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The Best Free Payroll Software For Small Businesses

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

    Erica Seppala
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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 get run payroll and calculate payroll taxes. While free software may not have as many features as paid payroll software, if you’re in the market for a reliable and functional free payroll software option, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve researched the 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.

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CompanyBest ForNext StepsBest For
Payroll4Free

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Best free payroll software with ample features
Best free payroll software with ample features

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ExcelPayroll

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Best free payroll software for spreadsheet-based bookkeeping
Best free payroll software for spreadsheet-based bookkeeping

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HR.my

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Best free payroll software for multinational businesses
Best free payroll software for multinational businesses

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TimeTrex

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Best free payroll software for employee time tracking
Best free payroll software for employee time tracking

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eSmart Paycheck

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Best free payroll software for quick payroll calculations
Best free payroll software for quick payroll calculations

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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 requirements are:

  • Payroll4Free: Best free payroll software with ample features
  • ExcelPayroll: Best free payroll software for spreadsheet-based bookkeeping
  • HR.my: Best free payroll software for multinational businesses
  • TimeTrex: Best free payroll software for employee time tracking
  • eSmart Paycheck: Best free payroll software for quick payroll calculations

Payroll4Free: Best Free Payroll Software With Ample Features

Payroll4Free



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Pros

  • Free direct deposit and tax calculations
  • Unlimited customer support
  • Strong security features
  • Pre-filled tax forms

Cons

  • Windows only
  • Direct deposit through Payroll4Free’s own bank is not free

True to its name, Payroll4Free is a handy tool for completing payroll for free. If you are paying 25 or fewer people, your small business is eligible to access its basic services for free. Even at its most stripped-down level, Payroll4Free still offers a comprehensive array of features that can take the hassle out of completing payroll.

For starters, it allows users to pay both W2 and 1099 employees. The software also can print checks and calculate federal, state, and local taxes. Furthermore, users can export their payroll data to be integrated with accounting and banking software like QuickBooks.

Payroll4Free’s portal and reporting features let employers and employees alike keep track of sick days, vacation, and other PTO. Additionally, employees can print out their pay stubs and W2 forms off the platform, saving small business owners time and resources.

Payroll4Free Pricing

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 themselves need to pay a $25/month 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 dollars per month for Payroll4Free to complete these transfers using their bank. You can save by bundling Payroll4Free’s tax and direct deposit services for $30 a month.

Payroll4Free Features

Payroll4Free offers all of its basic 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 that you upgrade 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

Would Payroll4Free Work For My Business?

Payroll4Free is the best choice for small businesses with fewer than 25 employees that want an easy-to-use payroll application that gives them the tools they need to succeed. Free features like direct deposit and a self-service portal are absolute must-haves for small companies that need to invest in other areas of their business. Payroll4Free is the best overall payroll software choice for small businesses that need basic features with a simple, easy-to-use interface. As your business grows and reaches the 25-employee limit, you may find it prudent to check out other paid payroll software options.

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ExcelPayroll: Best Free Payroll Software For Spreadsheet-Based Bookkeeping

ExcelPayroll



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Pros

  • Reports features
  • Easy to use with Microsoft Excel
  • Strong customization options

Cons

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

Spreadsheets are a helpful and time-tested tool for creating budgets and making calculations. If you’re already using spreadsheets or Microsoft Excel to handle payroll, ExcelPayroll can simplify the process for no extra cost.

After you enter employee information, along with their earnings and deductions, ExcelPayroll can run the payroll calculations from there. Users can also print checks and tax forms, see workers’ compensation reports, and record payroll deductions, such as 401k contributions.

ExcelPayroll Pricing

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 $8.25 per user.

ExcelPayroll 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

Would ExcelPayroll Work For My Business?

ExcelPayroll makes sense for small businesses that are already comfortable with using Excel spreadsheets and want to use core payroll features such as W2 form and check printing in a spreadsheet format. ExcelPayroll directly syncs up with the Excel app, so you don’t need to worry about creating a spreadsheet from scratch — ExcelPayroll can do that for you. So long as your business either currently has access to a licensed version of Office 365 or doesn’t mind subscribing to a new plan, ExcelPayroll is a robust spreadsheet-based solution that still behaves like payroll software.

