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Best Payroll Services for Small Business

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The best payroll services for small business do more than simply track employees’ pay, bonuses and withholdings. They also calculate and file payroll taxes, offer direct deposit and allow employees to access digital pay stubs and other information online.

Fortunately, several excellent options do all that and more. Our guide will help you decide on the best online payroll services for small businesses.

Best payroll services for small business

Here are some of the best online payroll services for small businesses. Each provides different service levels, so it may be worth doing a free trial of one or more services to figure out which one works best for you.

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Payroll serviceBest forStarting price per month*Free trial
OnPay: Best overallOverall$40 + $6 per employee or contractor30 days
QuickBooks Payroll: Best for add-on integrationsAdd-on integrations$45 + $5 per employee or contractor30 days or 50% off for 3 months
Gusto: Best for startupsStartups$40 + $6 per employee or contractorNo (demo available instead)
Run by ADP: Best for growing businessesGrowing businessesNot available on websiteNone
Patriot: Best for budget usersBudget users$17 + $4 per employee or contractor30 days
Paychex Flex: Best for enhanced features with a low priceEnhanced features with low price$39 + $5 per employeeNo (demo available instead)

*These services may offer introductory pricing that lowers the monthly rates that appear in the table.

OnPay: Best overall

ProsCons

  Unlimited monthly payroll runs

  Only billed for employees and contractors paid each month

  Available in all 50 states

  Having OnPay print and mail W-2s and 1099s to workers costs extra 

  Phone and chat support only available 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday (emergency email support available on weekend)

Plans and pricing

  • $40 per month + $6 per employee or contractor

Features

  • Handles all payroll tax filings and payments
  • Pay employees and contractors by direct deposit, debit card or check
  • Supports employee paycheck garnishments
  • Employees can access pay stubs, tax forms and other documents online
  • Integrates with most major accounting software platforms, including QuickBooks and Xero

Who it’s best for:

OnPay is the best overall payroll service for small businesses because its plan includes just about every feature a small business needs to handle payroll, paid time off, benefits and payroll-related HR tasks. It also has an intuitive user interface that makes handling payroll easy for small business owners.

The system integrates with QuickBooks Online, Xero and other popular accounting software providers and comes complete with HR features like benefits management, workers’ compensation and retirement plans.

QuickBooks Payroll: Best for add-on integrations

ProsCons

  Available in all 50 states

  Next-day or same-day direct deposit

  24/7 support only available to Elite customers

  Limited integrations for customers that don’t use QuickBooks Online

Plans and pricing

  • Core: $45 per month, plus $5 per employee per month
  • Premium: $75 per month, plus $8 per employee per month
  • Elite: $125 per month, plus $10 per employee per month

Features

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • Handles all payroll tax filings and payments
  • Employees can access pay stubs, W-2s and other information online
  • Supports employee paycheck garnishments
  • Employees can clock in and out via a mobile app (Premium plan and above)
  • 24/7 support (Elite plan only)

Who it’s best for:

QuickBooks Payroll is a popular choice for small business owners, in part because so many are already using QuickBooks Online for their accounting. In addition, QuickBooks integrates with hundreds of other applications to help you run your business, including time tracking and HR apps like Zenefits, Zoho People and Justworks.

Gusto: Best for startups

ProsCons

  Integrates with many popular accounting apps, including QuickBooks, Xero and FreshBooks 

  No long-term contract required

  Least expensive plan includes only single-state payroll

  Offers a demo of the software in lieu of a free trial

Plans and pricing

  • Simple: $40 per month + $6 per person per month
  • Plus: $80 per month + $12 per person per month
  • Premium: Contact Gusto for pricing

Features

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • Handles all payroll tax filings and payments
  • Prepare and file W-2s and 1099s
  • Employees can access pay stubs and other information online
  • Library of customizable hiring and onboarding forms, including offer letters and onboarding checklists
  • Quotes on group insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, medical, dental and vision, and more
  • Priority support available for Plus plan and above
  • Automated payroll for salaried or hourly employees with fixed hours
  • Employee handbook builder and access to certified HR experts (Premium plan only)

Who it’s best for:

Gusto is an excellent option for startups because, in addition to providing all of the basic payroll features, it offers HR, benefits administration and tax services and allows companies to provide financial benefits to employees. For example, businesses can access workers’ compensation insurance and group health insurance plans through Gusto, provide 401(k) and 529 college savings plans for employees, and get customizable templates for common HR forms, including offer letters and onboarding checklists.

Run by ADP: Best for growing businesses

ProsCons

  24/7 support available via call or chat

  Multistate payroll available on all plans

  Built-in compliance tools flag potential errors

  You must provide contact information to get customized pricing

  No free trial available

  State unemployment support not included in Essential package

Plans and pricing

  • Pricing not available on the website. You must provide your contact information to get customized pricing information.
  • As of Sept. 15, customers who sign up for a six-month contract currently receive three months free.

