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The Best Free Payroll Software For Small Businesses

These 5 free payroll software options are reliable, offer solid payroll features, and best of all, have zero cost.

    Davina Ward
  • UPDATED

Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.

Free payroll software can reduce payroll expenses while making it easy to run payroll and calculate payroll taxes. While free software may not have as many features as paid payroll software, you’ve come to the right place if you’re in the market for a reliable and functional free payroll software option.

We’ve researched dozens of free payroll software options to parse the good free software from the bad so that you can easily find the perfect payroll solution for your small business.

Try A Top Pick For Payroll

ADP Payroll



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We like ADP Payroll for its advanced employee management, strong payroll features, and great customer support. Get three months free when you sign up through our links!

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext StepsBest For
Payroll4Free

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  • Most feature-rich free payroll software
  • Up to 25 employees
  • Unlimited customer support
  • Most feature-rich free payroll software
  • Up to 25 employees
  • Unlimited customer support

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ExcelPayroll

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  • Best free payroll software for spreadsheet-based bookkeeping
  • No employee limit
  • Integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Excel
  • Best free payroll software for spreadsheet-based bookkeeping
  • No employee limit
  • Integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Excel

Visit Site

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HR.my

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  • Best free payroll software for multinational businesses
  • No employee limit
  • Supports 60+ languages
  • Best free payroll software for multinational businesses
  • No employee limit
  • Supports 60+ languages

Visit Site

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TimeTrex

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  • Best free payroll software for employee time tracking
  • No user limits
  • Multiple integrations available
  • Best free payroll software for employee time tracking
  • No user limits
  • Multiple integrations available

Visit Site

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eSmart Paycheck

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  • Best free payroll software for quick payroll calculations
  • No employee limit
  • Easily calculate state & federal payroll taxes
  • Best free payroll software for quick payroll calculations
  • No employee limit
  • Easily calculate state & federal payroll taxes

Visit Site

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Show Fewer Options

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

The 5 Best Free Payroll Software

Free payroll software should be genuinely ‘free’ and offer all the essential features needed to run payroll, including paycheck calculation, time tracking, and deductions. The top payroll software that meets these includes Payroll4Free, HR.my, and more.

1. Payroll4Free: Best Free Payroll Software With Ample Features

Payroll4Free


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Pros

  • Free direct deposit and tax calculations
  • Free basic service for businesses with 25 or fewer employees
  • Strong security features
  • Unlimited customer support

Cons

  • Windows only
  • Direct deposit through Payroll4Free’s own bank is not free
  • 25-employee limit for free services

Payroll4Free Pricing Upgrades & Add-Ons

Despite its name, Payroll4Free places two optional services behind a paywall. Employers that don’t want to deal with depositing and filling out payroll taxes need to pay a $25/month or $250/year fee for Payroll4Free to take care of it for them. However, Payroll4Free does offer free tools as a basic service that you can use to make this process easier.

If you don’t want to rely on your own bank to transfer direct deposit funds to your employees, you will need to pay another $25/month or $250/year for Payroll4Free to complete these transfers using their bank. You can save by bundling Payroll4Free’s tax and direct deposit services for $30/month or $300/year.

Payroll4Free’s Free Payroll Features

Payroll4Free offers all of its essential services free of charge, which it achieves by hosting advertisements within its software for companies who pay for exposure. The free version of Payroll4Free places no limits on payroll or direct deposit processing and doesn’t require upgrading to a higher-tier plan to enjoy its basic features.

Features that Payroll4Free offers at no additional cost include:

  • Direct deposits and paper checks
  • Tax support
  • Time tracking for vacation and time off
  • Employee dashboard portal
  • Customer service
  • Employee enrollment
  • Payroll data export

Choose Payroll4Free If…

  • You have 25 or fewer employees
  • You want an easy-to-use payroll software with basics payroll tools and features
  • You want to offer direct deposit
  • You need a self-service employee portal feature

Get Started With Payroll4Free

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2. ExcelPayroll: Best Free Payroll Software For Spreadsheet-Based Bookkeeping

ExcelPayroll


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Pros

  • Easy to use with Microsoft Excel
  • Strong customization options
  • Print checks
  • Generates accounting entries

Cons

  • Manual entry
  • No tax or benefits administration
  • No Affordable Care Act compliance

ExcelPayroll Pricing Upgrades & Add-Ons

ExcelPayroll itself is free to download, and you don’t need to pay any fees to use its features. Technically speaking, though, ExcelPayroll isn’t completely free, since it requires that you purchase a licensed version of Microsoft Office Suite to run Excel.

