Payroll templates are pre-designed spreadsheets and forms that help organize, calculate, and track payroll data. They’re best for business owners preparing to hire their first employees or who want to better manage payroll. You can use these templates instead of, or in conjunction with, payroll software to eliminate extra costs for add-ons like time-tracking.
If you need an easy way to process payroll and automatically sync time-tracking to payroll without using Excel templates, consider Gusto. Its mid-tier service plan offers both features starting at $51 a month for one employee. Payroll taxes are also automatically paid and filed at no additional cost. Sign up for a 30-day free trial today.
Downloadable Free Payroll Templates Employers Need
The payroll templates that are best for you depend on the need you’re trying to fill. Do you need an organized way to track your new employees, or are you only looking for help calculating how much your employees should be paid?
Review the following free payroll templates, and click to download the ones you need:
How Payroll Templates Work
Payroll templates are pre-formatted, so all you need to do is fill them in with the applicable information to begin using. If you need to personalize the templates, it’s simple to do so by adding or changing a row, column, or cell. Make sure you have an editable copy of the template.
You can usually save time using free payroll templates created in spreadsheet programs (Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets) electronically, especially if the templates use formulas to automate calculations. These formulas work as a calculator and automatically figure solutions once you enter the required numerical information. Still, some of the simpler templates, for instance a vacation tracker, may be printed and filled in by hand.
Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and PDF templates are often printed for convenience. It’s easier to print documents like employee information sheets so employees can complete them on their first day of work. However, some documents, for example a pay stub template, may appear more professional if you type in the data versus handwriting it.
If you opt to use an online payroll template vs creating one from scratch on your own, be prepared to download and save it to your computer. If you start using a template before saving it, you could risk losing valuable data in the event of a system or website crash.
Payroll Planning Template
As you prepare to become an employer or just embark on a new year or month, creating a payroll budget is essential. You need a way to plan for the expenses ahead, so you can avoid cash shortages and issues with the IRS.
Payroll Budget Template
The payroll budget form has five tabs, and the first one contains instructions. You have the option of budgeting for a month, the year, or both. Regardless of which time frame you choose to budget, you should always start with the corresponding “Wage Expense by Employee” tab. It feeds into the “Payroll Expense Budget” tabs and will automatically calculate FICA taxes.
Download the free payroll budget template below if you need to plan for monthly and annual payroll expenses for the company and wage expenses by employee:
You’re able to budget for both salaried and hourly employees, and there’s a special place to add in projected bonus payments. You can also plan for overtime expenses.
One item that doesn’t fit in the template is tips. Although you will need to pay taxes on employee tips received (if you have tipped employees), the tips won’t be a payroll expense to your business.
If you’re paying your tipped employees below minimum wage, meaning you are eligible for the tip credit, you should still budget at or above the minimum wage amount. This is a conservative practice that will ensure you have enough money to pay employees should they not receive enough tips to boost their hourly wage to the required minimum wage amount. It also ensures your tax budget is sufficient.
New Hire Preparation Templates
Once you have a few employees onboard, there are several templates you may find useful. Your main goal will be compiling adequate documentation to organize your employees and track their activity, like work hours and time off, so you can pay them accordingly.
Employee Information Template
If you’re not using payroll software, like Gusto, for payroll processing, our employee information sheet is useful for organizing new hires. You should print several copies so you can have the templates on-hand when new employees start. It’s pretty self-explanatory; new hires should enter their personal information, like name and date of birth, in addition to emergency contact information. There’s a section for job details with a space for a supervisor’s name, salary, and so forth that you can complete.
Download our free employee information template:
Payroll Timesheet Template
You’ll need a timesheet to track employee work hours if you hire hourly employees, for instance restaurants servers, and don’t use a time tracking software like Homebase. We have six timesheet templates available for you to use, but you’ll want to use the one that fits your pay schedule. There’s a timesheet for employers who pay weekly, biweekly, monthly, daily, semimonthly, and by project.
Review our free payroll timesheet templates, and download the one that fits your business:
- Excel Payroll Timesheet Templates
- PDF Daily Timesheet Template
- PDF Weekly Timesheet Template
- PDF Biweekly Timesheet Template
- PDF Semimonthly Timesheet Template
- PDF Monthly Timesheet Template
- PDF Project Timesheet Template
Employee Scheduling Templates
If you operate in an industry that operates outside of the normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), an employee scheduling template could be useful. We have two templates available for you; one allows your employees to request changes within the spreadsheet, while the other doesn’t. They both help you create weekly schedules as far into the future as you’re willing to plan.
