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The Best Payroll Software For Small Businesses

These payroll providers offer great time tracking, excellent customer support, and ease of use at an affordable price.

    Davina Ward
  • Last updated onUpdated

  • Chelsea Krause
  • REVIEWED BY

    Chelsea Krause

    Lead Staff Writer

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If you’re in the market for small business payroll software, we’re here to help you narrow down the choices and find the best payroll software option for your business’s needs and budget. Learn what to look for in a good payroll software company, how much it’ll cost you, and more in our complete guide to the best payroll software.

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  • Best overall payroll software
  • Pricing starts at $40/month + $6/employee
  • Unlimited payroll runs and full tax support across 50 states
  • Best overall payroll software
  • Pricing starts at $40/month + $6/employee
  • Unlimited payroll runs and full tax support across 50 states

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  • Best for growing businesses
  • Pricing starts at $39/month + $5/employee
  • Scalable with packages for businesses at every stage
  • Best for growing businesses
  • Pricing starts at $39/month + $5/employee
  • Scalable with packages for businesses at every stage

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  • Best all-in-one HR and payroll software
  • Custom pricing
  • Extensive HR library and tools
  • Best all-in-one HR and payroll software
  • Custom pricing
  • Extensive HR library and tools

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  • Best for QuickBooks Online users
  • Pricing: $45/month + $6/employee
  • Generous promotional pricing for new customers
  • Best for QuickBooks Online users
  • Pricing: $45/month + $6/employee
  • Generous promotional pricing for new customers

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  • Best for ease of use
  • Pricing: $35/month + $6/employee
  • Cheap contractors-only plan for only $6/contractor per month
  • Best for ease of use
  • Pricing: $35/month + $6/employee
  • Cheap contractors-only plan for only $6/contractor per month

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  • Best affordable payroll software
  • Pricing: $40/month + $6/employee
  • Extensive payroll and HR features
  • Best affordable payroll software
  • Pricing: $40/month + $6/employee
  • Extensive payroll and HR features

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  • Best free payroll software
  • Pricing starts at $0/month
  • Optional paid tax and direct deposit services
  • Best free payroll software
  • Pricing starts at $0/month
  • Optional paid tax and direct deposit services

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  • Best for affordable tax support
  • Pricing starts at $17/month + $4/employee
  • Full or self-service payroll tax support options
  • Best for affordable tax support
  • Pricing starts at $17/month + $4/employee
  • Full or self-service payroll tax support options

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  • Best with free accounting software
  • Pricing starts at $20/month + $6/employee
  • Full-service payroll in 14 states
  • Best with free accounting software
  • Pricing starts at $20/month + $6/employee
  • Full-service payroll in 14 states

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  • Best for international workers
  • Pricing: $8/month per user
  • Strong international payroll support
  • Best for international workers
  • Pricing: $8/month per user
  • Strong international payroll support

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  • Best payroll software for hourly employees
  • Pricing starts at $39/month + $6/employee
  • Free employee scheduling software plan
  • Best payroll software for hourly employees
  • Pricing starts at $39/month + $6/employee
  • Free employee scheduling software plan

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Table of Contents

The 11 Best Payroll Software For Small Businesses In Detail

The best payroll software systems for small businesses support essential payroll features, offer time tracking, and support employee portals in an easy-to-use and affordable manner. Not every software made the cut. Here are the 11 best payroll software companies based on over two dozen options out there.

How The Best Payroll Software Compare

Company Price Includes Time Tracking Includes HR Mobile App
Gusto $40-80/month + $6-$12/person Plus Plan Only
Paychex $39+/month + $5+/person
ADP Custom
QuickBooks Online Payroll $45-$125/month + $6-$12/person
Square Payroll $6/month per contractor or $35/month + $6/employee
OnPay $40/month + $6/person
Payroll4Free Free for up to 10 employees per month
Patriot Payroll $17-$37/month + $4/person
Wave Payroll $20-$40/month
Rippling Custom
Homebase $39/month + $6/person

Gusto: Best overall payroll software

Total Rating 4.4
Pricing3.7

Ease Of Use4.9

Features4.6

Customer Service4.1

User Reviews3.9

Payroll Processing Time

Next-day to 4 Days

Pricing

$40/month + $6/employee to $80/month + $12/employee

Business Size

Small-Medium Businesses (1-650+ Users)

Pros

  • Generous features and add-on options
  • Modern interface
  • Great tax support on all plans
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Limited reporting
  • Benefits administration limited to 37 states and DC
  • No mobile app

Screenshot of The Gusto home screen

Gusto's Home Dashboard

Why We Chose Gusto For Overall Best Payroll Software

Gusto is perfect for small to medium-sized businesses looking for a robust payroll program with full tax support, built-in time tracking, solid HR features, and excellent customer service.

Further, Gusto's 4.4/5 overall star rating is the highest overall rating of any payroll software we've reviewed, earning it the coveted "overall best" title. The software offers the best mix of features, functionality, and pricing for most small businesses.

Gusto Pricing

Gusto Plans Price  When To Use
Simple $40/month + $6/person If your small business needs reliable, basic payroll software
Plus $80/month + $12/person If your business needs tools to handle complex payroll and team management needs
Premium Custom If your medium to large-sized business needs advanced HR and compliance tools
Contractor Only $35/month + $6/person per month If your growing business needs basic payroll and only pays contractors

Gusto’s pricing includes three different pricing plans for paying employees and a free 30-day trial. The Simple, Plus, and Premium plans run from $40 a month + $6 per employee (Simple) to $80 a month + $12 per employee (Plus).

The Plus plan adds next-day payroll processing, time tracking, stronger employee management features, more customization options, HR tools, and multistate payroll processing.