Microsoft’s 365 Business plan is the cheapest of the cloud-enabled plans that offer the Microsoft Excel application and charges a monthly fee of $6.00 per user.

ExcelPayroll’ Free Payroll Features

According to its program mission, ExcelPayroll strives to create a Microsoft Excel-based payroll application that includes no monthly fees and zero costs attached to using it. Installation is also free of charge, so you don’t need to pay anything extra to get your software set up and running smoothly. Best of all, ExcelPayroll offers a full set of reliable payroll tools, including:

  • Prints tax forms
  • Vacation accrual
  • Payroll deductions
  • Print checks
  • Time-tracking
  • Bookkeeping entries

Choose ExcelPayroll If…

  • You are familiar with using Excel spreadsheets
  • You already do your payroll processing in a spreadsheet format
  • You want to use core payroll features such as W2 form and check printing in a spreadsheet format
  • You have (or are willing to get) a licensed version of Office 365

Get Started With ExcelPayroll

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3. HR.my: Best Free Payroll Software For Multinational Businesses

HR.my


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Pros

  • Supports 67 languages
  • Role-based access controls
  • No business size limits
  • Strong attendance tracking features

Cons

  • No U.S. labor law compliance
  • Poor customer support options
  • Completely web-based

HR.my Pricing Upgrades & Add-Ons

HR.my is “Free! Forever.” according to their home page, so what you see with them is what you get when you sign up: support for unlimited user accounts, time management, multiple pay schedules, a self-service portal, and much more.

However, users may opt to pay a $5/month sponsorship fee in exchange for an ad-free experience, additional file storage, one additional HR role, and early access to new features. That said, the subscription price isn’t compulsory and doesn’t gate any of the service’s core features behind a paywall.

HR.my’s Free Payroll Features

HR.my offers free access to one hundred percent of its features and doesn’t require that you subscribe to any plans to unlock extra benefits. It accomplishes its free service through crowdfunding from its user community, so you just need to sign up to start using it. HR.my’s free features include:

  • Support for multiple pay periods
  • Attendance management tools
  • Time-tracking
  • Employee self-service portal
  • Regular software updates
  • Expense management
  • Document storage and collaboration
  • Paystub printing

Choose HR.my If…

  • You need free multi-lingual payroll software
  • You need features like online HR and payroll, leave management, and expense reporting
  • You want/need support for unlimited employees
  • You are comfortable with use-forum customer support as the only support option

Get Started With HR.my

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4. TimeTrex: Best Free Payroll Software For Employee Time Tracking

TimeTrex


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Pros

  • HR management tools
  • Can be integrated with other payroll services (such as ADP and QuickBooks)
  • Automated multi-week scheduling
  • Leave management

Cons

  • No tax filing assistance on free version
  • No third-party tax filings and payments allowed
  • No customer support
  • Non-transparent pricing

TimeTrex Pricing Upgrades & Add-Ons

Timetrex offers a plan comparison online but doesn’t include any further pricing details, so you’ll need to request a quote with them to learn more about which plan makes sense for your business.

TimeTrex supports paid plans which include additional services, such as a mobile app and on-site service in addition to its web portal support. However, customers on TimeTrex’s free plan still have access to the service’s basic features.

