Calendar for the start and finish of the workweek.
  • Whether you are exempt or non-exempt
  • Earnings per hour
  • Workweek totals expressed as a ratio of daily hours
  • Earnings from overtime (if applicable)
  • For each period, the total amount of salaries paid
  • Wages that have been increased or decreased (including garnishments)
  • Dates and periods associated with receiving a paycheck

Is a Timesheet a Form of Legal Evidence?

Pay disputes with current or past employers need the use of timesheets as proof of hours worked. U.S. law recognizes them as official papers.

After being fired or resigning, many workers have the right to see their personnel files. For businesses that operate between states, ensure that your payroll records are kept in accordance with each state’s requirements for record preservation.

When it comes to keeping payroll records, what’s the best method?

In order to retain accurate payroll records, you must overcome two major obstacles. The first step is to go over all of the paperwork that must be completed for each and every employee (as evidenced in this post). It might sometimes be difficult to locate these papers even if they have been properly generated and stored.

As the number of workers grows, the use of paper forms & physically signed timesheets becomes more infeasible. The expense of storing paper is also a consideration. All the paperwork given here would cost you how much to print out? Is there enough room in your workplace to hold these documents?

Electronic signatures, Time tracking,  as well as cloud-based document storage, eliminate physical barriers and reduce human error in this process. As an alternative to searching through the 1,254 files on a local server or the room full of filing cabinets for a former employee’s file, payroll professionals may use RisePath HRTeam software to generate the document they require—right when they need it.

To answer “how long do you have to retain payroll records?”, we have one more response: with the proper mix of software & strategy, you’ll be able to make that option with a greater degree of freedom.

Christine Lee

Christine is a former HR manager from Fortune 500 tech companies and has managed hiring, compensation and benefits, and payroll responsibilities for multiple companies.

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