Individuals considering a career in the payroll area should cultivate their interests in math, economics, and business. Those anticipating career advancement to the level of a payroll director should focus as well on management and leadership skills, which will be useful.
The payroll director or manager’s job description varies, depending upon the size of the organization in which he or she is employed. At a very basic level, every business, no matter the size, must have a system for the creation and maintenance of employee payroll records, and a methodology to compute and process paychecks for employees, and calculate and file appropriate tax payments and reports. In an organization with only a few employees, these tasks would likely fall to the payroll director, who would be fully responsible for all aspects of the payroll functions. However, where there is a large employee base, and therefore a large payroll department, the payroll director is a separate and distinct position, considered a senior member of the management team, and will primarily manage and supervise other employees who are directly responsible to perform the day to day functions of preparing and processing paychecks and payroll. In many organizations, payroll is integral to the human resources department, and vice versa.
The payroll director is expected to manage weekly (or other periodic) payroll for all employees of an organization, calculate payroll according to the standard operating policies of the specific business and determine withholding including payments for appropriate state and federal taxes, benefits, garnishments, direct deposit programs, etc.
The payroll director must maintain records and calculate appropriate credits for sick and vacation time. He or she additionally processes payroll for newly hired employees including assurance of completion of necessary employment/tax documents (Federal W-9 forms, etc.) and processes final payroll for terminated employees;
The payroll director works with internal and external auditors to assure compliance with state and federal regulations and guidelines, develop (along with corporate management) payroll strategies and planning, and assure the implementation of appropriate payroll processing systems, including hardware and software.
The individual additionally supervise clerical and other payroll staff. He or she is expected to hire and train payroll clerks, data processors, and similar employees. The payroll director also must create policies and long range goals for the payroll department, along with other senior personnel in the organization.