When your small business suffers a major natural (or man-made) disaster, focusing your time and money in the right areas is key to getting operational again Should one of these areas be your payroll records and system? In fact, payroll takes more of a priority than you may realize. Here are five reasons why.

1. It's the Law. Payroll is governed by a number of different governmental oversight agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor and the IRS. Failure to provide accurate payroll checks on time could result in even more problems than you already have — things like fines, audits, and penalties. 

2. The Burden Is on You. In general, it is the employer's responsibility to prepare and deliver accurate payroll checks in a timely manner. While some limited extensions and exceptions are often provided for those who suffer specific, eligible disasters, the onus remains on the employer. If employees complain, the buck will ultimately stop with you. 

3. It Keeps Good Employees. In the wake of a disaster, you need your best employees at your side to recover. So don't let them get frustrated or feel like they must walk away due to not being paid, not being paid in a reasonable time, or being paid inaccurately. Most employees are willing to muck in and help as long as their minimum needs are still being met. 

4. It Can Be Outsourced. The good news is that this is one task you don't have to handle on your own. Outsource the job of creating current and ongoing payroll — as well as reconstructing past payroll records — to a professional third party. An accountant who specializes in payroll services has undoubtedly handled this same scenario with other customers. 

5. It's Part of Knowing Your Finances. How much were your finances impacted by the disaster? How much is left and where does your cash currently need to go? How long can you keep employees? All these financial questions require that you know your obligations and resources. Only when you know your payroll obligations can you make good choices about who to retain, how much to schedule people for, and what money you have to spend on other expenses. 

Where to Start

After any disaster, the wise small business owner turns to their accountant for help and guidance. And one area where they can provide excellent assistance is in getting payroll back up and running. Don't yet have an accountant? Start by meeting with an accountant who provides payroll services in your state today.