TimeTrex’s Free Payroll Features

TimeTrex offers its most basic payroll features for free under its Community Edition service plan. The TimeTrex Community Edition is exclusively cloud-hosted, doesn’t require any downloads or software installations, and comes with free features such as:

  • Payroll processing
  • Human resource management
  • Web browser support for time and attendance
  • Leave management
  • Schedule management
  • Human resource management

Choose TimeTrex If…

  • You have a small, dispersed team
  • You need online time tracking for your employees
  • You want to integrate free time tracking with your existing payroll software

Get Started With TimeTrex

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5. eSmart Paycheck: Best Free Payroll Software For Quick Payroll Calculations

eSmart Paycheck


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Pros

  • 100% free payroll calculator
  • Customizable withholdings
  • Intuitive interface
  • 401k contribution tracking

Cons

  • Limited features
  • Limited customer support
  • No tax filing support

eSmart Paycheck Pricing Upgrades & Add-Ons

eSmart Paycheck is a free payroll calculator that any individual or business can use. To avoid losing data, users are encouraged to create an account when using eSmart Paycheck but aren’t required to pay anything. Businesses that need tools to file tax information will need to subscribe to a paid eSmart Payroll service plan.

eSmart Payroll provides paid access to federal and state payroll forms at various prices.

eSmart Paycheck’s Free Payroll Features

eSmart Paycheck is more of a payroll calculator than it is a software solution. Small business owners can use eSmart to input employee wages and withhold information to run payroll themselves. Standout free features that come with the eSmart Paycheck calculator include:

  • Print paychecks and pay stubs
  • State-specific calculators
  • Adjustable pay cycles
  • Quick web-based access
  • Federal withholding calculator

Choose eSmart Paycheck If…

  • You already have a firm grasp on how to calculate their payroll and are confident in filing taxes
  • You just need a solution to calculate and print  payroll numbers easily
  • You don’t need additional payroll or HR features
  • Your business is still small and doesn’t need a robust payroll solution yet

Get Started With eSmart Paycheck

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Looking For A Free Payroll Software Trial?

With fewer options on the market this year when compared to last year, the sad truth is that free payroll software apps are a dying breed.

The diverse array of features, competitive pricing, scalability, and excellent customer support of most paid payroll pricing software make free payroll software with limited functionality a hard sell. If you decide that the free apps aren’t cutting it for your payroll and HR needs, there are plenty of other cost-effective options to consider.

There are many solutions out there, so we’ve done some of the legwork to put together a list of the best payroll software for small businesses.

ADP: Regularly Runs Free Trial Promos

ADP Payroll



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Read our Review

ADP has built its reputation on customer service and support for major companies with thousands of employees. The software includes payroll processing, direct deposit, tax filing, new hire reporting, and much more. ADP is one of the most flexible payroll software options on the market because of its wide range of features that can handle the needs of businesses of all sizes across multiple industries. Read our complete ADP review to see if this payroll software is right for you.

ADP Pricing

ADP utilizes a quote-based custom pricing structure, so businesses interested in using the payroll service must reach out for a quote.

ADP’s four-tiered RUN plan is geared towards small businesses with 1-49 employees. To manage HR through payroll, you will have to upgrade above the Essential RUN plan. For growing mid-sized businesses, ADP’s extensive features and in-depth customer support could be worth the higher prices and hidden fees.

Read our in-depth review

Gusto: Free Instant Demo & Trial

Gusto



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If your main priority is getting payroll taken care of without much hassle, then Gusto is a top candidate for the job. The cloud-based system can fully automate calculations and tax filing through a service called Gusto AutoPilot, which can provide 24-hour notice and ultimately submit payroll on time in case you forget.

Even Gusto’s cheapest employee payroll package lets customers manage deductions, garnishments, and additional earnings for their payroll. Employees can do some time tracking and download pay stubs within the portal, too. Gusto’s straightforward approach and attentive customer support make it a hit among small to mid-size businesses. Read our full Gusto review for more details.

Gusto Pricing

Gusto’s pricing starts at $35/month + $6/contractor for its Contractor’s-Only plan. Businesses that will be paying employees will need to upgrade to one of Gusto’s higher tier plans, which start at $40/month + $6/person.

Intuit Online Payroll: 30-Day Free Trial

Intuit Online Payroll



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Intuit Online Payroll’s basic coverage, Core Payroll, can tackle paycheck and tax calculation and deliver reports and next-day direct deposits. Upgrading to either Premium or Elite will bring automated payroll, greater HR support, and time-tracking features. Meanwhile, the abundance of features lends itself to larger entities and mid-size businesses with aspirations to expand.

