Essential tips for outsourcing payroll and getting the most bang for your business’s buck Featured

9:01pm EDT August 31, 2011

Outsourcing payroll is a smart decision for business owners looking to relieve themselves of the time and labor-intensive complexities of processing payroll. And the beginning of the year is an ideal time to make the change. In fact, more than half of small businesses decide to outsource their payroll each year starting in January when year-end calculations and reporting are complete, expediting an easy and smooth transition.

Smart Business spoke to Mark Strippy, Executive Director, Payroll Services, Heartland Payment Systems, for some tips to help you get started “shopping” for a processor.

1. Determine your business needs. Consult your payroll manager, human resources department, accounting personnel and IT staff to understand the functionalities all disciplines need.

2. Evaluate the features and benefits. Meet with several payroll service providers to determine how they work. Do not pick a processor based on price alone; instead be sure they can provide all the services your business needs. For example, your business might need help with 401(k) or worker’s compensation, so be sure the provider can handle those services as well as basic payroll.

3. Do your homework. Ask fellow business owners, chamber of commerce or trade association members if they use a payroll processor. Find out what services they receive and if their provider meets their needs. What are their frustrations?

4. Compare costs. Many processors nickel and dime their customers by charging for items such as additions or deletions of employees, while others offer fixed rates for the length of the contract without incremental fees.

5. Look for a payroll service provider that guarantees confidentiality and information security. There are a variety of payroll submission methods — such as by phone, fax, e-mail and over the Internet — and you should be comfortable with how sensitive payroll data is transmitted. Choose a payroll service provider that protects your employees’ data.

6. Check if the payroll service provider can assume tax filing responsibilities. A payroll service provider should prepare quarterly and annual employee tax filing and assume liability for accurate and timely submission.

7. Be sure the payroll products and services are user-friendly. In addition to making sure the program is easy to use, investigate what type of support is available — such as a help desk and professionals who can assist with program troubleshooting.

Payroll planning, tax reporting, year-end calculations and many other tasks associated with payroll can be complicated and time-consuming, especially for small businesses. Although outsourcing payroll takes the burden off the business owner, it is important to recognize that not all payroll processors are created equal. All businesses need to be diligent in selecting their processors to ensure they get the best payroll bang for their buck.

Heartland Payment Systems, Inc. (NYSE: HPY), the 5th largest payments processor in the United States, delivers credit/debit/prepaid card processing, payroll, check management and payments solutions to more than 250,000 business locations nationwide. Heartland is the founding supporter of The Merchant Bill of Rights, a public advocacy initiative that educates merchants about fair credit and debit card processing practices. The company is also a leader in the development of end-to-end encryption technology designed to protect cardholder data, rendering it useless to cybercriminals. For more information, please visit HeartlandPaymentSystems.com, MerchantBillOfRights.com, CostOfABurger.com and E3Secure.com.