An overview of payroll taxes
What is payroll tax?
Payroll tax is a state or territory tax on a company’s taxable employee wages, once the sum of these wages reaches a certain threshold.
The threshold for businesses operating for only part of the year will be proportionate. For example, if you operate for half of the year, you’d owe payroll tax once your payroll amount reaches half of the annual threshold.
Businesses must register for payroll tax within 7 days of the end of the month in which they reached the applicable wage threshold. When you register, you’ll learn whether your business structure requires you to pay payroll tax on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.
What is the difference between payroll tax and income tax?
The main difference between Australia's payroll tax and income tax is that payroll tax is based on the total wages you pay your employees and contractors, while income tax is based on your business’ taxable earnings (i.e., gross income, less deductions). Your company’s income isn't a factor when calculating your payroll tax.
What wages are subject to payroll taxes?
Firms must pay payroll taxes on the following:
Employee wages (hourly and salaried)
Payments to freelancers and contractors
Company director remunerations
Employee commissions and bonuses
What are the payroll tax rates and thresholds for each state and territory?
You're responsible for paying payroll tax in any state or territory in which your company operates or in which your employees reside. Here are the payroll tax rates and thresholds around the country (as at July 2022 and subject to change):
The payroll tax threshold in Australian Capital Territory is $166,666.66 per month, or $2 million annually. The payroll tax rate in the ACT is 6.85%.
The payroll tax threshold in the Northern Territory is $125,000 per month and includes both NT wages and all interstate wages. The payroll tax rate is 5.5%.
In New South Wales, the annual payroll tax threshold is $1.2 million. Monthly tax thresholds vary based on days per month:
31-day months: $101,918
30-day months: $98,630
28-day months: $92,055
The payroll tax rate in NSW is 5.45%.
Queensland businesses must pay payroll tax once their annual Australian taxable wages reach $1.3 million per year.
The payroll tax rate is 4.75% for companies paying $6.5 million or less in annual wages, and 4.95% for companies with annual wages exceeding $6.5 million.
In South Australia, companies are liable for payroll tax after reaching an annual, Australia-wide wage threshold of $1.5 million.
The payroll tax rate is variable from 0%–4.95% for companies that pay over $1.5 million but don't exceed $1.7 million in annual wages. For firms that pay over $1.7 million in annual wages, the payroll tax rate is 4.95%.
Tasmania’s annual payroll tax threshold is $1.25 million. The tax rate is 4% for total annual wages of over $1.25 million but less than $2 million, and 6.1% for total annual wages over $2 million.
The payroll tax threshold for businesses operating in Victoria is $54,166 per month, or $650,000 over the full financial year. The payroll tax rate is 4.85%, or 1.2125% for regional employers.
The payroll tax threshold in Western Australia is $83,333 per month, or $1 million per year. The tax rates are:
5.5% for annual total wages of $1 million–$100 million
6% for annual total wages of $100 million–$1.5 billion
6.5% for annual total wages in excess of $1.5 billion.
What happens if your business has employees in different states?
Businesses that operate in or have employees in multiple states must register and pay payroll tax if the following conditions apply:
State-specific payroll totals are equal to or above the threshold for that state
Total payroll amounts are equal to or above the nationwide threshold of $1.3 million.
Scenario: You own a company that operates in New South Wales and Victoria. In a single year, your Victoria office pays out $500,000, while your NSW office pays out $900,000 in taxable wages — for a total amount of $1.4 million. Even though your Victoria-based payouts were below the state-specific threshold, your total Australian wages crossed the $1.3 million limit, meaning you’re responsible for payroll tax in both states.
How do businesses register for payroll tax?
You can register for payroll tax in each Australian state or territory here:
The importance of keeping payroll tax records
Failure to register for, report or pay your payroll taxes could result in a number of penalties, up to and including a fee of 75% of the arrearage — as well as possible prosecution.
You could also face a full tax audit, which may uncover other missed payments or tax-related mistakes.
Knowing how much you pay in taxes for payroll will also give you insight into the financial health of your business — and into the true cost of hiring new employees. This is especially important for growing businesses approaching their applicable threshold, as crossing it will increase operating costs.
Factors to consider when creating payroll tax records:
Start and end dates for the reporting period
Employee salaries and cumulative wages
Additional payments in pensions, benefits and other employer contributions
Cumulative payouts for sick leave or family leave of absence
Monetary values of any non-monetary remunerations or gifts for employees
Automate and simplify payroll taxation with MYOB
As your team grows larger and spreads inter-state, your company’s payroll taxes will become increasingly complex and time-consuming to manage. This is especially true if you’re doing this work manually.
Thankfully, MYOB’s cloud payroll software is here to help. MYOB calculates and records all payroll tax-related information automatically. With clear insight as to what you owe, where and why, you can easily factor your payroll taxes into the overall cost of running your business — and will always be prepared to pay up when the time comes.
Ready to get started? Sign up now to try MYOB free for 30 days.
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