A pay stub is a document that serves as a record of an employee’s paid wages in addition to taxes and deductions withheld. In this article, we provide free pay stub templates to help you comply with laws in the 41 states that require employers to provide them—even if paying with cash or direct deposit.
As your small business grows and you want to spend less time creating manual pay stubs altogether, consider using a payroll service like Gusto. In addition to offering your employees pay stubs, they will be able to manage their account information online or via a mobile device and print their payroll documents. Sign up for a 30-day free trial.
Downloadable Free Pay Stub Templates
Here is a general downloadable free pay stub template that you can open, input your data on, save, and/or print. It contains all of the basic information fields you may want to document earnings and deductions. Any words or rows you don’t use can be left blank, customized, or deleted from the template to make this work for your business.
You may want to customize your stubs based on the industry in which your business operates. For instance, restaurants may need a method for tracking and reporting tips, while household employers may need space to report expense reimbursements.
Payroll software usually provides you with the most flexibility since its pay stubs are formatted to work with businesses in most industries. The caveat is that you have to use the system to process payroll before a stub can be generated.
Here are two downloadable pay stub templates you can use for specific industries:
Free Pay Stub Template for Restaurants
Free Pay Stub Template for Household Employers
What a Pay Stub Template Should Include
State law typically dictates the information you should include on a pay stub. For example, some states like Arkansas and South Dakota don’t require employers to provide pay stubs to employees at all. Regardless, providing a pay stub is a good practice because it ensures you have solid backup information in the event of an audit.
Sample Pay Stub Template
Although the formatting of pay stubs can vary, you’ll find that most have some of the same information. For instance, a pay stub should always identify the employee and employer. Otherwise, the document is unreliable. It should also be dated and provide calculations that show the employee’s final pay and any taxes withheld.
The most common data fields to include in your pay stub template are:
- Your company’s name and address
- The employee’s name and employee ID
- The pay period for which the payment covered
- The date that the employee was paid
- The gross wages, including regular and overtime pay
- The tips, commissions, or other earnings
- The pre-and post-tax deductions taken from the employee’s earnings
- The employee’s net pay
State Pay Stub Requirements
There are 25 states that require employers to provide pay stubs but only 12 require you to give a physical copy. Nine states have no requirement for businesses to provide pay stubs at all. The remaining states allow employers and their employees to decide together whether pay stubs are provided—employees can opt-in or out of receiving them.
For example, in California, details like hours worked, pay period start and end dates, and any piece work—number of units and rate—are included on the employee’s paper pay stub. In Nebraska, you’re required to include used and available paid time off (PTO) or sick leave information. In Florida, unless your workers are in a union, you’re not required to provide a pay stub at all.
Use the map below to determine if your state requires you to provide pay stubs to your employees:
If you’re in a state that heavily regulates employee pay stubs, consider outsourcing to a payroll software service like Gusto. It’s a full-service payroll provider that helps ensure your pay stubs are calculated correctly and contains the required information for your state. Start a free 30-day trial today.
What Each Field on a Pay Stub Means
Many pay stub templates include useful information such as the number of hours worked during the pay period, year-to-date balances, and paid time off taken. They may also include specific descriptions on the purpose of pre-and post-tax payroll deductions such as for medical insurance, life insurance, commuter benefits, or uniform fees.
When reviewing free pay stub templates for your business, check that there’s space for basic earnings and deductions information, such as:
- Pay period: Depending on the state requirements, this can be the start and end dates, or the pay period end date only.
- Hours worked: Not all states require the hours to be listed on the pay stub, but it’s a best practice because you have to track the information to ensure overtime is paid correctly. For example, 40 hours regular plus six hours overtime equals 46 hours total in a pay period.
- Gross earnings: Gross pay includes hourly earnings, commission earnings, tips, and any earnings based on piecework—each type of earning is typically shown as a separate line item on the pay stub.
- Required taxes: Include a line to show each of federal taxes, state taxes, unemployment taxes, local taxes (if any), as well as Social Security taxes deducted from employee earnings.
- Taxable deductions: Include a separate line item for any taxable deductions such as wage garnishments or uniform fees.
- Tax-free deductions: Include a separate line item for any pretax benefits or retirement plan contributions such as health insurance, life insurance, FSA, HSA, or 401(k) contributions.
- Time-off balances: This information is helpful to the employee and is also required in states like California and New York that have mandatory paid sick time laws. Derek McIntyre, chief operating officer of TimeClock Plus, discusses the importance of tracking paid time off to comply with new legislation:
Online Pay Stub Generators
In addition to free pay stub templates, there are web-based pay stub generators that allow you to input your pay stub information manually.
Here are three online pay stub generators you may find helpful:
- FormSwift: This free tool allows you to input payroll data and generates a pay stub for you in DOC or PDF format. You can sign up for a subscription that starts at $39.95 per month, and it offers a free seven-day trial.
- ThePayStubs: This site provides 10 pay stub templates and provides a tool to let you fill the blanks online. You have to pay about $9 for each pay stub you create. In addition to pay stubs, you can build and print W-2s and 1099-NEC documents.
- Pay stub generator: This free tool on Shopify allows you to input your payroll data manually, and it generates a pay stub for you. It then requests your email address and sends the completed pay stub to you to download or print.
Pay Stub Retention
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has no mandatory retention requirements for specific documents like pay stubs, but it does require that payroll information be retained for three years. Meanwhile, the IRS requires that tax documentation is retained for four years. Some states, like California, require employers to retain payroll documentation for six years.
When you first start your business, you may pay workers with handwritten checks or cash. If you’re not using a payroll service, it’s important to document all payments and any taxes and deductions withheld. Pay stubs are a great way to meet the DOL’s payroll document retention requirements, even if they aren’t required.
If your state requires you to provide pay stubs to your employees, consider using a payroll service. Gusto is a small business payroll software that calculates and files payroll taxes—federal, state, and local—pays employees through direct deposit or printed checks, and lets employees print their own payroll reports and pay stubs.