The Premium package offers HR compliance assistance and an HR resource center, as well as the addition of a dedicated customer service representative. Gusto also offers a fourth plan for businesses that hire only independent contractors. The software’s ‘Contractor Only’ plan costs $35/month + $6/month/contractor.

Gusto Features

gusto dashboard

Gusto’s Team Insights Dashboard

Gusto boasts strong benefits administration features and assists with adding worker’s compensation and HSA plans to your payroll. If ease and functionality are what you need, Gusto can’t be beaten.

The software comes with the following features:

  • Unlimited payroll runs (including bonus and off-cycle runs)
  • Automatic federal, state, and local tax filing across all 50 states
  • Create custom payroll reports to track your business’s payroll expenses
  • Customizable admin permissions
  • Employment offers and onboarding
  • Built-in time tracking on the Plus plan (integrations available on all plans)
  • Employee directory and surveys
  • HR and compliance support
  • Dedicated customer support team, including live support hours and chat options
  • Optional add-ons for international contractor payments

What To Watch Out For

  • Benefits Administration Unavailable In 13 States: Gusto doesn’t support benefits in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wyoming.
  • Next-Day Direct Deposit & Built-In Time Tracking Unavailable On Cheapest Plan: These features are unavailable on the cheapest Gusto plan for paying both employees and contractors. You’ll have to upgrade if you need either one.
  • No Mobile App: Employers must use a web browser to run payroll remotely, as will employees who want to view their pay stubs and related payroll information.

When To Use Gusto

Small businesses should consider using Gusto if they need:

  • Affordable payroll software for small businesses
  • Excellent employee management and built-in HR features
  • Easy-to-use software
  • Built-in time tracking
  • Multiple integrations with accounting, HR, and attendance software

Get Started With Gusto

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Paychex: Best payroll software for growing businesses

Total Rating 4.1
Pricing2.2

Ease Of Use4.4

Features4.6

Customer Service3.8

User Reviews3.9

Payroll Processing Time

Two days (faster costs extra)

Pricing

Starts at $39/month + $5/employee

Business Size

Self-employed contractors to enterprises with 1,000+ employees

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Good customer support
  • Built-in HR and onboarding
  • Numerous integrations

Cons

  • Extra fees
  • Non-transparent pricing
  • Tax support complaints

screenshot of Paychex dashboard

Paychex's Home Dashboard

Why We Chose Paychex As The Best Payroll Software For Growing Businesses

With a 4.1/5 overall star rating, Paychex earned its place as one of the best payroll software for small businesses. The software boasts many standout features, including strong employee management tools, 100+ reports, and solid payroll tax support.

In addition to its robust feature set, Paychex is easy to use, scalable, and offers 24/7 customer support.

Paychex Pricing

Paychex Plans Price  When To Use
Flex Essentials $39/month +$5/employee If you need basic payroll services and tax support for your mid-sized business
Flex Select Custom If you need a dedicated payroll specialist to walk you through your payroll runs
Flex Pro Custom If you need accounting software integrations for your payroll software
Flex Enterprise Custom If you need advanced HR solutions, analytics, and insurance setup support

Paychex has four pricing plans to choose from. Paychex Flex Essentials is priced at $39/month + $5/employee per month; you must contact Paychex to get a quote for its customizable plans. Additional fees may apply for add-on services, including time tracking, software setup, HR packages, tax services, and employee benefits.

Paychex Features

screenshot of Paychex's payroll dashboard

Paychex’s Payroll Dashboard

Paychex has a solid set of features that can be customized for businesses of all sizes. At its most basic level, here is what Paychex has to offer:

  • Direct deposit, prepaid pay cards, and paper check payment options
  • New hire reporting
  • Self-service employee portal with access to tax forms and paystubs
  • Rich HR library and business forms
  • Automatic payroll tax calculations and tax credit services
  • Standard analytics and reports

What To Watch Out For

  • Pricing Is Nontransparent: Although Paychex does list pricing for one plan, all its other plan pricing is shrouded in mystery. For business owners, this means extra time spent getting a quote and challenges comparing Paychex with other service providers.
  • Many Extra Add-On: Add-ons aren’t an issue by themselves because they allow businesses to build customizable packages. However, features such as job costing reports, time tracking, and garnishment services are add-ons with Paychex, where they tend to be baked into other payroll software service plans to help keep costs down.
  • Very Limited Demo: Again, other payroll software providers such as Gusto and Patriot Payroll offer full-fledged, self-service demos that allow business owners to explore the software before they buy it. Paychex’s demo is very limited, by comparison.

When To Use Paychex

Small businesses should consider using Paychex if they need:

  • Payroll processing software that can handle the needs of a growing business
  • Extensive payroll, HR, and time tracking features
  • Easy-to-use payroll software
  • Optional PEO services

Get Started With Paychex

Read our in-depth review

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ADP Payroll: Best all-in-one HR and payroll software

Total Rating 4.0
Pricing1.1

Ease Of Use4.8

Features4.6

Customer Service3.7

User Reviews3.3

Payroll Processing Time

Variable

Pricing

Custom

Business Size

Small to enterprise-sized businesses (1-1,000+ users)

Pros

  • Excellent reporting options
  • Guided payroll runs for beginners
  • Scalable payroll software
  • Solid HR tools

Cons

  • Many added fees
  • Nontransparent pricing
  • Garnishments only available on higher plan tier

adp dashboard

ADP's Payroll Run Dashboard

Why We Chose ADP For Small Business Payroll

We chose ADP because it's a great program for small businesses that are looking for a single solution to help manage payroll and HR.

