Understanding your payslips
We all receive payslips on a regular basis, but most of us would be hard-pressed to decipher their contents. Knowing what each section means can make life a lot easier, writes John Cradden
YOU may get one of these every week, every fortnight or every month, but most of us probably only glance at the total and net figures before stuffing it into our pockets, wallets or bags.
Few of us will admit it, but if you were asked to explain all the other mystifying figures relating to PAYE (pay as you earn), PRSI (pay related social insurance), tax to date and the various levies, the chances are many of us would struggle.
But if you knew enough to know that the most important figure to look at is the net pay (your pay after tax and deductions), then this is a good start, according to Brian Duffy, a partner at Galway-based accountants and business adviser firm DFS & Co.
"However, it is important to understand what happens between your gross pay, comprising basic pay, overtime, shift allowances, other taxable benefits like private medical insurance, club memberships, a company car, for example, and the various deductions before arriving at your net pay," he says.
According to the National Employment Rights Agency (NERA), all employees are entitled to receive a payslip with every payment of wages, which should show gross pay and the nature and amount of each deduction.
The agency advises employees to familiarise themselves with their entire payslip and what each part of it relates to, while any questions should be directed to their employers in the first instance.
"They should note the deductions that are made each month and check for any changes," said a spokesman.
"It's important to note that any changes may well be quite normal, and could relate to changing tax rates, for example."
There were no changes to income tax rates in the 2010 Budget, nor were there any changes to the income levy, which currently ranges from 2pc to 6pc.
Despite talk that the ceiling on PRSI contributions would be abolished, it still remains and there were no increases in PRSI contributions for 2010.
So if you earn less than €352 gross per week, you will not pay any contributions.
If you earn between €352 and €500 per week, the first €127 of your earnings will be ignored and you will pay 4pc on anything over that amount.
If your gross pay is more than the PRSI ceiling of €75,036 per year you will not pay PRSI on the earnings over this amount.
There was no increase in health levy contributions in the last Budget either, which for Class A employees (as most of us are) will remain at 4pc for earnings up to €75,036, and 5pc for earnings above this amount.
For a variety of reasons the deductions system has become very complicated, but there are indications that substantial reform is on the way that will simplify the current PRSI, health levy and income levy systems with effect from 2011.
But despite the complexity of the system, the good news is that mistakes are relatively rare.
"Generally, employers have good payroll systems in place to help make the administration of payroll easy and error free," says Mr Duffy.
However, mistakes do happen, but most of them are typically down to human error.
"Either the input data is incorrect and in need of updating or a clerical error can be made in terms of pay rates and so on," he says.
The PRSI contribution paid by employers can also cause confusion for workers.
"This is the amount of PRSI your employer pays Revenue on your behalf. It is not part of your gross pay but is a cost to your employer," says Mr Duffy.
"This field on the payslip will normally be signified with 'PRSI er'."
While most payroll mistakes are simple and can be easily sorted, some employers can be less than scrupulous.
"The most common issues are failure to provide a payslip at all, and failure to give details of deductions," said the NERA spokesman.
"We don't have figures specific to unlawful deductions, but it is fair to say that there have been such complaints and NERA has discovered incidences of this through its inspections process."
Legally, employers are required to hold certain records, such as copies of payslips for six years, but NERA recommends that employees do the same.
"These can be useful not only in terms of employment rights, but also for tax and other purposes," the spokesman said.
It is also important to make sure that your employer has the right information about your tax credits. The onus is on the individual rather than the employer to ensure these are applied correctly, says Mr Duffy.
"An individual should make a point of checking their own personal tax credit certificate to ensure they are claiming the relevant personal allowances and not claiming any allowances they are not entitled to," he said.
Your employer should receive an updated tax credit certificate within five working days of any amendment and should update the system accordingly.
The annual tax credit will be reflected on your payslip either as an average weekly or monthly amount.