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HR.my: Best Free Payroll Software For Multinational Businesses

HR.my



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Pros

  • Supports 67 languages
  • No business size limits
  • Flexible payment scheduling
  •  Strong security features 

Cons

  • No U.S. labor law compliance
  • Poor customer support options

Managing employees across the globe is a major task for any business. Boasting support for a whopping 67 languages, HR.my is perfect for multinational teams that also need access to basic payroll processing features and human resource management tools.

HR.my is able to support payment by direct deposit, check, or even cash. A business can also designate multiple managers in the system through a role-based user access control feature to divide payroll responsibilities. Additionally, employees can use the platform to input hours worked, request PTO, print their pay stubs, and check their vacation accrual among other tasks. Users can also import timesheets, expense reports, and share documents via the software’s workflow function.

HR.my Pricing

For the number of features it offers for free, HR.my is a contender not to be taken lightly when compared to other ostensibly free payroll software solutions, which sometimes gate certain features behind monthly fees and annual renewals. 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.

HR.my 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

Would HR.my Work For My Business?

Small business owners and HR managers who need free multi-lingual payroll software will be pleased with HR.my’s support for literally dozens of languages. The software offers payroll features, such as online HR and payroll, leave management, and expense reporting, that are essential to businesses that don’t yet have mature payroll processes set up. And, since HR.my supports an unlimited amount of user accounts, it’s a feasible payroll solution for businesses that want to increase employee numbers in the near future. However, HR.my would not be a good solution for any business that is new to using payroll software, as its customer service is run through a user-supported forum. Businesses that are new to payroll software should look into solutions with more robust customer support options.

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Timetrex: Best Free Payroll Software For Employee Time Tracking

TimeTrex



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Pros

  • Can be integrated with other payroll services, such as ADP and QuickBooks.
  • Cloud-hosted support for free
  • Employees can easily access app via web browser
  • Includes automated multi-week scheduling for recurring or rotating shifts.

Cons

  • The free community version does not assist with filing taxes.
  • Non-transparent pricing
  • Tax filings and payments to third parties are not included.

Timetrex is a good bet for small businesses with hourly employees, as it synthesizes time tracking into payroll software. The free option is known as the Community Edition; it is an open-source platform supported by volunteers from over 50 countries. Timetrex stands out for its time and attendance tracking for employees, who simply log their hours online. This information is automatically linked with payroll, so running the numbers at the end of the pay period is a breeze.

Timetrex’s Community Edition covers most of the bases of completing payroll, including calculating net pay, taxes, and deductions. Users can utilize Timetrex to pay their employees via direct deposit or paper check, as well as prepare tax forms. Some other HR functions are featured too, such as submitting PTO requests and schedule changes.

Timetrex Pricing

TimeTrex does offer a mobile app and on-site service in addition to its web portal support, but you’ll need to purchase at least the Professional plan to access it. TimeTrex’s pricing starts at $2.99 per month, per user, and begins at a beginning flat rate of $29.90 for businesses that pay up to 10 employees. Additionally, the company offers a plan comparison online but doesn’t include any further pricing details, so you’ll need to request a demo with them to learn more about which plan makes sense for your business.

Timetrex 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
  • Mobile app

Would TimeTrex Work For My Business?

TimeTrex’s free features make the most sense for small, dispersed teams that need web access to time tracking. Business owners who already use payroll software they enjoy can integrate it with TimeTrex, as well as sync it automatically with TimeTrex’s attendance tracking. Unfortunately, TimeTrex’s lack of pricing transparency makes it difficult for busy companies that need immediate payroll solutions to quickly choose a plan that suits their needs.