With an overall 4/5 star rating, ADP earned it's spot as one of the best payroll software for small businesses, as it boasts one of the most comprehensive feature sets of any payroll software on the market, a wealth of HR tools, ample integrations, solid customer support options, and strong reporting.

ADP Pricing

ADP Payroll Plans Price  When To Use
RUN Powered By ADP Essential Custom If you need basic payroll for up to 49 users
RUN Powered By ADP Enhanced Custom If you need basic payroll and advanced hiring and onboarding tools for up to 49 users
RUN Powered By ADP Complete Custom If you need basic payroll and HR support for up to 49 users
RUN Powered By ADP HR Pro Custom If you need advanced payroll and HR support for up to 49 users
ADP Workforce Now Payroll Essentials Custom If you need basic payroll for 50+ users
ADP Workforce Now Plus Custom If you need payroll and enhanced HR tools for 50+ users
ADP Workforce Now Hiring Advantage Custom If you need advanced recruitment and hiring support for 50+ users
ADP Workforce Now Performance Plus Custom If you need performance analytics and improvement tools for 50+ users

ADP generally offers customers three free months and reduced-rate contracts to sign a yearly contract. Each contract is different, but most require a 12-month commitment and are paid upfront. There is no termination fee, but there are no refunds for canceled contracts.

On average, you will most likely pay $160 with 10-15 employees. We were quoted $179.86 monthly for 11 employees for payroll and HR Plus; that is a $10 per-employee fee in addition to payroll fees. (ADP charges a fee each time you run payroll.)

There is also a $25 set-up fee that is usually waived with a contract. All quotes are customized per your business location, number of employees, frequency of running payroll, etc.

ADP Features

screenshot of ADP's payroll tax dashboard

ADP’s Payroll Tax Dashboard

ADP is easy to use and well-organized, and guided support and other resources help you navigate the features and get the most out of the software. Run ADP offers the following features:

  • Payroll processing, including off-cycle payroll runs
  • Hands-off payroll processing with auto-scheduled payroll runs
  • Options for paycheck delivery or direct deposit
  • Automatic payroll tax calculation and filing
  • Run payroll across multiple states and counties
  • Garnishment payment options
  • Electronic reporting
  • Time tracking feature add-on and integration options
  • Numerous integrations
  • Employee management with employee portal and time-off tracking

What To Watch Out For

  • Pricing Is Nontransparent: You’ll need to get a quote before comparing costs and features with other options on the market.
  • Add-Ons Tend To Be Pricey: You’ll be able to build a comprehensive payroll and HR service package, but those a la carte options can add up quickly.
  • Garnishment & State Unemployment Insurance Unavailable On Smallest Tier: You’ll need to opt for a pricier plan if you’d like those services.

When To Use ADP

ADP is best for businesses that need:

  • Payroll software with an extensive feature set
  • Built-in benefits administration and time tracking
  • Payroll software that integrates with hundreds of other software options
  • Scalable payroll software
  • A payroll mobile app

Get Started With ADP Payroll

Read our in-depth review

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Intuit Online Payroll: Best payroll software for QuickBooks users

Intuit Online Payroll

Total Rating 4.2
Pricing2.6

Ease Of Use4.1

Features4.4

Customer Service4.6

User Reviews4.4

Payroll Processing Time

Same-day-5 Days

Pricing

$45/month - $125/month + $6-$10/person

Business Size

Small to medium-sized businesses with up to 150 employees

Current Deal: Get 50% off for three months when you sign up now. Save 50% Today

Pros

  • Competitive pricing
  • Seamless integration with other QuickBooks Online products
  • Easy signup and no long-term contracts

Cons

  • Capped at paying 150 employees or contractors
  • Poor customer service
  • Mobile app needs improvement

quickbooks online payroll dashboard

QuickBooks Online Payroll's Home Dashboard

Why We Chose QuickBooks Online For Best Payroll Software For QB Users

We chose QuickBooks Online Payroll because the software earned an impressive 4.2/5 overall star rating and is the best payroll software solution for businesses that already use QuickBooks products and want to integrate easily with a payroll solution.

Small businesses can handle pretty much any basic payroll function using QuickBooks Online Payroll. Plus, they can integrate with other solutions within the QuickBooks business software suite and third-party services.

QuickBooks Online Payroll Pricing

Intuit Online Payroll Plans Price  When To Use
Core $45/month + $6 per employee If you need a basic payroll solution that integrates with QuickBooks
Premium $80/month + $8 per employee If you need on-the-go time tracking for 25+ users
Elite $125/month + $10 per employee If you need advanced HR support

QuickBooks Payroll pricing ranges from $45/month +$6/month per employee to $125/month plus $10 per employee. As the prices scale, the features improve and become curated for your business. Intuit offers white-glove treatment for onboarding at the upper tiers and sends you a dedicated HR representative to work with your company.

Intuit QuickBooks has month-to-month contracts and no early termination fees. Payments are monthly, and you can cancel your subscription at any time. QuickBooks also runs promotions for its payroll product frequently, so be sure to check for any available discounts before purchasing.

QuickBooks Online Payroll Features

screenshot of Intuit Online Payroll's reports dashboard

Intuit Online Payroll’s Reports Dashboard

Intuit Online Payroll is well organized, and the UI is intuitive. People who like QuickBooks and already use aspects of the software are more likely to have a positive experience transitioning to the Intuit Online Payroll system.

