Paystubs are an essential component of recordkeeping for any business. Both employers and employees need to know the information listed on a paystub, whether it’s for tax purposes or for proof of income, such as in the case of applying for a loan or renting an apartment.
Because it’s used as proof of income and deductions in so many official contexts, it’s vitally important that every paystub be error-free. And for businesses, it’s equally important that generating paystubs doesn’t cost any unnecessary time, money, or headaches.
That’s where a good paystub creator comes in. While it’s possible to use a barebones template to generate paystubs using your own calculations, a paystub creator that automates the process is likely to better suit your business’s needs. But how do you decide which generator is the right option for you?
The Basics: Size and Price
Let’s begin with the unavoidable factors. Whether you’re self-employed or part of a large corporation, you have a budget that corresponds with your business’s size. It may be possible to argue that very, very small businesses would be better off paying a price of, well, free.
However, this could be an unexpectedly costly decision. A free paystub creator is less likely to be legitimate; it would be wise to consider the private data required on a paystub, for one. The more common free-to-download templates are not without risk, though. Every state has its own requirements for what must be listed on a paystub.
For example, let’s take Minnesota’s paystub requirements from the MN Department of Labor and Industry:
Employers are required to provide each employee with a written statement of earnings. At the close of each pay period, this statement must be issued and include:
- the name of the employee;
- the hourly rate of pay (if applicable);
- the total number of hours worked by the employee unless exempt from Minnesota Statutes chapter 177;
- the total amount of gross pay earned by the employee during that period;
- a list of deductions made from the employee’s pay;
- the net amount of pay after all deductions are made;
- the date on which the pay period ends; and
- the legal name of the employer and the operating name of the employer if different from the legal name.
Perhaps none of these components sound too difficult to obtain in isolation. If you have, say, just 5 employees, though, you now have 40 fields to manually input at 100% accuracy at the end of every pay period. “Free” could come at a cost: inaccurate tax returns can lead to IRS penalties, whether the mistake(s) can be attributed to human error in data entry, missing template fields, or otherwise.
All of this is not to argue that more expensive paystub creators are necessarily better, but rather that you should be wary of the free ones, even for a small business. It’s worth noting that paystub creator works for independent contractors’ paystubs, too. The self-employed might need proof of income just as employees do, and a paystub creator can fulfill that need in the place of an employer.
At any rate, the pay stub generator you choose should fit your business. Some generators charge per paystub; others charge per pay period. A little shopping around and calculated estimates can go a long way when it comes to unavoidable budget realities.
Budgeting for Time and Potential for Errors
Another realistic factor to weigh in this decision is this: humans are not generally that great at repetitive, tedious tasks. It’s simply our minds’ nature to get bored and 1) take longer than expected, and 2) make mistakes when faced with long and mundane tasks like payroll.
Therefore, not only should initial monetary cost be budgeted out when choosing a paystub creator, but you should also remember to budget for the required time as well as hassle in the event of a mistake. The cheaper and more manual the process, the higher the potential associated non-monetary costs.
Some room for error is guaranteed in a paystub creator because there’s always some degree of form-filling. Some good questions to look into to minimize those mistakes and their impact are these:
- Is there a money-back guarantee? If so, what is included in the fine print?
- How much of the process is automated? Are there checks for correct spelling or calculations?
- How much time does it take to fill out the form and get the paystub delivered?
- How much time and effort are you willing to invest in this process, and how does that compare to the above answer?
- Do you trust the people behind the generator (i.e., are they professionals)?
- Does their customer service appear to be robust? Do they have solid customer reviews?
These questions should help you narrow the field of which generator is most appropriate for your business.
Extra Features and Details
If your decision is between a couple of paystub creators, you may be swayed by the extra features offered. It’s important to preview a paystub before making the final decision. It may seem like a silly consideration, but the aesthetic appeal of your pay stubs matters.
You may want to make sure you have the option of adding your company logo, watermark, or color scheme. Attention to this level of detail communicates that your business is professional and cares about its reputation.
You should also be aware of the generator’s delivery format. Some states require paystubs to be delivered by mail, while others consider electronic-only paystubs to be valid, too. Be prepared for the event of a required print paystub; cheap paper sends a signal that the paystub may be a fake.
Choosing a paystub creator can be surprisingly complicated. It is perhaps less surprising when we remember that paystubs are important and necessary documents both on the business and employee sides of recordkeeping. If you’re careful to take note of these factors large and small, from pricing to availability of extra features, you should be well prepared to make a knowledgeable decision.