The Essential Payroll Year-End and New Year Checklist

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Welcome to the crux of payroll processing – the year-end. It’s that time of year when the glint of holiday lights is only matched by the sheen of freshly printed W2s. If you’re managing payroll, this season is less about eggnog and more about ensuring your numbers are as crisp as the winter air.

Why the focus on year-end? Well, it’s your last chance to ensure all your payroll ducks are in a row before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. Think of it as the grand finale of payroll’s symphony, where every note (read: dollar and cent) must be in perfect harmony. Get it right, and you usher in the New Year with confidence and compliance. Get it wrong, and you’re playing catch-up, with a possible side of penalties. And nobody wants that.

At the heart of this process is the understanding that the final payroll transaction date of the calendar year, not the pay period end date, is the all-important marker. This date is the true cut-off for all adjustments, ensuring your Year-To-Date (YTD) totals reflect the year’s actuals.

Imagine this: your last pay period of the year stretches from December 21st to December 27th. If the transaction date (the day the funds are actually transferred) is December 31st, this is the last run of the current year. However if for the same pay period the funds are transferred on January 2nd, then that it is the first payroll run of the new calendar year. Knowing the difference is vital, as it affects everything from tax filings to employee W2s.

So grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive into the checklist that will make this task as smooth as a sleigh ride. Whether you’re in the USA with your W4s or in Canada with your TD1s, we’ve got you covered.

Section 1: Preparing for the Last Payroll Run of the Year in the USA

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to button up the financials and get ready for a fresh start. Here’s how to ensure that your last payroll run of the year goes off without a hitch.

Subsection 1.1: Employee Reminders and Tax Forms

W4 Wonders: Life changes, and so do tax liabilities. Remind your team to update their W4 forms, especially if they’ve experienced major life events like marriage or welcoming a new family member. How do you make sure this message gets through during the busiest time of year? Easy – use your Employee Profile Menu to send out a friendly reminder. A little nudge can go a long way in keeping your employees’ withholdings accurate for the coming year.

Subsection 1.2: Reviewing Tax and Benefit Data

Benefit Breakdown: Are you sure you’ve got all your taxable fringe benefits covered? From vehicle mileage to child care perks, you need to ensure that everything’s been properly accounted for. Double-check your Payroll Menu, sift through Taxes & Deductions, and make any necessary adjustments. Remember, now is the time to ensure that every benefit is up-to-date and all taxes are correctly applied.

Early Bird Gets the Worm: Start the year-end process early. The sooner you begin, the more time you’ll have to address any discrepancies or unexpected issues that arise.

Subsection 1.3: Wages, Accruals, and Employee Status Updates

Wage Wisdom: Salaries, sick leave, vacation accruals – it’s time for a comprehensive review. Head over to the Employee Menu and take a deep dive into the Wage and Accrual tabs. This isn’t just busywork; it’s crucial to start the new year with accurate figures. And while you’re at it, make sure that anyone who’s left the company has been properly terminated in the system. It’s a bit like cleaning your house before guests arrive – it’s all about starting fresh.

Subsection 1.4: Processing Year-End Bonuses

Bonus Buzz: If you’re spreading a little extra cheer with year-end bonuses, make sure you’re doing it right. Process these through Pay Stub Amendments, and if you’re handing out bonuses outside of the normal cycle, remember to generate those special Out-of-Cycle Pay Stubs. It’s the financial equivalent of wrapping presents; it needs to be done with care and attention to detail.

Section 2: After the Last Payroll Run and Before the New Year in the USA

Now that you’ve expertly executed the last payroll run of the year, it’s not quite time to kick up your feet. There’s a small window of opportunity here to ensure a seamless transition into the new year.

Subsection 2.1: Employer and Employee Data Review

Data Detective Work: Before you toast to the new year, you have a bit of sleuthing to do. Start with your Company Menu. Is your employer information up to snuff? That includes your EIN, address, and legal entity details. Next, move on to your employees. Check the Employee Menu to ensure that names, addresses, and Social Security numbers are accurate. Think of it as setting the stage for a flawless tax season performance.

Subsection 2.2: Updating Settings for the New Calendar Year

Setting the Stage for Success: Now, for the grand act of prepping for the new calendar year. Navigate back to the Employee Menu, where you’ll tune up the wages, tax deductions, and accruals. It’s like updating your GPS for the journey ahead — you need to make sure the directions (i.e., settings) reflect the latest tax laws and company policies.

Automation for the Nation: Utilize payroll software that automates tax updates. This can save you time and reduce the risk of human error when updating tax rates and deduction changes.

Subsection 2.3: Tax Deduction Rates and Pay Period Schedules

Tax Tune-Up: With the new year comes new tax rates and possibly new pay period schedules. While your payroll system may automatically update federal and state tax rates, don’t forget to manually adjust those unique to your company, like unemployment insurance or local taxes. Check the Payroll Menu for Tax Deductions and make the edits. Similarly, re-evaluate your Pay Period Schedule. Will you have an extra pay period this year? If so, adjust the schedule accordingly to avoid giving anyone a New Year’s surprise on their paycheck.