Intuit QuickBooks Online offers the following features:

  • Next-day direct deposit and check printing options
  • Unlimited payroll runs across all 50 states (including multistate payroll add-ons)
  • Manage paycheck deductions and garnishments
  • Calculates and files federal and state taxes and year-end forms
  • Workforce portal for employee pay stub and tax form access
  • Create and run payroll reports for your business
  • Automate payroll runs with scheduled payroll
  • Optional QuickBooks Time add-on or time tracking integrations
  • Benefits administration for health and dental insurance, plus 401(k) retirement plan options

What To Watch Out For

  • Limited To 150 Employees/Contractors Or Fewer: If your business grows past that limit, you’ll need to find another payroll software solution.
  • Extra Fees For Direct Deposit Payments To Contractors: If your business only pays contractors, you may consider other options with more generous plans for contractors such as Square Payroll.
  • Poor QuickBooks Workforce Ratings: Complaints range from stability issues to the app being completely unusable.
  • No Local Tax Support On Lowest Tier Plan: You’ll need to upgrade to get full tax support.

When To Use QuickBooks Online Payroll

QuickBooks Online Payroll is best for businesses looking for:

  • Payroll software that directly integrates with QuickBooks software
  • 24-hour direct deposit options
  • Payroll tax penalty protection
  • Mobile app for scheduling and attendance tracking
  • Excellent self-support resources

Get Started With Intuit Online Payroll

Read our in-depth review

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Square Payroll: Easiest payroll software to use

Square Payroll

Total Rating 4.1
Pricing3.5

Ease Of Use3.9

Features4.6

Customer Service3.7

User Reviews4.4

Payroll Processing Time

Same-day to four-day

Pricing

$6/contractor or $35/month +$6/employee paid

Business Size

Any business paying 1+ workers

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Easy to use with plenty of support options
  • Tons of Square software and third-party integrations
  • Solid mobile app

Cons

  • Very basic feature set
  • No software demo
  • Customer support complaints

screenshot of Square Payroll's payroll dashboard

Square Payroll's Payroll Dashboard

Why We Chose Square Payroll For Easiest Payroll Software To Use

We chose Square Payroll as one of the best payroll software options for small businesses because it's easy to use, affordable, feature rich, and seamlessly integrates with other Square products, including Square POS.

Square Payroll earned a 4.1/5 overall star rating, bolstered by its extensive payroll feature set and optional add-ons, including employee schedule management and access to HR professionals.

Square Payroll Pricing

Square Payroll Plans Price  When To Use
Pay Contractors Only $6/contractor If your business needs affordable payroll for contractors
Pay Employees & Contractors $35/month + $6/employee paid If your business needs affordable, basic payroll for both employees and contractors

The biggest benefit of Square Payroll’s pricing is that there are no hidden fees or sneaky terms and conditions. There are two different plans depending on your type of employee and payroll needs.

If your business only pays contractors, you will pay a $6/month fee per contractor on your payroll. If you pay both contractors and salaried/hourly employees, you pay a $35 monthly subscription fee plus $6/employee/month.

There are no contracts with Square, so you can cancel your plan anytime.

Square Payroll Features

screenshot of Square Payroll's benefits administration dashboard

Square Payroll’s Benefits Administration Dashboard

Square’s features are easy to access and understand, even if you have never run payroll before, and the interface is designed to walk you through each step of the process.

Square offers the following features:

  • Unlimited payroll processing across all 50 states
  • Hire and pay contractors and employees
  • Automate payroll runs with Square Payroll’s scheduled payroll
  • Automatic federal and state payroll tax calculation, filing, and remittance
  • Employee self-service portal with mobile app
  • Optional HR services add-on
  • Employee portal and self-onboarding
  • Time tracking through Square Shifts or third-party integration
  • Benefits administration including health, dental, and retirement plans
  • Integrations (including QuickBooks, QuickBooks Time, and ZipRecruiter)

What To Watch Out For

  • Customer Service Is Poorly Rated: Customer complaints cite Square Payroll’s lengthy resolution times and trouble getting in touch with someone who is knowledgeable about payroll.
  • Full Feature Set Can Be Expensive: Separate services, such as Square Shifts for employee management, come at an additional cost that can make it expensive to take full advantage of Square’s features.
  • No Demo Or Free Trial: You can sign up for the app without paying, but there isn’t much to see unless you pay for the app. Alternatives like Gusto and Patriot Payroll boast self-guided demos that allow you to freely explore the software.

When To Use Square Payroll

Square Payroll is a great fit for businesses in need of:

  • Payroll software that directly integrates with their existing Square business products
  • Cheap payroll software with full tax support
  • Easy-to-use payroll software
  • Well-reviewed mobile app for both employees and employers
  • Many integrations
  • Contractor-only plan option

Get Started With Square Payroll

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OnPay: Best affordable payroll software

Total Rating 4.2
Pricing3.0

Ease Of Use4.5

Features4.4

Customer Service4.1

User Reviews4.7

Payroll Processing Time

2-4 Days

Pricing

$40/month + $6/person/month

Business Size

Small to mid-sized businesses (1-500+ employees)

Pros

  • Customizable HR and payroll tools
  • Generous feature set
  • Responsive customer service
  • Affordable, competitive pricing

Cons

  • Very limited integrations
  • Extra fees to process year-end tax documents
  • No free trial

screenshot of OnPay's home dashboard

OnPay's Home Dashboard

Why We Chose OnPay For Best Affordable Payroll Software

We chose OnPay because it earned an impressive 4.2/5 star overall rating based on its affordability, solid feature set, excellent customer service, ease of use, and glowing user reviews.

OnPay boasts fast, unlimited payroll processing as well as flexibility to accommodate different reporting needs. Other perks include benefits administration, onboarding workflows, a QuickBooks integration, responsive customer service, and solid employee management features.

