7 Top Payroll Services for Small Businesses
Payroll services for small businesses help keep track of employees’ hours, pay, bonuses and withholdings. These services often calculate and file payroll taxes automatically, offer direct deposit and allow employees to access their information. Employees can be central in the success of establishing and growing your business. Ensuring you can pay them on time and filing your payroll taxes with little hassle is essential.
- Best for those on a budget
- User-friendly solutions
- For those already using QuickBooks accounting software
- Best for those who need payroll and HR software
7 top payroll services for small businesses
We’ve looked at some of the most popular payroll services, focusing on seven services, each with a monthly base rate under $50, capability to file payroll taxes and providing plenty of customer support.
The best payroll services are the ones that are suited for your particular industry and offer the platform — mobile application or desktop version — with which you’re most comfortable. Some offer different levels of service, so it may be worth trying a free trial of one or more of these to figure out which will make your life as a small business owner easier. It’s also worth noting that these services may offer introductory pricing that lowers the figures you see below.
|Payroll Services for Small Businesses|
|Monthly base cost||Unlimited payroll runs||Mobile-friendly||Automated tax and forms||Integrates with accounting software|
|Patriot||Starting at $10 + $4 per employee or contractor||Yes||Yes||Only with full-service payroll||Yes|
|Square Payroll||$29 + $5 per employee or contractor||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|OnPay||$36 + $4 per employee or contractor||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Gusto||Starting at $39 + $6 per employee or contractor||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|QuickBooks Payroll||Starting at $29 + $2 per employee||Yes||Yes||Yes||Works best with QuickBooks|
|Paychex||Starting at $60 + $4 per employee||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Paycor||Starting at $99 per month||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Best for those on a budget
Patriot and Square Payroll are the least expensive of our top picks for companies with employees, but they also have certain limitations. Patriot works with organizations up to 100 employees. Square Payroll is only for businesses that file IRS Form 941 or Form 944. Just because they’re inexpensive doesn’t mean the cheapest payroll services are necessarily right for your small business.
Patriot offers a basic option for $10 a month and a full-service option for $30 a month. Both charge an additional $4 a month for each employee or contractor. Sign up for either with a 30-day free trial.
The main difference between the two options is that the full-service option includes tax calculation and filing services, with a guarantee that Patriot will cover any fines or penalties as a result of any filing mistakes. The basic option requires you to deal with your payroll taxes yourself. Both options include unlimited payrolls, free expert support and setup and direct deposit, and are mobile-friendly.
Square Payroll is an affordable option but its main attraction might be the fact that it integrates with its popular point-of-sale and e-commerce payments systems. Restaurant owners, for example, can easily split (or pool) tips to the employee(s) that earned them. It costs $29 per month base rate plus $5 per month per person. Small business owners who just want to pay contractors can forgo the subscription price, paying $5 per month per contractor.
Square’s payroll system includes tax filing and forms. It provides the option to pay employees or contractors, track employee hours, import timecards and tips, manage health and other benefits, and give employees access to their accounts. The system can be managed over an app on a mobile device, and a U.S.-based team provides phone support.
OnPay and Gusto focus on clear, intuitive page layouts to make them as easy to set up as possible. They also have more flexibility, offering some automation and human resources services.
OnPay has a single plan costing $36, plus $4 per employee each month, a price that includes unlimited payroll runs, automated payroll taxes for employees and contracts, phone support and free setup. You can pay employees using check, direct deposit or debit. The system integrates with QuickBooks, Xero and other popular accounting software.
OnPay’s service comes complete with HR functions like management of health benefits, workers’ comp and retirement plans.
Gusto offers an “autopilot” function, which allows you to run payroll without logging in each pay period, as well as integrated HR functions and benefits plans. Employees set up their own accounts online and enter their own hours. And even the least expensive plan comes with HR options like health benefits administration, workers’ comp administration and paid-time-off policies.
Users can do unlimited payroll runs, automatically import employee hours and run payroll reports, among other options. Gusto integrates with a large range of apps, including Xero, Freshbooks and QuickBooks.
Gusto offers three payroll options for small businesses with employees, and one option for businesses that use only contractors:
- Core: Offers the most basic benefits, including full-service payroll, employee self-service and profiles, and health benefits and workers’ comp administration. Cost: $39, plus $6 per month per employee.
- Complete: Basic services along with employee job offers and onboarding, paid time off requests and employee surveys. Cost: $39 per month plus $12 per month per person.
- Concierge: Includes all the features of the Complete Plan, plus access to certified HR pros and Gusto’s HR Resource Center. Cost: $149 per month plus $12 per month per employee.
- Contractor: If your business uses contractors only, you can skip the monthly subscription fee. Cost: $6 per month per contractor; no base rate subscription fee.