Review our two free employee scheduling templates, and download the one that fits your needs best:
Vacation Tracker Template
If you offer any of your employees paid vacation time or any paid-time-off (PTO) for that matter, you’ll need a way to track the hours used. Storing this information in one template will make it easier for you to reference. Our free vacation tracker can be used as an electronic spreadsheet or printed. It tracks vacation hours by day and month and has 12 tabs labeled, “January,” “February,” “March,” and so on.
If you opt to use the template electronically, the total hours will automatically populate as you enter data, which makes it easy to compare if you know how much time off each employee has earned. You can also print the tracker and post in your office for easy access.
Be sure to delete all data in Column AG, the “Total Hours” column, if you print. Currently, it has a formula that sums all of the cells to the left of it, which explains why it reflects zero. Once you delete the formulas, the cells will become blank, leaving space for you to manually enter a total at month-end.
Download our free vacation tracker template:
Payday templates are good options when you need help calculating how much to pay employees and the IRS (for payroll taxes). They can also be useful for providing the information you need to prepare pay documents, like pay stubs and W-2 Forms.
Annual Payroll Template
Our 12-month template is pretty extensive and can calculate gross and net pay for each month. It also calculates taxes for each employee if you enter the required tax rates. You can see payroll expenses broken down by month and totaled as annual expenses. Benefit contributions, payroll taxes, and reimbursements are a few other components managed in the spreadsheet.
Another useful feature is the PTO summary tracker within the “Setup” tab of this template. As long as you enter the annual number of PTO hours that each employee is entitled to along with the number used each pay period (in the monthly tabs), the spreadsheet will keep a running total of available PTO per employee.
There’s also a separate tab for employer payroll taxes and workers’ compensation expenses. It automatically calculates how much you owe each month as long as you enter the rates you’re required to pay. FICA tax rates are already built in, so you won’t need to re-enter them.
Download our free 12-month payroll template and review how to do payroll in Excel.
If this template seems too complex for you, consider creating your own. Matthew Ross, COO of The Slumber Yard, discusses how simple, yet useful the Excel template he created is:
“Payroll templates definitely help you break down and keep track of each employee’s accrued/used sick time, paid time off and holiday pay. For me, this is the biggest benefit of using a template.
I use an Excel spreadsheet that I created myself to track employee hours for payroll purposes. It’s a very simple spreadsheet. I simply input the hours for each employee broken up by regular, overtime, holiday pay, PTO, sick time, etc., from our online time tracking software. I then use the spreadsheet to upload the time into QuickBooks where I process payroll every two weeks.
— Matthew Ross, Co-Founder & COO, The Slumber Yard
Pay Stub Templates
Depending on your state laws, you may be required to provide your employees with a pay stub that lists how much you paid in wages, the period for which you paid them, and so forth. We have several templates for you to choose from, depending on the industry your business is in. There’s a generic pay stub template in addition to a restaurant and household employer template. The restaurant pay stub template has columns for cash, credit card, and allocated tips.
You can find many free pay stub templates online, and here’s one that may work for your business:
Payroll Accounting Templates
Although payroll accounting is on the bookkeeping side of business, it’s important for employers to be familiar with it; all payroll transactions affect the company’s accounting and general ledger. In turn, the general ledger is helpful with performing financial analysis; it houses all transaction history and paints a picture of the past, present, and future of the company.
Payroll Chart of Accounts
Before you can start recording payroll transactions in your company’s financial ledger, you must have a chart of accounts that include payroll accounts. Our payroll chart of accounts can be used and printed as is without adding any information to it; however, if you see the need to personalize it, whether by renaming an account to updating a description, you can copy the data and paste it into a Word document.
To start an effective payroll accounting system, download our free payroll chart of accounts:
Payroll Expense Analysis Template
A payroll expense analysis template is good for any company that’s undergone at least a month of payroll expenses. It provides key metrics to help you identify any red flags you should monitor going forward. Our template provides five calculations you can choose to use. The payroll trend analysis is more of an observation than a calculation. You enter annual payroll expense totals to see if there are any noticeable trends. The other analyses perform various calculations for you.
For example, if you own a restaurant, you can use the template to calculate how much of your revenue is used to cover payroll expenses. According to Upserve, restaurateurs typically aim to keep labor costs within 20% to 30% of sales. Imagine finding out your business is spending 50% on labor costs after entering the required data into the payroll template, you would need to perform further analysis to figure out what’s driving the excessive costs.
There’s an option to evaluate management wage expenses as a percentage of total expenses. You can also use substitute management costs with labor costs for other staff types (dishwashers, hosts, chefs) if you want to make comparisons. You may need to revisit how you schedule certain staff members to drive costs down or the problem may be that you’re overpaying in some areas.