OnPay Pricing

OnPay’s pricing includes just a single plan that starts at a flat rate of $40 per month, with a monthly per-employee fee of $6. Your first month is free, and there are no setup costs.

Since OnPay doesn’t require users to sign any contracts for terms of use, you only need to pay to keep using the software every month without risking getting hit with penalty fees.

OnPay Features

screenshot of OnPay's payroll run dashboard

OnPay’s Payroll Run Dashboard

Only one service plan is available with OnPay, so you can enjoy all of the biggest features the software offers, including unlimited payroll runs with quick processing speeds, employee self-service options to review paychecks and tax forms, and onboarding and employee time management options for administrative users.

OnPay offers the following features with its single service plan:

  • Unlimited payroll runs for both contractors and employees
  • Completely automated payroll tax support at the federal, state, and local level
  • Employee self-service portal to access paystubs, employment documents, and tax forms
  • Pay workers via direct deposit, paper check, or debit card
  • Free multistate payroll
  • Extensive online HR library and resources
  • Responsive mobile site experience
  • Seven industry-specific payroll setup options
  • Pay-as-you go benefits option
  • Integrations with popular services (QuickBooks Time, QuickBooks Online, Xero, etc.)

What To Watch Out For

  • Lacks Built-In Time Tracking: You’ll have to purchase time tracking separately to track your employees’ hours, which can drive up costs. However, OnPay does offer time tracking integrations with QuickBooks Time, When I Work, and Deputy.
  • Integrations Are Very Limited: In addition to the three integrations listed above, OnPay only integrates with Xero, Mineral, PosterElite, and QuickBooks Online & Desktop accounting software. Other payroll services, such as ADP, Gusto, or QuickBooks offer hundreds of integrations.
  • Mobile App Is Poorly Rated: Although this seems to be a recurring theme with payroll software mobile apps, OnPay’s mobile app continues the trend of poor mobile payroll experiences.

When To Use OnPay

OnPay is best for small businesses needing:

  • Affordable payroll software with simple pricing
  • Extensive payroll and HR features
  • Excellent customer support
  • Very few integrations

Get Started With OnPay

Read our in-depth review

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Payroll4Free: Best free payroll software

Total Rating 3.0
Pricing3.6

Ease Of Use2.7

Features3.1

Customer Service2.6

User Reviews3.1

Payroll Processing Time

2-4 Days

Pricing

Free for up to 10 employees

Business Size

Small to mid-sized businesses (up to 10 employees for free)

Pros

  • Free plan for businesses with up to 10 employees
  • Includes essential payroll features
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Outdated UI
  • Unsuitable for large businesses
  • Ad-supported

Why We Chose Payroll4Free For Best Free Payroll Software

Despite earning a low 3/5 star rating overall, we chose Payroll4Free because it is the best free payroll software option on the market and we wanted to include an option for businesses that need to keep costs down.

Payroll4Free provides users with access to essential payroll features, plus extras such as tax forms, reporting, direct deposits, and an employee portal  — at no cost, provided your business has 10 or fewer employees.

If you're interested in other free options, check out our top free payroll software picks.

Payroll4Free Pricing

As the name suggests, Payroll4Free is a forever-free payroll software. All features are included in your free plan. However, there are two upgrade options. You can purchase the Payroll Tax Service if you want Payroll4Free to deposit and pay your payroll taxes. The service costs $35/month or $350/year.

You can also buy the Direct Deposit Service at the same price if you’d prefer to use Payroll4Free’s bank instead of your own. You may choose to bundle these add-on services, for a discounted $40/month or $400/year.

Payroll4Free Features For Small Business Payroll

Payroll4Free has a surprising number of features available to its users for no cost. While it is without the embellishments you’ll find with some of its competitors, this software has all of the essentials small businesses need to run payroll, including:

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Direct deposits
  • Tax forms and calculations
  • Vacation time tracking
  • Reporting
  • Accounting software integrations
  • Unlimited live customer support

What To Watch Out For

  • It’s Possible To Outgrow Payroll4Free’s Services: If your business outgrows Payroll4Free’s 10-employee limit, you’ll need to switch to another free payroll service provider, such as HR.my, or move on to paid services.
  • Only Runs On Windows OS.:While you can run Payroll4Free on a Mac, that Mac must be running Windows.
  • Payroll4Free Is Ad-Supported: Ads can be distracting. They aren’t a huge issue but should be something to watch out for when using the software.
  • Some Services Aren’t Free: If you need tax support or you want to handle direct deposit through Payroll4Free’s bank, you’ll have to pay.

When To Use Payroll4Free

Payroll4Free would be a great fit for small businesses looking for:

  • Free payroll software
  • The option to self-manage payroll tax filing and remittance
  • Basic payroll processing and employee management features
  • Helpful customer service representatives

Get Started With Payroll4Free

Read our in-depth review

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Patriot Payroll: Best for affordable payroll tax management

Patriot Payroll

Total Rating 3.9
Pricing4.0

Ease Of Use3.4

Features3.5

Customer Service4.6

User Reviews4.8

Payroll Processing Time

2-4 days

Pricing

Starting at $17/month + $4 per person paid

Business Size

Small to mid-sized businesses with up to 500 people paid

Pros

  • Excellent tax support
  • Excellent US-based customer service
  • Competitive pricing
  • Easy to use with a free demo

Cons

  • Limited HR features
  • Few integrations and no API
  • Very limited benefits administration options

screenshot of Patriot Payroll's home dashboard

Patriot Payroll's Home Dashboard

Why We Chose Patriot Payroll For Affordable Payroll Tax Management

We chose Patriot Payroll because it combines strong payroll features, affordable pricing, good customer service, and excellent tax support. Additionally, Patriot is one of the few solutions that offer both DIY and full-service payroll options.

