What to do when an Employee Leaves

When an employer-employee relationship comes to an end, it’s crucial for small businesses to understand their responsibilities regarding providing final paychecks and other essential documents. Not only is it important to ensure compliance with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stipulations, but it also helps maintain a positive relationship with departing employees. In this blog, we’ll discuss best practices for small businesses when it comes to meeting IRS requirements in such situations.

Final Paychecks

Providing employees with their final paychecks in a timely manner is a legal requirement. Here are some best practices to follow:

a. Understand state laws: While the IRS does not have specific regulations regarding final paychecks, state laws may impose different rules. Familiarize yourself with the regulations in your jurisdiction to ensure compliance.

b. Calculate wages accurately: Determine the correct amount owed to the departing employee, including unpaid wages, unused vacation or sick time, and any bonuses or commissions they are entitled to receive.

c. Pay on time: Aim to issue the final paycheck on the employee’s last day or as soon as possible afterward. Delays in payment can lead to legal consequences and sour the employer-employee relationship.

d. Include detailed information: Clearly itemize the final paycheck to provide transparency and avoid any confusion. Include details such as hours worked, pay rates, deductions, and the final amount paid.

Payroll Tax Obligations


Even when an employee leaves, small businesses must fulfil their payroll tax obligations. Consider the following:

a. Withholding taxes: Continue withholding federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax from the employee’s final paycheck as you would for any regular payment.

b. Reporting obligations: Ensure you accurately report wages and taxes on Forms W-2 and other required forms. The employee should receive their W-2 by January 31 of the following year.

c. State and local taxes: Research and comply with any state or local tax requirements related to final paychecks and reporting.

Other Required Documents


Apart from the final paycheck, certain documents must be provided to departing employees:

a. Form W-2: As mentioned earlier, issue Form W-2 to the employee by January 31 of the following year. This document reports the employee’s earnings and withheld taxes for the year.

b. Form 1099-MISC: If you hired independent contractors and paid them $600 or more during the year, you may need to issue them a Form 1099-MISC. Ensure timely filing and distribution of this form.

c. COBRA Continuation Coverage: If you provide group health insurance to your employees, you may be obligated to offer them COBRA continuation coverage upon termination. Familiarize yourself with COBRA requirements and provide the necessary notices to the departing employee.


When an employee departs, it’s essential for small businesses to adhere to IRS stipulations regarding final paychecks and other required documents. By following the best practices outlined in this blog, you can ensure compliance, maintain a positive relationship with the departing employee, and avoid potential legal issues. Stay informed about state-specific regulations, calculate wages accurately, fulfill payroll tax obligations, and provide necessary documents promptly. Remember, these practices contribute to a smooth transition and foster a professional environment within your small business.

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