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SAP Payroll Basics - Part 1

The area most often overlooked when training people on SAP Payroll is the basic, fundamental meaning and usage of payroll schemas, rules, wagetypes and their associated processes.

We will try to correct that. First, we will present an overview of the basic parts of the payroll process, then in subsequent articles we’ll go into more detail on each one. Not every possibility will be covered – that would be a multi-volume hard-back series of books, not an easily read web-based article. But we will cover the basics in a way that gives you a good understanding of SAP schemas and rules – from there you can use that knowledge base to learn as much as you want about the rest of this subject.


In SAP Payroll, functions provide the high-level logic for payroll calculations. Functions perform general processing – such as calculating payroll taxes on a given set of wages, reading wagetypes from specific infotypes, calculating benefits premiums, and storing the results of the payroll calculation. There are dozens of functions in SAP payroll, some are country-specific and others are not. Each function is defined and documented via transaction PE04; you can also view the function documentation via transaction PDSY in releases 4.5 and greater, or with report RPDSYS00 in earlier versions.

In SAP HR terms, a payroll function is not the same as an ABAP function. A payroll function does consist of ABAP code, but it is not executed in the same way an ABAP function would be. Payroll functions are executed within a schema by the payroll driver program (let’s assume RPCALCU0).

A schema is just a collection of functions executed in a specific order – each one passing its results on to the next. Schemas are always created and edited via transaction PE01, but are actually stored as a collection of rows in tables T52C0 (SAP standard schemas) and T52C1 (customer-created schemas and modified SAP-standard schemas). The payroll driver reads the lines in T52C0/T52C1 and executes the functions one by one.

So how do we make the leap from a payroll function stored in a table to the execution of ABAP code to get the work done? In transaction PE04 you can see the ABAP code associated with every function. The function name in the schema correlates to an ABAP form – for example payroll function WPBP maps to the ABAP form ‘fuwpbp’; function USTAX maps to form ‘fuustax’. So when the payroll driver is executing the schema, it takes the function name from the current row in schema, puts an ‘fu’ on the beginning of the name, and then does a ‘perform’ statement on it. It’s a very simple and elegant design.



In a broad sense, a wagetype simply holds a piece of data – a rate, number, and/or amount. But more specifically, a wagetype has dozens of attributes that control how it is manipulated and processed. In the end though, it ends up as an object in the payroll results database that stores a rate, number, and/or amount.

The most typical use of a wagetype is to store the amounts of earnings, deductions and taxes in an employee’s paycheck. A person’s base pay is stored in a wagetype, the amount of their United Way deduction is stored in a wagetype, and their taxable wages & taxes are stored in wagetypes. Wagetypes, as the primary data element for employee paychecks, are also mapped to FI/CO accounts to record the debits and credits resulting from the paycheck and reported on the W-2 and other tax forms.

Wagetypes can also be used to store statistical data – such as the number of hours worked in a pay period, the average weekly wages for the past six months, or the amount of wages eligible for a profit sharing calculation. Wagetype attributes are stored in several tables, but the central table is T512W. Much more time will be spent on various aspects of T512W.

There are three categories of wagetypes – model, technical, and user. Model wagetypes are delivered by SAP for customers to use as guidelines for creating their own wagetypes. They always start with a letter and SAP may add, delete or update them in system upgrades or HRSP’s. Technical wagetypes always start with the ‘/’ symbol, and are delivered by SAP. They are intended for very specific standard processing in payroll, and while you can modify them, SAP may also update them during upgrades or HRSP’s. So if you ever (I mean EVER) change a technical wagetype, check it after each upgrade or HRSP to make sure it still has the attributes you want. And never delete a technical wagetype. User wagetypes always start with a number – and these are wagetypes that SAP does not change during upgrades & HRSP’s. OK, SAP rarely changes them in upgrades and HRSP’s. User wagetypes are for all the company-specific payroll payments and deductions.



A long-time client of ours once created a screen-saver message that stated ‘Payroll Rules!’. Those of us who were experienced SAP Payroll analysts or consultants immediately saw the double meaning, and corny humor, in that message. Rules contain the most basic logic used in SAP Payroll. Where a schema is a collection of functions, a rule is a collection of operations. An operation is a very basic piece of logic that is used, mostly, to manipulate wagetypes. For example, operation MULTI multiplies the number and rate fields of a wagetype to determine the amount to pay an employee. Operation OUTWP retrieves specific data about an employee so that another operation can make a decision on how to process it. For example, if the work contract on infotype 1 is UA then do ‘x’, if it is UB then do ‘y’, otherwise do ‘z’.

Operations can also be viewed in transactions PE04 and PDSY, and are edited with transaction PE02. Where a function’s ABAP equivalent form starts with ‘fu’, an operation’s ABAP form starts with ‘op’. For example, operation MULTI would have an ABAP form ‘opmulti’. Rules, like schemas, are stored in a table – rules are stored in T52C5.

The more senior SAP consultants who have been working with computer systems for many years often find similarities between payroll rules and programming mainframe computers in Assembly language. While there is nothing fancy about operations, when used correctly together they can be very powerful.

Hopefully we’ve presented a good but brief overview that makes sense. In our next SAP Payroll Technical Basics article we will get into more detail on the common functions used in SAP’s payroll schema.