If your business already uses Intuit QuickBooks, you’re in luck. Intuit QuickBooks and Intuit Online Payroll are a match made in payroll heaven. Read our complete Intuit Online Payroll review for more information.

Intuit Online Payroll Pricing

If your business only needs payroll services and isn’t looking to adopt the larger QuickBooks Online business management solution, QuickBooks Online Payroll starts at $45/month + $5/employee per month. If you’ll be bundling your QuickBooks Online service with QuickBooks Payroll, prices start at $75/month + $5/person per month.

As an alternative to its 30-day free trial option, QuickBooks also offers a new customer promotion that saves businesses 50% on their first three months of service.

Wave Payroll: 30-Day Free Trial

Wave Payroll



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To get the most bang for your buck on payroll and accounting, Wave is hard to beat. Of course, the accounting and payroll apps can be used separately, but the integrated nature of the two — and the fact that Wave’s accounting platform is free — can be big plusses for small businesses on a shoestring budget.

Currently, Wave only offers full-service in 14 states, though small businesses located elsewhere can opt for the cheaper self-service option. The key difference is that full-service customers can take advantage of tax filing and reporting services. Still, the self-service plan handles payroll basics at a lower cost, including direct deposit, printing checks, and calculating PTO and paychecks. Read our complete Payroll by Wave review for more information.

Wave Payroll Pricing

Wave Payroll’s self-service plan starts at $20/month + $6/active employee or contractor paid. For businesses in the 14 states that boast the full tax service option, the base price increases to $40/month with the same per-employee and contractor pricing.

Paylocity: Offers A Free Demo

Paylocity



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Paylocity’s payroll software stands out for its capacity to integrate solutions and services, such as time tracking, performance reviews, and employee benefits alongside payroll. Paylocity’s payroll solution packs a wealth of features on top of the standard payroll calculation components, such as tax services, labor law poster updates, and a self-service mobile app for employees.

Read our full Paylocity review to learn more.

Paylocity Pricing

Paylocity isn’t known for offering competitive pricing to small businesses, so don’t expect deep discounts when you request a demo. But if customizability and a full-scale HR integration are what you’re after, then look no further.

Patriot Payroll: 30-Day Free Trial

Patriot Payroll is one of the most affordable software options on the market and boasts all the essential features one might expect from full-service payroll software. Patriot Payroll offers unlimited payroll runs, supports multiple pay rates and schedules, time off management, employee and contractor payments, two-day direct deposit, multiple integration options, and much more. This impressive array of features combined with the low price point makes Patriot Payroll a notable payroll software contender for businesses with up to 250 employees.

Want to know if Patriot Payroll is the right choice for your business? Read our in-depth Patriot Payroll reviews for a breakdown of the software’s pricing, features, and more.

Patriot Payroll Pricing

Patriot Payroll’s pricing starts at $17/month + $4/employee or contractor for its self-service plan. This plan is a great option for businesses with 250 or fewer employees that want a feature-packed payroll software without the added cost of full-service tax support. For those businesses that do want tax support, Patriot Payroll’s full-service plan costs $37/month + $4 per employee or contractor.

Choosing The Best Free Payroll Software For Your Business

Free payroll software can help your business save time running payroll, improve accuracy, and get payments out on time. However, getting small business payroll free of charge is a big ask. Many free payroll options have limitations in fulfilling all your tax filing and compliance needs. There are certainly more options beyond our five picks, but other free programs may lack security measures that could put your small business at risk.

If you’re going the free payroll software route, you’re not likely to get any help come tax time, and payroll taxes can pack a punch. It’s best to familiarize yourself with payroll taxes, forms, and filing deadlines before switching to any payroll software, paid or otherwise. That way, you can decide whether you prefer a full-service payroll solution that includes tax support or if you’d rather handle everything yourself.

