Depending on your business’s size, payroll templates can make a handy alternative to payroll software. Employers with just a few employees can use these templates to calculate employee pay, submit the right amount of payroll taxes to the IRS, and keep accurate financial records. Read on for Business.org's list of the best sites for payroll templates, plus a breakdown of how to use payroll templates.
Free Payroll Templates
Like free payroll software, payroll templates are most useful for the smallest of small businesses, namely companies with one or two employees. Payroll is complicated enough (and the cost of mistakes high enough) that we generally recommend payroll software over free templates to businesses with five or more employees.
What are payroll templates?
A payroll template is a spreadsheet-based template that lets you calculate employee pay and determine tax withholding amounts. Some payroll templates even generate pay stubs and payroll checks.
If you want a truly free option, we recommend Google Sheets. While Excel is one of the most popular options for spreadsheet-based payroll templates, it costs a monthly subscription fee—which means that while a template download is free, the spreadsheet software itself isn't.
Similarly, while you can download free payroll templates from Smartsheet, you'll get the best experience with Smartsheet's paid software.
The 3 best sites for free payroll templates
Want to download a free payroll template today? Here are our favorite sites for free templates.
Additional payroll templates
Both Microsoft and Smartsheet offer templates for a range of payroll-related needs, including employee timesheets, hourly and salary payslips, and sick leave and vacation tracking. Visit Excel's payroll template page or Smartsheet's payroll template page to see their free options.
If you don't need a template but do want help calculating payroll, we have two free calculators: a salary payroll calculator and hourly paycheck calculator. Both calculators will help you determine how much money to send your employees home with and how much to remit to the IRS. If you're trying to calculate taxes for paying bonuses, we've got you covered there too—try our bonus paycheck calculator.
How to use payroll templates
Step one: Customize the template to your needs
Depending on how your template is set up, each row will be dedicated to an individual employee. The first few columns will be reserved for employee identifying information, such as their job title, manager, and salary. The columns directly after those will list a different type of tax calculation or deduction.
You should be able to customize the columns to your area's specific payroll taxes—for instance, not all states have an income tax. You can also customize it to match paycheck deductions specific to your business, like health insurance premiums and 401(k) contributions.
Step two: Gather employee information
To correctly calculate your employee's paycheck and tax withholding, you'll need the following information:
- Employee name and other identifying information (for instance, business-specific employee identification number, manager, or job title)
- Hourly rate or salary wage per pay period according to employee type
- Hours worked for the pay period
You'll also need your employee's tax form W-4, which they should submit to you as soon as they're hired. You'll use this form to find their tax filing status, income from other jobs, and other tax information—which lets you take the right tax deductions from their paycheck.
Step three: Calculate payroll taxes
While the following columns are generally listed in most payroll templates, you might need to modify yours to fit your specific needs:
- Federal income tax
- State income tax (if your state has an income tax)
- FICA taxes, which include Medicare and Social Security taxes
You can use a payroll calculator to multiply the current tax rate against your employees' salaries and determine the right deduction (many templates include a payroll calculator in a separate tab), then log it in the corresponding cell. If the template doesn't include a payroll calculator, your payroll spreadsheet template probably calculates payroll taxes line by line with a cell formula.
With unlimited payroll runs and automatic tax filing, Gusto helps small-business owners worry less about payroll and put more time into growing their business.
- Get automatic payroll tax filing, including end-of-year tax forms
- Manage workers compensation insurance
- Track paid time off, sick leave, and holiday pay
Step four: Clearly label each payroll run
After the first time you run payroll, you'll be able to copy the same employee information and cell formulas into a new spreadsheet or tab. To ensure your spreadsheets don't spiral out of control, clearly label each new payroll template or tab with the pay period date.
Want to learn more about how to run payroll? We have a few resources:
Free payroll template FAQ
How do I create a payroll spreadsheet?
Excel's free payroll templates can help you calculate payroll, including payroll taxes, and keep a solid record of your business's payroll. Just pick your favorite template, download it from Excel, customize it to your business and employees, and start entering data.
If you don't want to use Excel templates or don't have an Excel subscription, Smartsheet's free templates sync with Google Sheets.
Is there free payroll software?
There aren't too many free payroll software providers, but there are a handful that we feel comfortable recommending, including Payroll4Free.com and free spreadsheet software like Google Sheets.
However, we can only recommend free payroll software to employers with only a few employees—preferably not more than one or two, though you can probably get away with free payroll for up to five. Payroll is very complicated and the IRS penalty for mistakes can have consequences for you, your employees, and your business. If you choose free payroll software (including free payroll templates), take care to double- and triple-check the numbers you enter, keep accurate records, and go the extra mile to pay taxes on time, every time.
Can I create a payslip template in Excel?
Excel's payroll templates include a payslip (also known as a pay stub) template. Download the free Excel template to get started. Alternatively, if you use free spreadsheet software like Google Sheets, try a pay stub template from Smartsheet or another free pay stub template provider.
Can I download a payroll check template?
You can find a handful of payroll check templates, but it's easier to just purchase blank payroll check stock from a provider like Staples or Office Depot. (You can also order blank payroll checks from your bank, but they'll likely cost more than those at, say, Office Max.)
Payroll checks typically come with pay stubs attached so you and your employees can keep accurate records for tax purposes. But you can also download pay stub templates and use those instead of or in addition to those included on the checks. Either way, make sure you're keeping accurate payroll records—they'll help you keep your finances in line and protect you if the IRS comes calling.
Running payroll is one of the most challenging aspects of being a small-business owner, but the right free payroll templates can help you streamline the process.
Looking for other free ways to run payroll? Read through our list of the best free payroll software for small businesses.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.