One of the most important, and challenging, aspects of running a small business is maintaining compliance with payroll regulations. Federal and provincial payroll regulations are incredibly complex, and affect everything from reporting requirements to how pay statements are structured. Understanding and applying all of these payroll regulations correctly is time consuming, and there is no room for error. Simple mistakes can lead to financial and legal problems that can cost your business a fortune. Maintaining compliance isn’t easy, and requires an investment of time, effort, and money.
Reporting and Remittance
Payroll regulations governing employee withholdings and employer contributions can differ depending on the type of business you operate and the employees you hire. Dates for remittances also vary, depending on your previous average monthly withholding amounts (AMWA). As your business grows or shrinks, the reporting dates and requirements can change significantly. If you’re handling payroll yourself, keeping up with all of these changes is your responsibility. Late or incorrect remittances can lead to audits, fines, and back payments.
Piles of Paperwork
Accurate documentation is often your only defence in an audit. The CRA recommends that you keep payroll records for 36 months, though they are not limited to a 36-month period for audits. To be on the safe side, you need to make sure that all of your timekeeping and reporting records are up to the latest standards. All of your documentation that contains employee information must be stored in a secure location, for your protection and the employees’. Upon request, any and all documentation must be turned over to the CRA or other authorities for examination.
Payroll regulations can also vary widely, depending on the types of services you’re paying for. Like many businesses, you may employ non-citizens, visiting workers, interns, and independent contractors. Each class has different reporting requirements, making it necessary to set up different pay schemes for different employees. You also have to be aware of payroll regulations that can affect an employee’s classification. Failing to adhere to the regulations could turn an independent contractor into a full-time employee—leaving you on the hook for past remittances and payments. Each classification has its own rules and regulations, adding another layer of difficulty to handling payroll.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of payroll regulations is their constant evolution. These rules change from year to year, if not more frequently. The application of these rules can change from one government agency to the next. Having an understanding of these regulations one day is no guarantee of the same understanding the next day. The only way to assure constant compliance is through constant training and practice. Whoever is handling your payroll must be able to attend training seminars and conferences, read legal texts, meet with government officials, and practice all the things they’ve learned. Even small gaps in their knowledge or experience can prove costly.
An outsourced payroll provider offers an easy way to avoid these problems. They make it their business to stay up to date on changing regulations, and to incorporate those changes into their regular routine. Employees at a payroll service receive constant training, as well as constant experience in applying that training. They frequently interact with auditors and agents, so they know how the laws are actually being applied, versus how they’re written on paper. All of this knowledge and experience helps them avoid compliance issues, and successfully defend businesses that are accused of compliance lapses. When you factor in the associated costs of training, software, legal representation, and possible fines, payroll service providers are an affordable, reliable alternative.