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Washington State Payroll: The Basics

Getting a paycheck is great but being the one to issue that paycheck can be a lot of work. There’s a lot that goes into paying your employees along with paying and reporting payroll taxes. This blog post will walk you through the basics of processing payroll for a new employee in Washington state.

Here is what is included in the payroll process:

  1. Deciding what to pay employees and how often

  2. Gathering employee information

  3. Tracking employee hours and benefits

  4. Getting approvals for time

  5. Calculating paycheck amounts and withholdings

  6. Writing paychecks

  7. Sending payroll tax payments and reports when due


1. Deciding what to pay employees and how often

Before you hire a new employee, you need to determine their:

  • Pay rate: How much will you pay them?

  • Basis of pay: Hourly, salaried, commission, etc.

  • Pay frequency: Weekly, bi-weekly, semimonthly, monthly, etc.


2. Gathering employee information

Once you have hired a new employee, here is some information that you need to request and submit to various agencies:

  • W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate: Provides employee information and how much you need to withhold for federal taxes. (IRS)

  • I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification: Verifies employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)

  • Employee Paid Sick Leave Notification: Provides employee’s entitlement to paid sick leave (Labor & Industries)

  • New Hire Reporting: Determines if child support needs to be collected from employees, helps prevent benefits fraud, and stops unemployment insurance. (Washington State Department of Social and Health Services)

Depending on how you choose to pay an employee and what benefits you offer, you may need to request additional information such as a bank account number.

3. Track employee hours and benefits

When you have set up an employee on your payroll, you will need to start tracking their hours and the benefits they accrue. This can be done using timekeeping software or a physical timesheet that employees fill out every day. It’s important that you let employees know what day their timesheet needs to be submitted in order to run the payroll on time. 

4. Getting approvals for time

On the last day of the pay period, employees need to approve their time to ensure it is accurate. If you’re using software, there is typically a place where employees can go and approve it. For physical timesheets, employees will need to sign and date it.

5. Calculating paycheck amounts and withholdings

The first thing you need to do is calculate the gross pay for an employee during the pay period. Then you will need to calculate the required payroll taxes that must be deducted: federal income tax, Social Security, Medicare, and other voluntary deductions for employer-sponsored plans such as premiums on health and life insurance, retirement plan contributions, and employee stock purchase plans. 


Employers are required to pay taxes for each employee. This includes:

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of payroll taxes you may be required to pay. Please consult with your bookkeeper or tax advisor for the most accurate information specific to your business.


6. Writing paychecks and providing pay stubs

Now it’s time to pay up. Deposit paychecks into bank accounts or write checks for each employee. With each paycheck, employers must provide a pay stub, either electronically or on paper that includes the following information:

  • Dates of the pay period

  • Rate of pay

  • Gross Pay

  • Itemized list of taxes withheld

  • Net pay

  • Sick leave accrual, usage, and balance

7. Send payroll tax payments and reports when due

The final step in the payroll process is remitting taxes collected from employees and those paid by the employer and reporting them to the collecting agency. You may need to report and pay taxes on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis depending on your required filing frequency. It’s extremely important that you do this before the deadline to avoid late fees and penalties.


Running a successful payroll

There’s a lot of work that goes into paying your employees and ensuring all the payroll taxes are reported and paid. Accuracy and timeliness are key when it comes to successfully running a payroll.


Now that you have an idea of what goes into the payroll process, you can make an informed decision on how and who you want to handle payroll. As a business owner, you wear many hats and may choose to do it yourself. However, it can be a time-consuming task and you may find that it would be better to hire someone.


If you're looking to outsource your payroll, our team of bookkeepers at Summit Bookkeeping are experienced in the entire payroll process. We offer flexible solutions to help you where you need it. To talk to one of our bookkeepers, contact us here or give us a call at (360) 756-5020. We’d be happy to help with all your payroll needs!

Summit Bookkeeping LLC

1530 Birchwood Ave Ste C

Bellingham, WA 98225

(360) 756-5020

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