How does small business payroll work?

Rules & regulations in Australia

Payroll for small businesses in Australia is subject to various rules and regulations that govern how employees are paid, taxes are withheld, and reporting requirements are met. Here's an overview of how small business payroll typically works in Australia.

Register for an Australian Business Number (ABN)

Before you can hire employees and process payroll, you need to have an ABN. You can register for an ABN online through the Australian Business Register (ABR).

Register for Pay As You Go (PAYG)

The PAYG system is the way businesses in Australia withhold taxes from employees' wages and remit them to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). You'll need to register for PAYG withholding with the ATO.

Determine employee classifications

It's essential to correctly classify your employees as either full-time, part-time, casual, or temporary. Each classification has different entitlements, so it's crucial to understand the distinctions.

Payroll setup

Use payroll software or engage the services of a payroll provider to calculate employee wages, withhold taxes, and generate payslips. Some popular payroll software options in Australia include MYOB, Xero, and QuickBooks.

Employee documentation

Collect the necessary information and documents from your employees, such as their tax file numbers (TFN), superannuation fund details, and employment contracts. This information is essential for accurate payroll processing.

Pay frequency

Determine your pay frequency, which can be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, and inform your employees of your chosen pay cycle.

Wage calculations

Calculate employee wages based on their hourly rates or salaries, taking into account overtime, penalty rates, and any other entitlements.

PAYG withholding

Deduct the appropriate amount of income tax from each employee's wages according to the ATO's tax tables. This withholding amount must be reported and remitted to the ATO.

Superannuation contributions

Ensure you make contributions to your employees' chosen superannuation funds. The minimum superannuation guarantee (SG) rate chages over time, so check the current rate with the ATO.


Provide employees with detailed payslips that show their gross wages, deductions (including taxes and superannuation), and net pay.


Maintain accurate records of all payroll transactions, including payslips, payment summaries, and tax records. This is important for compliance and reporting purposes.

Single Touch Payroll (STP)

Under the STP system, employers need to report payroll information, including wages, taxes withheld, and super contributions, to the ATO each time they pay their employees. Most payroll software packages are STP-compliant.

End-of-year reporting

At the end of the financial year, you must provide employees with Payment Summaries (formerly known as Group Certificates) and submit this information to the ATO.

Compliance with Fair Work Act

Ensure you comply with the Fair Work Act, which outlines minimum wage rates, employment conditions, and other regulations related to employee rights and entitlements.

Payroll taxes

Be aware of any state or territory payroll taxes that may apply, depending on your location and the size of your payroll.

It's important to stay informed about changes in payroll and employment regulations in Australia, as they can change over time. Consider seeking professional advice or using payroll software to simplify the payroll process and ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

How does small business payroll work?

Want to outsource your payroll?

Want to outsource your payroll?

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