Published date: 01/24/2024
Every contractor remembers their first prevailing wage project.
Ok – maybe not every contractor.
But anyone who’s ever filled out a certified payroll report probably remembers how it felt at the beginning… Because learning an entirely new set of laws and regulations (and figuring out how to navigate all the paperwork that comes with it) can be… overwhelming.
So, today we’re going to be walking you through it. And by “it”, we mean a certified payroll report – given that it is perhaps the most fundamental component of complying with Davis-Bacon and its Related Acts (DBRA). And as we walk through it, we’ll also provide some helpful context and tips for each section of the report along the way.
Understanding What a Certified Payroll Is
Before you start, its best to understand what exactly a certified payroll report is and what is at stake when you fill one out. A certified payroll report (CPR) is a report that every contractor working on a publicly funded project is required to produce on a weekly basis (per DBRA regulations). As you might have guessed, each CPR contains important payroll information for an employer’s workers – or, at least, for those that perform physical work on the project site. A CPR can often be referred to synonymously with the WH-347 report, which is the form that the US Department of Labor (USDOL) provides as a template. That being said, contracting agencies often accept other formats as well, so long as they capture the same information.
There can be a lot of nuances to DBRA regulations, so filling out this form correctly is paramount to maintaining compliance and ensuring your workers are paid their full entitled prevailing wages and fringe benefits.
With that said, let’s break down each step of the WH-347 form.
The first two rows of the form are fairly straightforward: you must enter basic contractor/employer and project-specific information.
In the payroll number field, the project’s very first week of work would be considered payroll #1, and each subsequent week’s payroll would be numbered consecutively. However, it’s helpful to keep in mind that weeks without any work performed should still be considered when numbering payrolls. For example, if work was only performed on weeks #1 and #3 of the project, the third week would still be payroll #3 despite only being the second week with hours to report.
Something to Keep in Mind:
It’s considered best practice to continue submitting CPRs even for weeks without any work. Why is that, you might ask? Well, a compliance officer reviewing your CPRs might find it curious that they haven’t received one for the second week. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. They may not be privy to whether work was performed. For all they know, you might have forgotten to submit the CPR. Or, worse yet, they may be wondering if you were deliberately trying to hide something.
In these instances, contractors typically submit the WH-347 but leave everything below the first two rows blank – notating somewhere on the form that it was a non-performing week. Because let’s be real, here…. It’s best not to give a contracting agency a reason to go digging through copies of your pay stubs, daily logs, or other records to verify information.
Below the top two rows, there are nine columns (or sections) to be completed. The first three of those are meant to capture identifying information about workers and their corresponding job classification.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Section 1: Awarding bodies might differ in what identifying information they require here. It’s important to verify this with the agency for each project. Some may accept a phone number or address, and others might require digits of social security numbers (SSN). Because projects can require such sensitive information, it is generally recommended to utilize an electronic certified payroll solution that prioritizes information security.
- Section 2: This section on the form is more for the convenience of the contractor; the number of exemptions is not necessarily required by the USDOL.
- Section 3: Classifications entered here for employees must represent the nature of work actually performed on the jobsite for that week – regardless of the worker’s job title on paper. This cannot be understated; one of the most rampant and costly mistakes in the industry is the misclassification of workers. If an employee performs more than one type of work in that week, each classification must be reported on its own line.
- It’s also important to understand that the classifications listed in section 3 must exactly match one of classifications listed on the project’s wage determination(s). If you feel that there is no accurate match for the work an employee is performing on the wage determination, you might need to submit an SF-1444 conformance request.
This is where you’ll find the timecard section and columns denoting pay calculations for your employees on the project.
You’ll first see that Section 4 is broken up into a grid. There are 7 smaller columns – one for each day of the week. The top two rows in the grid are for filling in the ‘days’ and ‘dates’ for that week (more on that later). The bottom two rows are for entering the straight time (S) and overtime (O) hours for each of those days.
In section 5, you will enter total straight (S) and overtime (O) hours that week for each employee. And then in section 6 you will enter the pay rate that was applied for each of the straight and overtime hours.
In section 7, you’ll notice the box is split diagonally. In the top half, you would enter the gross amount the employee earned that week for that particular project. In the bottom half, you would enter gross earnings from every project the employee worked on that week (more on this below).
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Section 4: Remember: not every company operates with the same week-end dates for their payroll. Some might run payroll Monday to Sunday. For others, Sunday to Saturday (or some other variation). The template for the ‘days’ and ‘dates’ is left blank for flexibility so you can line it up with your payroll week.
- Sections 5 and 6: Straight time pay rate must be no less than the total wage rate provided in the wage determination (base wage plus fringe benefits). If your project is subject to the Contract Work Standard Hours Act (CWASHA), any hours worked over 40 in a work week must be reported as overtime (OT) and paid at one and a half times the base wage rate. Note: fringes must be paid for OT hours but can be paid at the normal rate. It often helps contractors (and keeps things more transparent in general) if you separate out the base wage and fringe rate in each cell of column 6 (ex: $19.25 | $0.65).
- Section 7: Employees can often be working on multiple projects at any given time. Because of this, each CPR may not tell the full story of an employee’s compensation in any given week (remember: each certified payroll is particular to a project). If a compliance officer were to compare a CPR against a paystub, they would need to be able to make sense of the discrepancy – hence why the gross pay across all projects is also notated here. If an employee had only worked on that one project, then both the top and bottom amounts in this box would be the same.
Section 8 is for employee deductions, such as taxes, insurance, etc. Those that are left blank are for additional deductions that you can fill in. Enter the amounts for each and then total up the deductions for the last box in the section.
In Section 9, enter the net earnings for the week for each employee. Here, you will subtract the total deductions (section 8) from the gross amounts earned in the bottom half of each cell of Section 7.
Something to Keep in Mind:
Note: All deductions must be aligned with the Copeland Anti-Kickback Act. Only permissible deductions as per the USDOL are acceptable. It’s also recommended to double check with the USDOL on which deductions are considered permissible, as they recently updated this in the with the USDOL Final Ruling on DBRA in August of 2023.
The Statement of Compliance
Once all items above have been completed, the form is nearly ready to be submitted. But remember: You must also fill out and submit a Statement of Compliance (SOC) with each WH-347, attesting that the data you submitted is accurate and compliant to the best of your knowledge. It is crucial for the signee to not only understand what they are submitting on the CPR, but also what the items on the SOC mean… because there can be very real repercussions for violations (even for the individual signing the document if they were being untruthful or negligent). If you would like to learn more about the SOC, check out our recent blog post here.
These materials are being issued with the understanding that LCPtracker is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional services and is providing these for informational purposes only. If legal, accounting, or tax expert assistance is required, the services of a competent legal, accounting or tax professional should be sought.