Understanding the basic requirements for certified payroll
What is certified payroll?
Certified payroll is a federal form WH-347, submitted weekly to the agency overseeing a government contract. The form lists every employee, their wages, the benefits they’re entitled to, the type of work they did, and the hours they worked. It shows withholdings and gross wages and includes a statement of compliance.
Requirements for 2018
Certified payroll includes government-contracted construction workers, and for these individuals, 2018 is expected to be a big year. Since before his election to office, President Trump has promised an infrastructure deal to update the country’s interstate highways, bridges, and more. Between federal, state, and city funding, the president expects to spend around $1 trillion on these projects.
According to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, lawmakers are working on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will include wage protections upholding the Davis-Bacon Act.
What makes a payroll report “certified”?
A report is “certified” when it has a signed statement of compliance indicating the payroll forms are correct and complete, and each employee has been paid no less than the proper Davis-Bacon prevailing wage for the work performed.
When a company owner or head of payroll puts their written signature on the statement of compliance, they are doing so understanding the willful falsification of any payroll information may subject the contractor or subcontractor to civil or criminal prosecution.
Common mistakes to avoid
Creating and submitting a certified payroll report can be problematic for contractors who work on public works projects or government-funded construction projects. Particularly when they use QuickBooks for payroll.
Here are some common certified payroll mistakes and misconceptions:
Some contractors and payroll providers think, to complete and submit a certified payroll report, they must be a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) and pass some sort of exam. That’s not true.
Anyone can become a Certified Payroll Professional, provided they meet the American Payroll Association’s criteria. It’s extremely difficult to become a CPP, but any contractor’s payroll provider can complete and submit a certified payroll report, though it helps if that provider has previous experience.
Some contractors and payroll providers believe one payroll form or format will meet certified payroll requirements in all 50 states. This is also not true. Some states have multiple forms and electronic filing requirements.
Some contractors and payroll providers believe the certified payroll reports built into their preferred payroll software will provide them with all the necessary information and tools they need to complete the process. Unfortunately, that’s also not true.
Anyone who must complete and file a certified payroll report shouldn’t rely entirely on a single tool. Instead, contractors and payroll providers need to be aware of their state’s particular regulations, which may require more in-depth reporting and even different filing methods.
Who creates certified payroll reports?Anyone can learn how to complete a certified payroll report, so here are a few examples of questions on a certified payroll report:
- Who works for you?
- What type of work are they’re doing (work or trade classification)?
- How many hours have they worked?
- What were they paid?
- How much did they earn (gross wages on this job and for the week)?
- What was taken out of their paychecks (taxes, child support, garnishments, union dues, etc.)?
- What was the net amount they took home for the week (gross wages for all jobs, WITHOUT taxes and other deductions)?
The biggest job is gathering the data and completing the form. The US Department of Labor estimates it will take 55 minutes to gather and compile the information for eight employees on a single report — not bad if you only have eight employees who only work on one job.
You could spend hours just collecting, reviewing, and confirming your payroll data, in addition to generating the actual paychecks and completing a certified payroll report. This work becomes more time-consuming the more employees you have and the more jobs you work on. It's also highly error-prone if you are creating these payroll reports manually.
Questions related to certified payroll
How do I create a certified payroll report in QuickBooks?+
- From the Reports menu, choose Employees & Payroll > More Payroll Reports in Excel > Certified Payroll Report.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to create the report. As you follow the instructions, the Certified Payroll Report Interview window will open to gather additional information.
For a more thorough explanation of how to create a certified payroll report using QuickBooks software, check out their resource page on certified payroll.
What is a certified payroll specialist?+
What is the prevailing wage law?+
According to the Department of Industrial Relations for the state of California, “If there is no single rate paid to a majority, then the single or modal rate being paid to the greater number of workers is prevailing.”
Prevailing wage was defined in the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931.
What type of work is considered prevailing wage?+
Construction, waste management, and manufacturing are the industries most commonly fined for violating prevailing wage laws, due to their relevance to government construction, alteration, and repair projects.
What is certified payroll in California?+
How much is the prevailing wage in California?+
Additional reading and resources
- How to complete payroll form WH-347
- How to become a Certified Payroll Professional
- A time tracker app that can simplify payroll
- How to create a certified payroll report
- Time tracking apps for construction crews
- The definition of the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931
- Prevailing wage laws and prevailing wage violations by state