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Employee Considerations
September 13, 2022
Woman working with human resources software on computer

Two Critical First Steps Before Setting Up Payroll For Your Small Business

Hiring employees for your small business can help lighten your workload. But it also creates the need to manage something you didn’t need to worry about when you were handling all aspects of your business by yourself:


Even if you have just one employee, you need to do payroll accurately and in compliance with all legal and regulatory responsibilities. If you don’t, you could incur costly penalties from the Internal Revenue Service.

Before you hire your first employee and put processes in place to handle payroll, make sure you pay attention to two important details.

  • Register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

The IRS requires that you have one before you hire employees. You can apply for an EIN online at or contact the IRS to establish one. Your EIN will be used for reporting taxes and other documents to the IRS. You’ll also need your EIN when reporting employee information to state agencies.

Also, check to determine whether or not you’ll need state or local ID numbers to process taxes.

  • Know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor.

Laws and requirements are different for them when it comes to withholding and paying taxes and in how you conduct your working relationship.

A few key differences include:

  • Generally, employers provide employees with all the equipment, supplies, software, and tools they need to perform their jobs. Independent contractors use those that they own.
  • Employees typically have their work hours set by their employers, whereas independent contractors control their work hours.
  • With employees, you the employer will need to withhold income tax and Social Security and Medicare tax from their paychecks. You’ll also need to remit federal and state unemployment taxes. When hiring help, employees must complete IRS Form W-4 (Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate) so they can withhold the proper amount from their pay.

Conversely, independent contractors are responsible for directly remitting tax payments; you do not withhold taxes from their compensation. Ask them to complete IRS Form W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification), which certifies they are not employees.

  • Independent contractors send you an invoice for services rendered.

After you have these key action items checked off your list, you can concentrate on other details such as deciding on a pay period and either choosing a payroll system or outsourcing your payroll administration.

For more information about payroll requirements, visit the Understanding Employment Taxes page of the IRS website. Also, consider contacting your local SCORE chapter to get insight from a mentor who can point you to the right resources and guide you as you grow your business.   

If you would like to discuss this or need help with the Business Plan, contact the Sandhills Chapter of SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business”. SCORE is a nationwide nonprofit association of expert business counselors who provide free and confidential business counseling to small business entrepreneurs and owners. Your local Sandhills Chapter is very active in counseling, mentoring, and presenting free business seminars at Sandhills Community College. Please contact us at or call 910-420-0121.

Be sure to visit the website at for a complete listing of SCORE and SCC free seminars. You may also contact Teresa Reynolds, Director of the SCC-SBC, at 910-695-3938 or email

Also, you can send your business questions to, and don’t forget to provide a way to contact you. We may not be able to answer all of your questions but everyone will receive a personal response from one of our Sandhills SCORE counselors.

95 Cherokee Rd,
Pinehurst, NC 28374
(910) 420-0121

Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association,

Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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