For those already using QuickBooks accounting software
|QuickBooks Payroll Options|
|QuickBooks Desktop||QuickBooks Online|
|Basic Payroll allows you to calculate paychecks and pay employees. Cost: $29 plus $2 per employee per month||Core allows you to calculate paychecks and pay employees. Cost: $45 plus $4 per employee per month or $70/month to add the Simple Start accounting plan or $115/month to add QuickBooks Plus|
|Enhanced Payroll allows you to run payroll, and offers access to e-File and e-Pay for tax filing and electronic filing of W-2s at year-end. Cost: $45 plus $2 per employee per month||Premium allows you to run payroll, including automated taxes and forms, and offers workers’ comp administration, same-day direct deposit, expert setup review and access to the HR support center. Cost: $75 plus $8 per employee per month|
|Assisted Payroll allows you to run payroll for up to 250 employees, provides tax filing services with a no-penalty guarantee, and offers job costing, class tracking and payroll setup assistance. Cost: $109 plus $2 per employee per month||Elite allows you to run payroll, including automated taxes and forms with tax penalty protection, and offers workers’ comp administration, same-day direct deposit, customer setup and expert product support, and access to a personal HR advisor. Cost: $125 plus $10 per employee per month|
If you’re shopping for accounting software at the same time you’re shopping for payroll help, check out our comparison of QuickBooks Online versus Desktop.
Best for those who need payroll and HR software
Paychex and Paycor are designed to offer full employee-management functionality, incorporating payroll with a larger set of HR and benefits management capabilities. Both have several packages with a wide range of options so companies can fit the products to their needs.
Paychex is designed to be an all-in-one HR solution, offering an integrated suite of software to enable management of payroll, benefits, time and attendance, plus hiring and onboarding. Pricing varies depending on how often the customer wants to run payroll: weekly, bimonthly or monthly.
Paychex offers three payroll packages:
- Express Payroll includes payroll software, 24/7 support, payroll tax filing, new hire reporting and access to a mobile app.Cost: $60 base rate plus $4 per employee for one payroll run per month
- Paychex Flex Select includes all the features of Express Payroll plus a dedicated payroll specialist, a learning management system, additional pay options and a labor compliance poster kit. Cost: $90 base rate plus $3 per employee for one payroll run per month
- Paychex Flex Pro includes all the features of Express and Flex Select Payroll, plus workers’ compensation reporting, background checks, garnishment payment service, general ledger service and analytics and reporting. Cost: $158 base rate plus $3.65 per employee for one payroll run per month
Enterprise customers can add various HR functions to enhance these features even more. The system can pay employees using direct deposit or paycards. Contact Paychex for a free quote based on your needs and the size of your company.
This payroll software incorporates human resource management, payroll, recruitment, benefits, learning management and time tracking functions into one platform that employees can access to enter their own information and hours.
Paycor offers three levels of service:
- Basic: The basic plan comes with payroll with direct deposit, federal and state tax filing and mobile access. Cost: Starting at $99 per month
- Essential: This plan includes all of the Basic features as well as enhanced reporting options and various HR functions, such as workers’ comp management, time-off requests and approvals, garnishment payment service and access to the HR support center. Cost: Starting at $149 per month
- Complete: The Complete plan includes all the features included in the above plans, plus a full complement of human resources, onboarding and reporting capabilities. This plan comes with 1:1 support from an HR professional. Cost: Starting at $199 per month
How to find the right payroll company for your small business
Choosing a payroll provider for your company is a big decision — whatever solution you choose will hopefully be with you for years. The most important thing to consider is what functions your particular business needs, from the most basic service to a full-service HR-management solution.
Before you decide on a solution, ask yourself the following questions:
What features are most important to your company?
Payroll solutions come with a range of features, so it’s a useful exercise to rank which are most important to you and which you could live without. Is employee access important? What about report creation? Mobile accessibility? Security? Get clarity on this before you buy.
Do you need assistance with tax filing and forms?
Most services listed here come with some tax filing assistance, which can reduce your workload while increasing your peace of mind. If you are happy calculating and filing your payroll taxes yourself, you can opt for a cheaper option that doesn’t include a full-service tax function, such as the basic service from Patriot.
Do you need the system to integrate with other software?
You may already have accounting, point-of-sale or HR software that you want to keep using, and if that’s the case, you’ll need to be careful that the payroll system you choose integrates with your preexisting systems. Some payroll solutions only integrate with particular software made by the same company. For example, QuickBooks’ payroll software will best integrate with QuickBooks’ accounting software, so if you’re dedicated to Freshbooks, Xero or some other accounting product, QuickBooks’ payroll system may not be a solution for a seamless integration.
Is ease-of-use more important than more features?
Some payroll software is designed to have user-friendly interfaces and incorporate automation to reduce workload, while others focus more on including additional features or on integrating into an all-in-one system. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a system that has the right level of ease-of-use and features for you, but it is possible you’ll need to sacrifice one for the other.
How much customer support will you need?
Most payroll solutions come with robust customer support services, but it’s worth thinking about how important this is to you so you can research how well each company’s support options will serve you. If you need a lot of hand-holding, choose a system that has 24/7 chat and phone support, and seek to ask current customers about the level of support before you click buy.
What is your budget?
Payroll solutions range from extremely affordable to quite expensive, depending on the level of service and features, and the number of employees you’re servicing. Think about how much you are able to pay for this service before you decide on your new system. Payroll will be an ongoing expense, so make sure the system you choose fits easily into your budget.
Get payroll right, sleep better at night
There are payroll services available for you no matter the size of your small business or your company’s demands. Research payroll services firms and make sure they’re upfront about any costs you could incur, the services they offer and customer support accessibility.
Keep an eagle eye on pricing: Getting a firm quote can be tricky because add-ons may quickly escalate the base monthly fee. Pay special attention to the level of tax assistance each plan includes: A tax guarantee can give you peace of mind, but not all plans include one.