Patriot Payroll's 3.9/5 star overall rating was driven down by the software's comparatively basic feature set. However, the software should work beautifully for most small businesses with simple payroll needs.

Patriot Payroll Pricing

Patriot Payroll Plans Price  When To Use
Basic Payroll $17/month + $4 per person paid If you need basic payroll processing services for up to 500 employees or contractors
Full Service Payroll $37/month + $4 per person paid If you need full-service payroll with tax support for up to 500 employees or contractors

Patriot Payroll has two pricing plans. The Basic plan is priced at $17/month + $4/employee per month. If you want full tax support, you can spring for the Full Service plan, priced at $37/month + $4/employee per month.

Patriot Payroll integrates with other Patriot services, including time tracking, HR management, and accounting for an additional fee.

Patriot Payroll Features

screenshot of Patriot Payroll's run payroll dashboard

Patriot Payroll’s Run Payroll Dashboard

Patriot Payroll has everything you need to run payroll easily. The Basic plan includes the following features:

  • Unlimited payroll runs including free multistate payroll
  • Free two-day direct deposit
  • Employee portal with tax form and paystub access for employees and contractors
  • Workers’ comp integration
  • Contractor payments and optional 1099 e-filing
  • Net to Gross Payroll tool
  • Mobile-friendly software
  • QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online integrations
  • Time-off accruals tracking

What To Watch Out For

  • Limited Integrations: Currently, Patriot Payroll integrates with QuickBooks (Online,  Time, and Desktop), Vestwell, and Next Insurance.
  • No Health, Vision, Or Dental Insurance Benefits Administration: Current benefits are limited to retirement plan contributions and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Limited To 500 Employees Or Fewer: As such, Patriot Payroll wouldn’t be a good fit for mid-sized businesses looking to scale up to the enterprise level.

When To Use Patriot Payroll

Patriot Payroll is best for businesses that need:

  • Very cheap payroll software
  • Optional DIY tax filing and remittance
  • All-in-one payroll, accounting, timekeeping, and HR software
  • Excellent customer support options

Get Started With Patriot Payroll

Read our in-depth review

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Wave Payroll: Best payroll software with free accounting

Total Rating 3.0
Pricing3.5

Ease Of Use2.9

Features3.2

Customer Service2.1

User Reviews4.1

Payroll Processing Time

3 Days

Pricing

Starting at $20/month + $6 per person paid

Business Size

Small businesses with up to 20 users

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable pricing
  • Integration with Wave’s free accounting software

Cons

  • Full-service payroll not available in 36 states
  • No HR support
  • No phone support

payroll by wave dashboard

Payroll by Wave's Payroll Dashboard

Why We Chose Wave Payroll For Best Payroll With Free Accounting

Wave earned its spot by offering an easy-to-use payroll service that handles the payroll basics at an affordable price. For existing Wave Accounting users, integrating with Wave Payroll is seamless.

As the low 3/5 star rating suggests, Wave Payroll lacks many features that you'll find with its competitors, such as time tracking, off-cycle pay runs, HR support, and full tax support across all 50 states.

However, businesses that don't need advanced features and want basic, affordable payroll software may be satisfied with what Wave Payroll has to offer.

Wave Payroll Pricing

Wave Payroll Plans Price  When To Use
Wave Payroll Self Service States $20/month + $6 per employee paid If you need DIY payroll tax support for a team of up to 20 individuals
Wave Payroll Tax Service States $40/month + $6 per employee If you need full-service payroll in a valid state for up to 20 team members

Wave Payroll offers two pricing plans that cost $20-$40/month plus $6/month per active employee or contractor paid. The more expensive plan provides full-service tax support and is only available in 14 states.

A 30-day free trial is available to test out the software.

Wave Payroll Features

screenshot of Payroll by Wave's Employee Management Dashboard

Payroll by Wave’s Employee Management Dashboard

Wave lacks many payroll features you’ll find in other software options on this list. But it does offer the basics, including:

  • Direct deposits
  • Self-service pay stubs and tax forms
  • W-2 and 1099 tax forms
  • Full-service payroll available in 14 states
  • Basic reports
  • Paid time off
  • Basic employee management

What To Watch Out For

  • Full-Service Payroll Isn’t Available In Every State: Wave’s full-service payroll is only available in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Customers in all other states will have to handle their own payroll tax filing and deposits.
  • No Benefits Administration: You can set up deductions for health insurance, retirement plan contributions, and the like, but you’ll have to set them up through a third party or broker.
  • No Phone Support: If you have a problem with the service or need to ask a question, your choices are limited to live chat support, chatbot support, email, or visiting the Wave help center.

When To Use Wave Payroll

Businesses should consider using Wave Payroll when they need:

  • Cheap payroll software
  • Free accounting software
  • A cheap optional DIY payroll tax filing plan
  • Basic payroll processing features

Get Started With Wave Payroll

Read our in-depth review

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Rippling: Best International payroll software

Total Rating 4.3
Pricing2.4

Ease Of Use4.6

Features4.7

Customer Service4.2

User Reviews4.7

Payroll Processing Time

2 Days

Pricing

Starting at $8/month per employee

Business Size

Small to enterprise-sized businesses with 2-2,000+ users

Pros

  • Fully customizable payroll, HR, and IT solution
  • Hundreds of integrations
  • Full-service payroll tax support
  • Supports US-based and international payroll runs

Cons

  • No free trial
  • Non-transparent pricing
  • Payroll is only an add-on service

screenshot of Rippling Payroll's home dashboard

Rippling Payroll's Home Dashboard

Why We Chose Rippling Payroll For Best International Payroll Software

We chose Rippling as one of the best options for businesses with internationally distributed teams seeking an all-in-one HR, payroll, and IT solution on a global scale. Rippling earned a high 4.3/5 overall star rating by offering extensive payroll features, automatic compliance and filings, and HR data sync.