If you’re determined to take the free payroll software route, the following small business payroll resources can help you make the switch like a pro:

If none of these free payroll options cut it for your business, take a look at these cheap payroll software options — these payroll software apps are still affordable but offer better features and support than free payroll software.

Try A Top Pick For Payroll

ADP Payroll



Get A Quote

Read our Review

We like ADP Payroll for its advanced employee management, strong payroll features, and great customer support. Get three months free when you sign up through our links!

Free Payroll Software FAQs

What is the best free payroll software for small businesses?

Our pick for the best overall free payroll software is Payroll4Free, which delivers the most comprehensive array of features at no cost to small businesses. HR.my comes in a close second for the best free payroll and HR software combination.

How do I do payroll for free?

The easiest way to do payroll for free is by using free payroll software like Payroll4Free or eSmart Paycheck to calculate your business’s payroll. You can also calculate and process payroll manually with our step-by-step DIY payroll guide.

Are there free payroll apps?

Payroll4Free and TimeTrex are the most popular free payroll apps that offer downloadable software, rather than just web-based options.

Is Payroll4Free actually free?

Payroll4Free is completely free for businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Payroll4Free offers two optional paid services for businesses that are looking for payroll filing and payment services or that want to pay employees from Payroll4Free’s bank.

Is free payroll software worth it?

Small businesses that are running on a limited budget and that need tools to run payroll themselves benefit the most from using free payroll software.

That said, free software won’t have as many features or be as scalable for a growing company as a paid software app would be. If you don’t want to have to switch payroll software down the road, you should go with a payroll service like ADP or Gusto instead.

When should I upgrade to paid payroll software?

If you need well-developed features for time tracking, document management, and HR resources, you’ll probably need to purchase a paid service plan. Automation of big tasks like scheduling payroll cycles and filing tax withholding also usually come with paid payroll software, and the time you save from these automations could be more than worth the cost of upgrading from free payroll software.

Can I do small business payroll without software?

Doing your own payroll without software means you’ll need to do it manually. However, DIY payroll is completely within the realm of possibility if you take some basic steps. Take a look at Merchant Maverick’s guide to doing payroll manually even as you scale your business and continue to bring on more employees.

What is the cheapest payroll software?

Payroll by Wave and Patriot Payroll are among the cheapest payroll software options on the market. Payroll by Wave’s pricing starts at $20/month + $6 per person paid. Patriot Payroll is even cheaper with prices starting at $17/month + $4/person paid. The cheapest payroll software that’s actually free is Payroll4Free.

In Summary: The 5 Best Free Payroll Software

  1. Payroll4Free:
    • Most feature-rich free payroll software
    • Up to 25 employees
    • Unlimited customer support
  2. ExcelPayroll:
    • Best free payroll software for spreadsheet-based bookkeeping
    • No employee limit
    • Integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Excel
  3. HR.my:
    • Best free payroll software for multinational businesses
    • No employee limit
    • Supports 60+ languages
  4. TimeTrex:
    • Best free payroll software for employee time tracking
    • No user limits
    • Multiple integrations available
  5. eSmart Paycheck:
    • Best free payroll software for quick payroll calculations
    • No employee limit
    • Easily calculate state & federal payroll taxes
Davina Ward

Davina Ward

Expert Analyst & Reviewer
A New York native, Davina earned her BA in English from SUNY Geneseo in 2018. After graduating, she began her career as a freelance writing generalist before finding a niche writing about SaaS. Davina unironically enjoys testing and reviewing software on her free time but otherwise can be found oscillating between hobbies every few weeks or so — most recently, longboarding.
Davina Ward
View Davina Ward's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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The vendors that appear on this list were chosen by subject matter experts on the basis of product quality, wide usage and availability, and positive reputation.

Merchant Maverick’s ratings are editorial in nature, and are not aggregated from user reviews. Each staff reviewer at Merchant Maverick is a subject matter expert with experience researching, testing, and evaluating small business software and services. The rating of this company or service is based on the author’s expert opinion and analysis of the product, and assessed and seconded by another subject matter expert on staff before publication. Merchant Maverick’s ratings are not influenced by affiliate partnerships.

Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.

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