Charles Read, CPA, USTCP, IRSAC
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Payday is the effective date, for the employee, of the check or the direct deposit regardless of when the employee cashes the check or spends the money in the account. If your check is dated for Jan 2, 2020, it is taxable in 2020. Individual taxpayers are cash basis by law and report payroll either when received or when there is an effective receipt. If you receive a check dated 12/31/19 it is taxable in 2019 even if you don’t cash it until 2020. If you could have the money, even if you don’t cash a check or touch a direct deposit, that is an effective receipt and taxable on that date.
If you receive a check dated 1/2/20 and deposit it early on 12/31/19 it is still taxable in 2020. The bank may have but should not have given you access to the funds until the effective date on the check (or direct deposit).
The employer, if they are on an accrual basis accounting will record the expense of payroll in the period earned regardless of when paid. That means that all hours worked, commissions earned, and bonuses earned in calendar 2019 will be recorded as 2019 expense regardless of when paid.