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eSmart Paycheck: Best Free Payroll Software For Quick Payroll Calculations

eSmart Paycheck



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Pros

  • Customizable withholdings
  • Flexible pay cycle
  • Intuitive interface

Cons

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

eSmart Paycheck is a free payroll calculator that can quickly compute payroll for hourly or salaried workers while taking care of 401k contributions and other deductions.

eSmart stands out from other payroll calculators in that it lets users download and print paychecks and pay stubs. If you live in a state with more complicated payroll taxes, such as New York or Maryland, state-specific calculators can help to check that you’re withholding the right amount.

eSmart Paycheck Pricing

eSmart Paycheck is a free payroll calculator that any individual or business can use. To avoid losing inputted data, users are encouraged to create an account when using eSmart Paycheck, but you 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 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 withholding 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

Would eSmart Paycheck Work For My Business?

eSmart is best saved for very small businesses that already have a firm grasp on how to calculate their payroll and are confident in filing taxes themselves. If your company is well-organized and just needs a solution to calculate and print its payroll numbers, then eSmart Paycheck may be right for you. eSmart’s feature set is far too limited for most businesses, especially those that expect to grow in the near future. However, the tool may be a good fit for businesses who are new to payroll software and want to trial a basic tool before jumping into a more robust solution.

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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: Best Payroll Software For Mid-Sized Businesses

ADP Payroll



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ADP has built its reputation on customer service and support for major companies with thousands of employees. ADP’s four-tiered RUN plan is geared towards small businesses with 1-49 employees. The software includes payroll processing, direct deposit, tax filing, new hire reporting. To manage HR through payroll, you will have to upgrade above the Essential RUN plan. To determine if ADP fits your budget, you’ll have to reach out for a quote, as pricing and add-on fees are not explicitly disclosed online. For growing mid-sized businesses, the extensive features and in-depth customer support could be worth the higher prices and hidden fees. Read our complete ADP review to see if this payroll software is right for you.

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Gusto: Overall Best Payroll Software

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 package, the Core plan, 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.

Intuit Online Payroll: Best Payroll Software For Businesses Using QuickBooks

Intuit Online Payroll



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Intuit Online Payroll’s basic coverage, Core Payroll, can tackle paycheck and tax calculation, as well as 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, not least because you need an existing QuickBooks Online account to access the Intuit Online Payroll service. Read our complete Intuit Online Payroll review for more information.

Wave Payroll: Best Payroll Software For Smaller Budgets

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.

Paylocity: Best Payroll Software For HR Support

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. 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. Read our full Paylocity review to learn more.

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.

You’ll also want to avoid misunderstanding exactly which features are included in a software’s ‘free’ plan. Getting set up in a payroll software, only to find that you’ve only signed up for a free trial or only have access to limited features, is just a major headache waiting to happen. Be sure to deep dive into any limitations a plan or software may happen before making a final decision on it.

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 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



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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!

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.

What is the easiest payroll software to use?

For companies that have little or no payroll experience, Square Payroll or ADP are the two easiest payroll software to use.

Square is relatively rudimentary compared to other popular payroll software, but its intuitive dashboard makes it easy for even the most inexperienced users to automate their payroll runs.

ADP offers more features than Square but still retains a minimal learning curve for those with little or no payroll or accounting experience.

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.

In Summary: The 5 Best Free Payroll Software

  • Payroll4Free: Best free payroll software with ample features
  • ExcelPayroll: Best free payroll software for spreadsheet-based bookkeeping
  • HR.my: Best free payroll software for multinational businesses
  • TimeTrex: Best free payroll software for employee time tracking
  • eSmart Paycheck: Best free payroll software for quick payroll calculations
Erica Seppala

Erica Seppala

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
An expert in accounting, finance, and point of sale, Erica has been researching and writing about all things small-business since 2018. Erica's insights into personal and business finance have been cited in numerous publications, including MSN, Real Simple, and Reader's Digest. She is a graduate of Limestone College.
Erica Seppala
View Erica Seppala's professional experience on LinkedIn.
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1 Comment

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Sree

    Thank you for your article on free payroll software. Free payroll apps are a great way to save money and make the process of paying employees easier. I agree with you, and payroll software is a great way to save money and streamline the process.

      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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    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.

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