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Higher wages, better health benefits, or larger tax refunds? Survey looks at 2017 payroll trends

Every year, the American Payroll Association (APA) conducts an annual survey for National Payroll Week, with the goal of helping American employee better understand their paychecks. According to the APA, this knowledge can help employees make smarter decisions with how they’re paid. “Maximizing your paycheck is immensely important,” said Dan Maddux, executive director of the American Payroll Association. “During National Payroll Week, we teach employees to better understand their payroll-related benefits and how to use them to get the most each paycheck.”

More than 34,000 employees responded to the 2017″Getting Paid in America” survey, providing insight into various payroll and time and attendance trends impacting the workplace.

Here are some of the highlights of the survey:

Higher wages are more important than better health benefits

The annual APA survey asked, “What’s more important to you, better health benefits or higher wages?” Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated higher wages are more important than health benefits. The number of survey participants with this preference rose 12.5% from the 2016 results for the same question, which indicated only 56% of employees shared this sentiment.

“A wage increase is easy for workers to understand. The value is clear and immediately apparent,” said Mike Trabold, director of compliance risk for Paychex. “In 2017, considering today’s unpredictable regulatory environment, the same can’t be said for better benefits.”

Access to self-service portals available and appreciated

Eighty-two percent of employees across America have access to a self-service portal where they have the ability to view their pay and benefits information at their convenience, and most employees are happy to use these portals.

“The employee experience becomes more personalized when individuals can access scheduling, time tracking, pay and other people oriented information at their fingertips,” said Lisa Sterling, chief people officer at Ceridian. “By taking ownership of their work-life blend, employees feel valued and empowered—which makes work life better.”

When asked if their employer provides an employee self-service portal where they can access pay and benefits information online, more than eighty-two percent of respondents stated yes. In a follow-up question, more than sixty-four percent of respondents indicated they prefer to access the portal via a desktop computer at work or at home, with laptop access and smartphone access also being popular methods for utilizing their employee self-service portal.

Almost half prefer a bigger paycheck to a larger tax refund

Forty-eight percent of employees in America want a bigger paycheck rather than a larger tax refund

Small changes such as adjusting Form W-4 can make a significant impact on the amount of an employee’s take home pay. “Make sure your withholdings on your Form W-4 are at the proper level,” encourages Frank Tresnak, business development manager for Symmetry Software. “Some say they want a bigger refund to pay bills, but getting more money each paycheck lets you pay your bills faster and pay less interest as well.”

According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2016 was $2,860. Forty-eight percent of respondents indicated they would rather receive an extra $110 in each bi-weekly paycheck than a large tax refund. When asked in a follow-up question why they prefer more money in each paycheck, thirty-seven percent of survey participants indicated they do not wish to give the government an interest-free loan. An additional thirty-four percent indicated they need the extra money for living expenses, like rent and food.

To view full survey results, visit

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