Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC)

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The American Payroll Association is the national certification body for payroll specialists, representing more than 21,000 members. The association is for individuals responsible for processing company payrolls and provide them with knowledge, skills and expertise to become certified payroll professionals.

There are two levels of certifications offered by The American Payroll Association:

Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC): This certification is for the entry-level payroll professionals, consultants, analysts, and support professionals with basic payroll concepts and knowledge to establish credibility in their field.

Certified Payroll Professional (CPP): The American Payroll Association requires that candidate swith direct experience of 3 years with payroll, or at least 18 months experience and completion of payroll certification courses from the APA, can take the test for CPP or Certified Payroll Professional.

Payroll accountants need to apply their knowledge and skills to explicitly insert relevant information into the ledger, including all the expenses, liabilities, and assets, for financial and compliance purposes. Below is a list of what should be added when documenting employee compensation:

  • Gross wages, salaries, bonuses, and commissions
  • Withholding employer and employee taxes
  • Withholding of salary, insurance premiums, and savings plans
  • Employer fringe benefits' expenses

It is important for payroll specialists to have an in-depth knowledge of legalities in deducting taxes, health benefits deductions, sick leaves entitlement, and child support payments, etc. Complying accurately and in a timely manner with various federal and state payroll reporting requirements is also the responsibility of payroll specialists.

What is the FPC?

As mentioned above, the FPC or Fundamental Payroll Certification is a certification for entry-level professionals, awarded by the American Payroll Association. This certification does not require any special memberships or degrees. All the candidates have to do is to pass an examination. FPC exam testing windows are held twice per year, during March-April and September-October. Candidates must first submit the application and pay the exam fee. Upon approval by APA, the candidate can make exam reservation by logging into your APA Certification Dashboard.

Why is Payroll Certification Important?

Payroll professionals need certifications in order to grow in their professional careers and to be recognized by their employers for their contributions to the company. Becoming a certified payroll professional is an effective means for a payroll professional to present their expertise to the current and potential employers’ appreciation. The latest payroll certification exhibits a contemporary knowledge of payroll law and best practice in a recognizable way. The organization’s support to its employees in their certification efforts demonstrates a standardized approach, boost their productivity, and value their essential contributions.

Having a certified payroll professional contributing to the company’s compensation decisions can make all the difference in strategies becoming reality. Likewise, a payroll software automating monotonous tasks, compliance, and accounting for tax laws, still needs a professional to make the correct information goes into the system for seamless payroll processing.

The FPC examination contains 125 scored questions across seven content areas:

  • Core payroll
  • Compliance
  • Paycheck calculation
  • Payroll processes and supporting systems
  • Audits
  • Accounting
  • Payroll administration and management

Compliance questions are limited to a specific, stated data due to the continuously changing laws. Laws established or changed mid-year are not reflected on the examination.

The American Payroll Association offers a variety of web-based trainings, webinars, classes, books, and online materials. Apart from that, there are many websites that provide flashcards, study guides and practice tests for those who want to take the FPC exam.

Receiving a certification from the American Payroll Association speaks for itself about ones’ payroll knowledge and professional commitment. The validity of Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) is 3 years following the year in which certification was obtained. To maintain FPC certification, it is required to retake and pass the FPC examination during the third year or by meeting the Continuing Education requirements. To recertify via continuing education, an FPC must earn a minimum of 60 qualified and approved recertification credit hours (RCHs) over a three-year recertification period.

Certified members of APA are encouraged to earn RCHs by participating in qualified educational events or attending approved events including webcasts, conferences, seminars, and more to earn recertification credit hours (RCHs).

Certified members, if recertifying through continuing education, must submit a course code for each course listed on the certificate of completion.

The American Payroll Association randomly selects candidates for audit. If selected, the recertification fee, program log, and copies of all supporting documents proving program attendance must be submitted to APA. Failure to do so results in FPC recertification denial or the candidate has to retake the FPC examination.