How to Read a Pay Stub Like a Pro in 2024

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Pay stubs are an essential part of your paperwork. Whether you work full-time or part-time,you might be wondering how to read a pay stub without missing out on any key details.

These important documents contain a breakdown of how much you have earned during the pay period. They also display other key information, such as specific deductions, benefits, and adjustments applied to your salary.

Not only that, your pay stub serves as your reference in ensuring that a sufficient amount is withheld from your earnings to pay for your taxes.

That said, read this article and learn how to go over your pay stub thoroughly like a professional!

Key Takeaways

  • A pay stub is a document that reflects an employee’s total earnings in a given pay period.
  • Pay stubs contain the employer and employee’s information, pay period, work hours rendered by the employee, gross and net pay, deductions, and YTD.
  • FICA, FED, SWT, MED, SICK, and VAC are some abbreviations used on pay stubs that pertain to tax withholdings and deductions on employee earnings.
  • The most efficient and reliable way of getting a pay stub is to use an online pay stub generator.

What is a Pay Stub?

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A pay stub, also called a payslip, wage statement, or pay record, is a document employers issue to employees every pay day.

Paystubs can either be electronic or printed on paper. While the US federal government does not require employers to issue a pay stub, the said rule will still depend on the state. It also depends on whether the employer operates their business across different locations.

Is a Pay Stub the Same as a Paycheck?

No. A pay stub is a section of the paycheck that contains a summary of information about an employee’s salary. It also reflects all taxes deducted from the gross pay, the net amount received by the employee, the pay date when the pay stub is issued, and the pay period.

A paycheck is a paper-based record or document issued according to the work hours accumulated by an employee and its corresponding wage rate.

Why are Pay Stubs Important?

Pay stubs provide employees with an accurate and reliable record of the hours they have worked for the company. They help monitor whether the correct percentage is withheld from their salaries for their taxes.

The absence of pay stubs means employees could be underpaid or penalized by the IRS for non-payment of their withholding taxes.

Pay stubs can serve as proof of income for loan and rental applications. For example, landlords and loan approval officers use pay stubs to evaluate an applicant's capacity to cover rental rates or pay for their loans.

What Does a Pay Stub Contain?

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A pay stub must contain the following essential information to be considered a valid and reliable document:

#1. General Information

This section of a pay stub refers to the employer's and employee’s information. This includes the name, address, and contact information of both the employer and the employee.

#2. Pay Period

The pay period refers to the length of time that covers the total work hours rendered by the employee.

For example, if a company follows a bi-weekly pay period, then employees are paid every other week. Their pay stubs show their salaries for 14 working days.

#3. Hours Worked

The hours worked reflect the number of hours rendered by an employee to complete their task or fulfill their job responsibilities in a given pay period. The number of hours worked also determines the corresponding total hourly rate earned by the employee.

#4. Gross Pay

Gross pay is the total salary or wage earned by an employee. It is the amount earned before taxes, benefits, and other deductions are withheld or subtracted from employee earnings.

Calculating the gross pay differs based on whether workers receive a fixed compensation or are paid per the number of hours they have worked.

#5. YTD

YTD (Year-to-Date) in a pay stub summarizes all deductions, total gross earnings, and net wages from the beginning of the year. It also includes all withheld contributions for health insurance, social security, and retirement plans.

#6. Deductions

Deductions encompass tax withholdings, benefits, and other forms of deductions on an employee’s regular pay. Examples of deductions include federal, state, and local taxes, FICA taxes, insurance premiums, retirement plan contributions, and wage garnishments.

#7. Net Pay

The net pay is the final amount disbursed to employees every payday. It reflects the remaining amount in the employee’s salary after taxes, benefits, and deductions are subtracted from their gross pay.

Additional Pay Stub Elements

How to read a paystub

The following additional pay stub details are included as needed or when applicable:

  • Retirement plan. The most common type of retirement benefits offered by companies are 401(k) and IRA (Roth Individual Retirement Accounts).
  • Insurance deductions. GTL (Group term life insurance) and health insurance premiums for vision, dental, and medical coverage are common examples.
  • Time off. When an employee takes a valid leave of absence from work, the hours they’ve taken off their regular work hours are deducted from their salary.
  • Additional notes. Additional notes are brief details or explanations for when certain adjustments had to be made to an employee’s salary.

Common Abbreviations You Can Find on a Pay Stub

Here is a list of the most common abbreviations that you will see on your pay stub:




Retirement benefit


Employee Identification Number


Federal Tax Withholdings


Federal Insurance Contribution Act


Family and Medical Leave Act


Wage garnishments


Gross wages before taxes and deductions


Insurance premium deductions


Life insurance deductions


Tax withholdings imposed per city or locale


Medicare tax


Miscellaneous pay


Net pay after taxes and deductions


Paid time off


Regular work hours


Sick leave


Social security number


State tax withholdings


Vacation leave

How to Read a Pay Stub for Taxes and Deductions

Here are the steps on how to read your pay stub for tax purposes:

#1. Federal Income Taxes

A percentage of your regular salary is withheld by your employer and remitted to the federal government as your federal income tax contribution. The amount will depend on the following:

  • Filing status
  • Income level
  • The number of dependents declared on your W-4 form

#2. State and Local Taxes (SALT)

The tax rates withheld from your salary depend on whether SALT is imposed on the state or locality where your job is based.

If state and local taxes are imposed on your state or city, then the abbreviations ‘SWT (State tax withholdings)’ and ‘LT’ (tax withholdings imposed per city or locale)’ reflect on your pay stub.

#3. Other Deductions

The ‘other deductions’ enumerated on your pay stub can refer to your benefit withholdings, insurance premiums, and any time you’ve taken off your work hours.

How to Get a Pay Stub as an Employee

Contact your employer directly if you need to secure a copy of your pay stubs. Explain your reason for requesting the said documents and specify when you will be needing the pay stubs.

You will be required to fill out a pay stub request form and provide the Employee Identification Number assigned to you during your employment, your Social Security Number, and the pay periods covered by the pay stubs you need.

How to Get a Pay Stub as an Employer

Preparing error-free pay stubs for all employees on a regular basis becomes even more challenging if the human resources department is either lacking in manpower or pressed for time.

A perfect solution to address this is the use of a paystub generator. Paystub offers an easy-to-use solution that can save you time and money. It’s super simple to use and can help you make professional pay stubs in a matter of minutes!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Open the pay stub generator and choose a template.
  2. Fill in the boxes with the required information.
  3. Review and generate your pay stub!

How to Read a Pay Stub FAQ

#1. What are the different parts of a pay stub?

A pay stub includes the employer and employee’s information, the pay period reflected in the pay stub, the number of hours worked, gross and net pay, YTD, and tax withholdings and additional deductions.

#2. What is a pay stub summary?

A pay stub summary contains an employee’s gross and net salary, withheld taxes, deductions, and all key information regarding the net pay.

#3. What is a pay stub template?

A pay stub template is an online form that you can fill out quickly and easily to produce error-free pay stubs with complete and precise information.

#4. What is the gross pay on a pay stub?

The gross pay indicated on a pay stub pertains to the total wage or salary earned by an employee before tax withholdings and other types of deductions are subtracted from their pay.

Final Thoughts

Taking the time to learn all the terms and details in your pay stub is a form of countermeasure.

It helps protect your rights in case your employer fails to pay you on time, disburse the correct net salary, or withhold enough percentages from your salary to pay your taxes and benefit withholdings.


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