Download our free payroll expense analysis template to start reviewing your payroll expenses:
What All Free Payroll Templates Should Include
Payroll templates can include a large variety of tools, spreadsheets, and documents to help you manage your payroll better, and there’s no one way to create them. Typically, all templates with employee data will include identifying information, like employee name. Some might include the Social Security number (Employee Information Sheet) while others won’t (Employee Scheduling Template). Those that perform calculations should come with instructions so you know how to use them.
Pros & Cons of Using Free Payroll Templates
Payroll templates are useful if you have a few employees and don’t use software to run payroll. They provide much more efficiency than processing and tracking all payroll information by hand. However, they can sometimes be cumbersome and frustrating if you’re unable to personalize them to fit your business needs.
Pros of Using Free Payroll Templates
Here are the pros of using free payroll templates:
- Free: They don’t cost money if you find copies online that you can download.
- Increased knowledge: Using free payroll templates requires you to learn a little bit about everything regarding payroll, including taxes payable, minimum wage requirements, and so forth, so you understand the concepts.
- Customizable: Free payroll templates are customizable as long as they’re shared with edit rights or can be copied and pasted elsewhere. This means you can add your logo and delete features you don’t need.
Cons of Using Free Payroll Templates
Here are the cons of using free payroll templates:
- No customer support: With free payroll templates you download from the web, you don’t usually receive support if there is a problem. This means you have to do additional research to try to correct a template you didn’t create, which can be challenging.
- Time-consuming: Entering information into free payroll templates can require more time than it would have if you were using a software service. There is no seamless transfer of information, so when you make updates, you may have to input them in multiple places within the template.
- Error-prone: The free payroll templates with numerous linked tabs can be very useful but not so much when there’s an issue. One problem can stop the entire spreadsheet from working or cause it to generate inaccurate information.
Alternatives to Using Payroll Templates
Sometimes payroll templates aren’t the best options to manage payroll. For instance, if you have more than 50 employees, using the free templates can cause you more headache than good. Manually entering information for 50 employees is time-consuming and more prone to error due to the monotonous work.
Here are some alternatives to using payroll templates:
Using HomeBase can replace the employee scheduling, timesheet, and payroll expense analysis templates. It’s a scheduling and time-tracking software that helps you create a work schedule for free in minutes. You can also manage all PTO requests and track overtime within the system. When you’re ready to perform some analysis, HomeBase will help you compare labor costs to sales.
The positive about using Zenefits is that it doesn’t require you to become a payroll expert. You can use it to replace the employer payroll expense template, vacation tracker, and time sheet as the software tracks all of that for you. Its focus is compliance, so if you ever have questions on tax laws, labor laws, policy requirements, Zenefits will help you resolve.
Companies use Bambee when they want a dedicated HR representative but don’t want to pay to hire one in-house. For $99 a month, you can request help crafting HR policies, which eliminates the need for policy templates, onboard and terminate employees online, and receive full HR support. Because you’d be using the platform, you wouldn’t need any new hire templates, like the employee information sheet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Payroll Templates
Here are some common questions that employers ask about using free templates for payroll. If you have additional questions on payroll templates or other small business topics, submit them on our forum.
What is a payroll template?
A payroll template is a pre-designed document or spreadsheet that makes it easier for employers without software to manage their payroll. The templates seek to fulfill some of the needs that software targets, like automatic calculations and electronic storage. Users simply add the required data and don’t have to design or customize.
How can I create a payroll template?
You can create a payroll template by using a popular program like Excel, Word, Google Sheets, or Google Docs. Save a new file to your desktop and work on your first template design. You can always search the web for other templates to get more ideas of how to make it visually appealing.
Which payroll templates are most important for small businesses?
The best payroll templates vary for each business. Retail companies and restaurants without software should consider using the employee scheduling template. A payroll budget template is very useful, especially for new employers who have no history of labor costs. And employee information sheets are useful for all small businesses hiring new employees.
Free payroll templates are good tools to use when you’re not enrolled in a software service and have a few employees. They’re free and customizable. When deciding which templates are right for you, consider your business needs. Templates are great for organizing, tracking, and calculating, but aren’t the best at handling unique situations.
If you’re interested in using a flexible payroll provider that can handle various situations, like multiple pay types, consider Gusto. Starting at $45 a month for one employee, Gusto can automate your payroll in addition to paying your federal, state, and local taxes. All documentation is stored electronically, and the provider offers numerous templates to make your hiring process go smoother. Sign up for a free 30-day trial.