What is a Payroll Register?

Definition: A payroll register is the record for a pay period that lists employee hours worked, gross pay, net pay, deductions, and payroll date. In other words, a payroll register is the document that records all of the details about employees’ payroll during a period. You can think of it as a summary of all the payroll activity during a period.

What Does Payroll Register Mean?

A typical register starts with details about each employee including their name, social security number, birthdate, and employee number. It then shows the payroll details for each employee starting with the hours worked in the current period. Since most companies have hourly employees, the hours are usually split between regular hours and overtime hours. The hours are totaled and multiplied by the employee wage rate to get the gross pay for the period.


Payroll deductions are listed after the gross pay has been calculated. FUTA, SUTA, FICA and other deductions are subtracted from the gross to show the net pay for each employee during the payroll period. The payroll checks are then written for the net pay.

Many employers will also have year-to-date totals on the report for each employee. This way gross pay and deductions can be tracked easily throughout the year.

Bookkeepers use the payroll register not only to write the payroll checks, they also use it to file the quarterly payroll reports and remit the tax payments to the state and the federal governments. The year-end W-2 reporting is also based on the payroll register. In other words, it includes all the information to record the payroll in the payroll journal and comply with all of the proper payroll filings.

With computerized accounting systems, a new payroll register or report can be run at any time for any payroll period. Manual ledgers are rarely used, if ever.