However, Rippling's price and the sheer abundance of available features are the best fit for large businesses and international payroll support.

Rippling Payroll Pricing

Rippling Plans Price  When To Use
Rippling Unity Custom pricing starts at $8/month per user This core plan is required to add on Rippling’s payroll, HR, and IT solutions

Rippling does not disclose pricing online but instead requests you submit a request for a free quote based on the services you need. Its website does note that pricing starts at $8/month per user, although it is unclear exactly what you’ll receive for this price.

Rippling Payroll Features

rippling payroll dashboard

Rippling Payroll’s Payroll Dashboard

Rippling’s customizable plans may include several HR and IT features. In this post, however, we’ll focus on its payroll features, which include:

  • Global payroll with support for international employees
  • Automatic tax filings at the federal, state, and local level
  • Automatic tax compliance, including W-2, W-4, 1099, and new-hire filing
  • Employee time tracking and PTO tracking
  • Paycheck garnishments and deductions
  • Job costing and custom payroll reports
  • Over 400 integrations

What To Watch Out For

  • Rippling Payroll Is Only An Add-On Service: To use Rippling Payroll, you’ll need to purchase Rippling Unity. If you’re only in need of basic payroll software without all the extra noise, you’re better off with simple payroll software that supports international payments, such as Gusto (which offers contractor payments across 80+ countries).
  • Pricing Isn’t Transparent: Although Rippling does advertise a low per-person rate, the true cost of the software depends on what modules you need to complete your package. It’s easy to run up costs with a module-based software package.
  • No Free Trial: There’s no way to explore the software without either getting in touch for a guided demo or subscribing to the software.

When To Use Rippling

Rippling is a great fit for businesses that are looking for:

  • Full-service payroll software for international employees
  • An extensive suite of employee management and HR tools
  • Modular pricing
  • Optional PEO services
  • An extensive integration library

Get Started With Rippling

Read our in-depth review

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Homebase: Best payroll for hourly employees

Homebase


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Pros

  • Free time tracking and employee scheduling
  • Modern UI
  • Competitive pricing
  • Quick and easy set up

Cons

  • Glitchy mobile app
  • Free scheduling plan is limited to 20 employees and one location
  • Payroll is only an add-on

homebase dashboard

Homebase's Home Dashboard

Why We Chose Homebase As The Best Payroll Software For Hourly Employees

Homebase earned an overall rating of 3.8/5 stars by offering full-service payroll, good customer service, affordability, and an impressive (and free!) employee scheduling software.

Homebase has a handful of HR tools, solid customer service, and a clean, easy-to-use interface that makes it easy to get started. Pricing is competitive, so it's a great choice for budget-minded business owners who don't have salaried employees.

Homebase Pricing

Homebase’s scheduling and time-tracking software is free for one user in one location. You can upgrade to a paid plan if you have multiple locations or users. The payroll add-on is available for any plan for $39/month + $6/month per active employee.

Homebase Features

Homebase has everything you need to track hours, schedule employees, and pay your workers on time. Standout features of Homebase include:

  • Unlimited payroll runs for all 50 states and DC
  • 1099s, W2s, and amendments included
  • Two-day direct deposits
  • HR tools such as new hire onboarding, job posts, applicant tracking, and a team roster
  • Employee scheduling, time clocks, and timesheets
  • Built-in messaging
  • Automated tax filings and payments
  • QuickBooks Online integration
  • Well-rated mobile app
  • Comprehensive employee portal with schedules, pay stubs, tax forms, time-off requests, and more

What To Watch Out For With Homebase

  • Not Designed For Salaried Employees: If your business primarily pays salaried employees and doesn’t need extensive scheduling options, you’ll be better off with more flexible payroll-focused solutions, such as OnPay or Paychex.
  • Best For Paying 20 Employees Or Less & Only One Location: All other small businesses will need to pay extra for Homebase’s shift scheduling and time-tracking plan. If you only need payroll, Homebase isn’t a great option.
  • No Benefits Administration: However, you can set up payroll deductions for employee benefits such as health insurance premiums.

When To Use Homebase

Homebase is best for businesses in need of:

  • Combined scheduling and payroll software
  • A well-rated mobile app
  • Affordable pricing
  • Excellent customer support
  • Multiple integration options

Get Started With Homebase

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Methodology

Merchant Maverick has been researching and reviewing payroll providers since 2018. Our writers have tested more than 75 different payroll software systems, evaluating pricing, features, ease of use, customer service, and user reviewers. Read more about how we rate payroll providers.

When comparing different apps, we consider over seventy data points, including the speed and cost of payroll runs, federal and state tax filing features, HR integrations, employee management tools, time tracking, and more. Our lists of the best providers include only apps we’ve deemed worthwhile from several vantage points. The payroll apps we pick are widely available and relatively easy to train on, with robust features and reasonable pricing. We also look carefully at features such as employee and client portals, user onboarding services, PTO management, benefits administration, multistate compliance, and more.

We spend an average of 10-15 hours researching and updating each one of our lists, making sure the providers included meet our internal standards for quality and reputation.

75+

Vendors evaluated

76

Attributes assessed per vendor

26

Features weighed

20+

Combined years of experience


Search For The Best Payroll Software By Industry

Are you looking for industry-specific payroll software? While our list of the best payroll software works well for many businesses, if you are in a certain niche like construction or trucking, you might require software that fits your specific features and needs better.

