Pay attention to changes to next year’s payroll calendars; they’re all different

A few federal shared services payroll centers are making some small but significant changes to their pay schedules in 2018.

Each payroll center has a slightly different calendar for the coming year, and changes from any of the four major federal processing centers can impact employees’ Thrift Savings Plan contributions, annual leave banks and other benefits.

The Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center, which provides payroll for about 650,000 federal employees, announced a few changes to its payroll schedule for the next calendar year. The NFC will continue to begin payroll processing on Thursdays, and employees should receive their paychecks either through direct deposit or mail on Mondays.

NFC employees will receive 27 paychecks in 2018, compared to the 26 they received in 2017.

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“The first business day after payroll processing weekend is the official payment date for direct deposit and payer check net salary payments,” a Nov. 28 NFC customer notification reads. “Generally, net salary payments are processed with Monday’s date. However, when a federal holiday falls on payroll Monday, these payments are processed with Tuesday’s date.”

In 2018, there are three dates when NFC employees will receive their paychecks on a Tuesday instead of Monday. Three federal holidays fall on Mondays next year, meaning that NFC employees will receive checks or direct deposits on the Tuesday, Jan. 2 after New Year’s Day; the Tuesday, Jan. 16 after Martin Luther King Day; and the Tuesday, Oct. 9 after the Columbus Day holiday.

The Interior Business Center, which provides acquisition, financial management, payroll and other human resources services for more than 150 agencies, also announced 27 pay periods for 2018.

The General Services Administration Office of the Chief Financial Officer Payroll Services Branch, however, will administer 26 payroll periods in 2018.

GSA Payroll Services Branch processes payroll information for GSA and client agency employees. GSA’s finance office typically sends out an annual payroll newsletter for the agency’s employees and clients detailing any changes or important information for the year. The newsletter update for 2018 hasn’t been released yet.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) did not immediately respond to questions about possible changes to its payroll calendar for 2018.

The payroll calendar plays an important role, as it helps dictate how much TSP participants should set aside in order to receive the full matching contribution from their agencies at the end of the year.

Federal employees and TSP participants can choose how much of their income they’d like to contribute during a given, biweekly pay period. FERS participants will receive a matching contribution from their agencies on the first 5 percent of pay they set aside during a pay period.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the agency the administers the TSP, said a few thousand of the plan’s participants every year reach their annual contribution limit before the end of the year and miss out on the full matching contribution from their agencies.