How many times have you ever looked at your salary pay stub very carefully? Maybe once or twice? But, if you’re like most people, we’d bet there are at least a few boxes on there you don’t know the meaning of. Right?

But there are things there you should know about. For example, what if money is being deducted from your pay without you knowing about it. This can happen, mostly due to clerical errors.

So, in this article we’ll go over your pay stub line by line, explaining each one.

What is a Salary Pay Stub?

A pay stub (or paycheck stub) is a piece of paper that accompanies each paycheck given to an employee. It shows how much money was earned in the pay period and the amount removed for taxes, insurance costs, etc.

These used to be attached to the end of the actual paycheck, though for various reasons, this is no longer the case. Today, an employer is likely to use a digital paystub creator, whether it’s online or a software program.

What Counts as a Pay Stub?

Generally, and depending on the state where you work, it must include the legal name and address of the employer.

It also must include the employee’s name, address and either social security number (typically the last four digits) or employee identification number (EIN).

A pay stub lists your income for the pay period, as well as all the different aspects of that income listed in the following section.

The following are typical components of a pay stub.

Gross Pay

This is a given pay period’s portion of your total salary or your total wages earned.

Net Pay

This is the amount of your pay remaining after all deductions have been made–your “take-home” pay

Federal Withholding

This is the amount of tax collected by/for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

State Withholding

This is the amount of tax collected by/for the state department of revenue (if you live in a state that has state income taxes, that is).

Local Taxes (if any)

These are taxes that might be collected by a city like New York that has “state-like” expenses all its own.

Social Security

This tax is pooled with that of other employed people to support those who are retired and/or disabled.


Like the Social Security tax, this money is pooled to cover the expenses of those currently using Medicare insurance.

Benefit and Insurance Deductions

These are any “extras” (“perks”) you might receive along with your regular salary and bonuses.


FICA is closely related to Social Security, Medicare and certain other federal programs (though not Supplemental Security Income or SSI). On some pay stubs, these taxes are listed individually.

Retirement or Pension Plan Contribution(s)

If your employer offers a retirement plan (e.g., a 401k, 403b, or pension), your automatically deducted contributions will show up on your pay stub.

Wage Garnishment (if any)

Wage garnishment is when your employer withholds a certain amount of your pay to pay off a debt you’ve incurred (not necessarily having to do with your employment).

Back Pay (if any)

This is money you’re owed by your employer due to certain adjustments (in your favor) being made to your payment amount.

Direct Deposit Information

Usually, only parts of this information actually appear on a pay stub. The rest are withheld for privacy reasons.

Other Items that Might Appear on a Payment Stub

These include your employee ID number, the name of your retirement or benefits provider(s), and before- and after-tax deductions (e.g., health insurance or a fund such as the United Way).

Payday Has Arrived and the Pay Stub Is in The Mail

You should always read your salary pay stub. Since these documents can contain information that is out of date or inaccurate, it is important that both employer and employee review them periodically for accuracy.

The process of creating paycheck stubs today is largely automated–which saves a great deal of human labor. However, this hardly guarantees that they will be free of errors. Remember, it’s your pay we’re talking about here!

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