Here are some best payroll software selections by industry:

Or, if you don’t want to search by industry and are just looking for something budget-friendly, check out the cheapest payroll software options for small businesses.

What Is Payroll Software?

Payroll software is software designed to help businesses calculate payroll, pay employees and contractors, and stay compliant with payroll tax laws.

Types Of Payroll Software

There are four types of payroll software:

  • Payroll software
  • Payroll apps
  • HR Software
  • PEO

Generally speaking, payroll is considered an HR process. However, while many payroll software solutions include some HR features, these options tend to lack some of the richer HR features and services found within the best HR software.

Depending on your business’s needs, you may be better served by a hybrid payroll and HR software solution or two separate solutions that offer a more comprehensive feature set.

Or, if you want to be completely hands-off with your small business payroll and would rather outsource your payroll software entirely, you could look at the top PEO companies instead. PEOs, or Professional Employer Organizations, are companies that handle a company’s employee management, such as payroll, HR, benefits administration, and onboarding, so that a small business doesn’t have to manage all of these elements on its own.

If your business isn’t ready for a PEO or even full-fledged payroll software, a simplified payroll app could be a good alternative, or you could always go the DIY payroll route, though that can be time-consuming and potentially lead to payroll calculation errors.

Learn more about the different types of payroll software and which is best for your business.

How Does Small Business Payroll Software Work?

The majority of payroll software is cloud-based. Payroll software generally uses the SaaS pricing model meaning you’ll pay monthly for access to the software. You’ll usually create a login using your email to access the software online. Some companies offer payroll mobile apps so you can manage your payroll on the go.

Payroll software often provides payroll processing, payroll tax calculations, employee management, time tracking, benefits administration, and reporting, among other features.

Do I Need Payroll Software For My Small Business?

Deciding whether your small business could benefit from payroll software depends on whether you know how to run payroll and how to calculate payroll. If you answered no to either question, going with payroll software would keep you from having to go through the process of learning how to do payroll manually.

The Benefits Of Using Payroll Software

  • Saves time on processing payroll, tracking time, & managing employee hours & PTO
  • Prevents payroll calculation errors
  • Ensures payroll tax & labor law compliance
  • Helps with year-end payroll tasks
  • Makes tax season easier with payroll records & reporting in one spot

These are just a few of the benefits of payroll software. Read our full list of payroll software benefits to learn how payroll software can help your business.

How Much Should You Expect To Pay For Payroll Software?

Payroll software pricing can be tricky.

Some SaaS companies are transparent with their pricing, and others offer custom packages that require a quote from a sales representative. You can generally expect to pay a base monthly fee of anywhere from $25-$45/month plus a per-employee fee of around $6-$10/per person for basic payroll capabilities. Some companies also charge add-on fees for specific features or services like time-tracking, benefits administration, etc.

The number of features you need and the number of employees you have will have the biggest impact on how much payroll software will cost you. Learn more about potential payroll costs and fees.

How To Choose A Good Payroll Software Company

To choose a good payroll company, look for the following:

  • Competitive pricing
  • Multiple customer support options
  • Positive customer reviews & testimonials
  • Benefits support in the state you pay employees in
  • An easy-to-navigate interface

Shy away from any company that is not forthright with its pricing when asked. Also, avoid companies with predominantly negative customer reviews or a lack of standard SaaS security measures like data encryption, two-factor authentication, employee controls, and physical server safeguards and monitoring.

Our complete guide on how to choose payroll software can help you make the right decision for your business.

The Bottom Line On Choosing The Right Payroll Software For Your Business

To choose the right payroll software for your business, you’ll need to determine what your business needs in a payroll software solution. Start by answering these questions:

  • How much payroll tax support do I need?
  • What reports do I require to run my business?
  • Will I need hand-holding through onboarding, or can I manage it myself?
  • Do I need payroll, or am I looking for a full human capital management program?
  • Is a modern interface important to me?
  • Does the payroll provider have a functional app?
  • What do the reviews say about the company? What are patterns and unresolved issues?
  • How easy is it to schedule a demo?
  • Does the price include filling W-2s?
  • Are there tax experts in case of a tax emergency?
  • Can I customize the software to suit my business’s needs?

For better or worse, these are all questions to which you need definitive answers before making a final decision on payroll software for your business. Fortunately, each payroll software has the same end goal: creating a reliable and efficient payroll system for your business.

The payroll software that is right for your business is the one that meets all your budget and payroll support needs. Thanks to the varied options available, it should be easy to find something that is a perfect fit for your business.

A Quick Recap Of The Best Small Business Payroll Software

Small Business Payroll Software FAQs

What is the best HR software for small businesses?

Merchant Maverick’s top picks for the best HR software solutions for small businesses include:

  • Gusto
  • Zenefits
  • BambooHR
  • Namely
  • Paycor

These are great options for small business owners who need to outsource or upgrade their HR departments.

That said, not all HR software solutions are created equally. Some emphasize stellar payroll capabilities, while others rely on a bevy of customizable features. The best HR software for your small business comes down to how mature your HR processes are, which will impact the priorities you should look for in HR software.

Can I do my own small business payroll?

Doing payroll by yourself may seem daunting, but doing it manually isn’t out of the question. DIY payroll can be a cheaper solution if outsourcing the process seems too expensive or if you prefer to know what’s going on with all of your payroll processes and taxes.

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Davina Ward

Davina Ward

Senior Staff Writer
Davina joined Merchant Maverick in 2022, covering small business payroll and accounting. She began writing for small businesses in 2018 and has since gained expertise in the SaaS industry. She earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in English Literature from SUNY Geneseo in 2018. She currently resides in New York.
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