Section 3: Preparing for the Last Payroll Run of the Year in Canada

As the calendar pages turn towards the end of the year, our focus shifts to our Canadian operations. Here’s how to ensure the Great White North’s payroll is just as prepared for the year’s final curtain call.

Subsection 3.1: Employee Reminders and Tax Forms

TD1 Touch-Up: Just like their neighbors down south, Canadian employees should be prompted to review and update their TD1, especially after major life changes. Reminders can be efficiently distributed through the Employee Profile Menu, ensuring everyone has the chance to claim the correct personal tax credits for the upcoming year.

Subsection 3.2: Reviewing Tax and Benefit Data

Benefit Balance: With the end of the year at your doorstep, double-check that all employee benefits are properly accounted for in the system. From vehicle mileage to child care benefits, every penny should be precisely allocated. This is the time to ensure all taxable benefits are identified and all taxes are meticulously deducted, so pop into the Payroll Menu and leave no stone unturned.

Document Diligently: Keep thorough records of all year-end payroll activities. If questions or audits arise later, detailed documentation will be your best defense.

Subsection 3.3: Wages, Accruals, and Employee Status Updates

Wage and Status Sweep: Your payroll platform is your stage, and wages, along with accruals for sick and vacation pay, are your actors. Make sure each one is playing its part correctly. Review these settings under the Wage and Accrual tabs for each employee. Also, confirm that employees who have taken their final bow at the company are marked as terminated to avoid any unwelcome payroll encores.

Subsection 3.4: Processing Year-End Bonuses

Bonus Beat: If year-end bonuses are on the agenda, they need to be handled with finesse. In Canada, this means using Pay Stub Amendments to process them correctly. Should these bonuses fall outside the regular pay cycle, ensure that they are recorded through the appropriate out-of-cycle pay stub process. It’s the financial choreography that ensures everyone gets their due reward.

Section 4: After the Last Payroll Run and Before the New Year in Canada

With the final payroll of the year successfully behind us, let’s not lose steam. The new year brings new beginnings, and in payroll terms, that means ensuring everything is pristine for the first payroll run of the coming year.

Stay Informed: Tax laws can change yearly. Stay updated on the latest tax regulations by subscribing to newsletters from tax authorities or using professional payroll associations as resources.

Subsection 4.1: Employer and Employee Data Review

Detail Dive: First things first, let’s dot our i’s and cross our t’s with employer and employee data. Dive into the Company Information and Legal Entities sections to verify that your business details are up to date — think of it as confirming your return address on a postcard. Next, ensure that all your employees’ information is correct. Incorrect addresses or SIN details can lead to tax form troubles, and nobody wants to start the year on the wrong foot.

Subsection 4.2: Updating Settings for the New Calendar Year

Settings Shift: As the calendar flips, so might some of your payroll settings. Under the Employees section, you’ll want to review and adjust wages, taxes, and accruals for the new year. This isn’t just a matter of compliance — it’s ensuring that your employees’ paychecks reflect any new rates or regulations that come with the turn of the year.

Subsection 4.3: Tax Deduction Rates and Pay Period Schedules

Tax Rate Renewal: In the realm of payroll, change is the only constant, and tax rates are no exception. While many updates are automated, such as federal and provincial tax rates, it’s imperative to manually update any company-specific rates like workers’ compensation. And let’s not forget about the pay period schedules. If you’re shifting from a 52-week to a 53-week pay year, adjustments will need to be made to ensure every paycheck is calculated correctly.


As we draw the curtain on our comprehensive guide to year-end payroll processes, let’s reflect on the pivotal role these final tasks play in the grand scheme of your business’s financial narrative. The year-end payroll review isn’t just an administrative hurdle; it’s a cornerstone of your company’s fiscal health and compliance. It’s about closing chapters and ensuring the story told by your financial records accurately reflects the past year’s events.

By now, you should feel equipped with the knowledge and steps necessary to navigate the complexities of both the USA and Canadian payroll systems as the year wanes. Remember, this review is the key to locking in accurate Year-To-Date totals, ensuring all employees’ tax forms are in order, and setting the stage for the coming year’s payroll journey.

As you embark on these critical tasks, take pride in the diligence and attention to detail you bring to the table. It’s your meticulous work now that will pave the way for a seamless transition into the new year, minimizing hiccups and setting a confident tone for the months ahead.

So here’s to the numbers that tell the tales of our organizations — may they always balance and may the transitions be as smooth as the flow of time itself. With this guide in hand, go forth and end the year with precision, professionalism, and a toast to the future.

*This document serves as an initial reference for understanding an employer’s responsibilities in managing their workforce. It is not an exhaustive guide on the subject. The document presents useful insights and is shared with the acknowledgement that TimeTrex does not offer legal, tax, or other specialized advice.

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About The Author

Roger Wood

Roger Wood

With a Baccalaureate of Science and advanced studies in business, Roger has successfully managed businesses across five continents. His extensive global experience and strategic insights contribute significantly to the success of TimeTrex. His expertise and dedication ensure we deliver top-notch solutions to our clients around the world.

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