There is so much preparation necessary for year-end payroll. As a payroll expert, it is essential to create precise tasks for your team and clients so everyone is on the same page. Employees often file taxes as soon as possible, which means the pressure is on to provide W-2s. It is easy to rush at this critical time resulting in annoying errors. You can take several steps as the professional to provide the most accurate and timely compliance documents possible. 

Before filing your W-2s, it is important to validate all payroll information and maintain accurate and compliant records. 

The key focus areas are: 

  • Payroll checks created outside of the payroll module (sometimes clients are confused that commissions, bonuses and gift cards are all considered payroll). 
  • Reconcile the last month’s bank statements to ensure there are no handwritten checks that should be included in payroll totals. 
  • All garnishments, deductions, and contributions have been correctly recorded and balances paid out.

Payroll Accounts 

You can target the critical payroll accounts for any discrepancies by running the necessary payroll reports. The following reports are available in QuickBooks Online when Payroll is enabled. 

Payroll Reports 

  • Payroll Details — This report will list out all of the paychecks that have been created and will include a detailed breakdown of all wages, taxes and deductions. 
  • Payroll Summary — This report is very similar to Payroll Details, but will only provide you with the total for all wages, taxes and deductions.
  • Payroll Deductions/Contributions — This report shows the total amount of employee deductions and company contributions that have been incurred. 
  • Payroll Tax Liability — This report will show the total amount of tax-by-tax type, as well as the amount of tax owed and how much you have paid for the selected period of time. 

The areas of focus on each of the reports are as follows: 

Balance Sheet

You also will want to double-check the Balance Sheet, including your client’s payroll liabilities and any subaccounts. 


Once payroll is processed, it is best practice to reconcile the payroll accounts with the general ledger. The steps in doing this are: 

  • Step 1 — Ensure that your payroll reports accurately reflect the wages and hours for payment. 
  • Step 2 — Confirm that you have deducted the right amounts from each employee’s paycheck.
  • Step 3 — Review the payroll entries automatically produced within QuickBooks Online Payroll.
  • Step 4 — Preview your payroll tax liabilities and other payroll liabilities.
  • Step 5 — Preview your payroll tax liabilities and other payroll liabilities again after making the necessary tax payments.
  • Step 6 — Check that your account balances have the correct expected balances. 

Preparing and Submitting W-2 Forms 

When using QuickBooks Online Payroll (Core, Premium or Elite subscriptions), your Employer and Employee W-2s will automatically be created and processed if you are opted into having QuickBooks file them for you. To check if you have opted in, click here.  

You can print your employees’ electronically-filed W-2 forms using the following steps: 

  • In the Taxes Center, select the Payroll Tax tabUnder Forms, select year
  • Select W-2
  • Then select Copies B, C & 2 x D (printable Employee Copies)
  • A separate tab will open Acrobat Reader to print Copies B and C

While it is not necessary to include in the outlined steps above, one final bonus step is to celebrate with your favorite selection of wine. This might be the most important step for your sanity as you work through wrapping up the year-end.

Liz Scott is a multi-business entrepreneur working to bring together technology and accountants through her business, Liz Scott Consulting. A member of Intuit Trainer/Writer Network, she authored and taught Master level courses, including Advisory Guides and Consulting Tools for Accountants. In addition to Liz Scott Consulting, she also owns Accounting Lifeline, a firm to serve small businesses with their financial needs. Liz is a co-host of the “Appy Hour,” which helps other accountants learn about the different tools and apps for small business needs. Holding a high passion for real estate investment, she owns properties throughout Oklahoma.

This post originally appeared on
Insightful Accountant