Features

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • Integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, Wave and other accounting software apps
  • Prepare and file W-2s and 1099s
  • Handles all payroll tax filings and payments
  • Salary benchmarking data (Complete plan and above)
  • Library of HR forms, checklists, tools and training resources (Complete plan and above)

Who it’s best for:

Run by ADP is the payroll giant’s solution for small businesses with less than 50 employees. But because it’s ADP, even small businesses have access to a wide variety of features, including a mobile app, multistate payroll, HR tools and salary benchmarking data. While pricing isn’t publicly available, there are four plans, and if your company outgrows the 49-employee cap, you can upgrade to one of ADP’s packages for 50 to 999 employees.

Patriot: Best for budget users

ProsCons

  Setup and phone, email and chat support included in all plans

  Supports weekly, biweekly, semimonthly and monthly payroll periods.

  Integrates only with QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online 

  Filing and paying federal, state and local payroll taxes not included in Basic plan

  No mobile app

Plans and pricing

  • Basic: $17 per month, plus $4 per employee or contractor per month
  • Full Service: $37 per month, plus $4 per employee or contractor per month

Features

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • Prepares and files W-2s and 1099s (additional fees may apply if e-filed)
  • Free two-day direct deposit (might not be available to all customers)
  • Employees can access pay stubs, pay history and other information online

Who it’s best for:

Patriot is by far one the least expensive payroll service options out there, with the monthly fee for its Basic plan costing less than half of most other options on our list. The trade-off for its low prices is that customers on the Basic plan will need to handle some payroll responsibilities themselves. Patriot doesn’t collect or deposit federal, state or local payroll taxes or file payroll tax reports for customers of its lower-tier plan. You’ll have to upgrade to the Full Service plan for that.

Paychex Flex: Best for enhanced features with a low price

ProsCons

  24/7 chat and phone support for all plans

  Pricing not publicly available for Select and Pro plans 

  State unemployment support only available in Pro plan

Plans and pricing

  • Essentials: $39 per month + $5 per employee per month
  • Select: Call or request a quote online
  • Pro: Call or request a quote online

Features

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • Files and pays federal, state and local payroll taxes
  • Prepares and files W-2s and 1099s (additional fees may apply)
  • Mobile app for employer and employees
  • Integrates with QuickBooks Online, Sage Intacct and Xero (Pro plan only)

Who it’s best for:

Paychex Flex is a good option for small businesses that want a lot of features included at an affordable price. Its Essentials plan is available for businesses with under 10 employees and offers most of the features small businesses need, including direct deposit, payroll tax filing, a mobile app and support for pay garnishments. If you outgrow that plan, you can upgrade to the Select or Pro plan and access additional payroll and HR services.

How does payroll work?

Paying employees is about more than simply cutting a check for the hours worked. You need to track and calculate gross pay; subtract federal, state and local income taxes, payroll taxes, benefits and other deductions; withhold taxes and send them to the proper tax authorities; and file quarterly and annual payroll tax reports.

Outsourcing your payroll can ensure you stay on top of federal and state requirements and save time.

What to look for in a payroll service

Here are some things to consider when choosing a payroll service for your small business:

  • Cost: Most payroll services charge a monthly base fee plus a fee per employee or contractor. These fees can add up quickly for a growing business, so consider these costs when selecting a service.
  • Mobile app: A mobile app makes it easy to approve and run payroll anytime, anywhere. It’s also nice to be able to offer employees access to pay stubs, W-2s and other information.
  • Ease of use: You shouldn’t have to become a payroll expert to use your payroll service provider’s software, website or mobile app. Look for a service that offers an easy-to-use interface so you can add employees and run payroll quickly and easily.
  • Integrations with benefits management and accounting software: Nobody wants to waste time on duplicate data entry. Look for a payroll service that integrates with other tools you’re already using such as benefits management and accounting software.
  • Support: Issues with payroll can make a huge impact on your company and your employees, so you want to get them resolved quickly. Look for a payroll service that has help available when you need it.

How we chose the best payroll services for small businesses

To appear on our list of the best payroll services for small businesses, we took the following factors into account: the overall cost of the program, integrations with other bookkeeping software programs, ease of use and additional integrations it offers, like tax preparation services.

Frequently asked questions

Pricing ranges from extremely affordable to quite expensive, depending on the features, level of service and number of employees and contractors you need to pay.

There’s no one-size-fits-all payroll service. Each has pros and cons, so it’s important to consider whether you’re willing to pay more for a full-service package or to take on some of the grunt work yourself in exchange for a lower monthly rate.

Payroll is time-consuming and complex, and even small errors can result in hefty fines and unhappy employees. If you’re not familiar with federal, state and local requirements or have a tough time getting payroll done on time, you might want to consider outsourcing even if you have only one employee.

Many payroll services for small businesses include features beyond basic payroll. Look for a provider that offers hiring and onboarding tools, HR support and benefits resources, and other advantages that can help you run and grow your small business.

 

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