10 Best Payroll Services for Small Businesses in 2021

Managing payroll can be tough for a busy small business owner. Every time you hire someone, there are forms to fill, checks to sign, taxes to pay, regulations to comply with, paid time off to track, and so many more human resources tasks.

Luckily, there are a variety of payroll companies that can make these processes much easier for your business.

We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to the best payroll services for small business owners to help you find the right solution for your needs. And—in addition to reviewing these services—we’ll also give you some tips on what to look for when shopping and comparing different payroll providers for your business.

Here are the best payroll services for small businesses:

1. Gusto Payroll
2. QuickBooks Payroll
3. Square Payroll
4. Paychex
5. ADP
6. OnPay
7. Paylocity
8. Patriot Payroll
9. Wave Payroll
10. SurePayroll

10 Best Payroll Services for Small Business

Click on the provider name—or keep scrolling—to learn more about the best payroll companies for small businesses.

Payroll Provider Best for
Well-rounded, scalable payroll service
Businesses that use QuickBooks accounting software
Businesses that use Square POS
All-inclusive, scalable payroll and HR solution with top customer support
5. ADP
Diverse payroll and HR needs, scalability, solutions for businesses of all different sizes
Feature-rich payroll service at affordable, all-inclusive price
Larger businesses with wide range of payroll and HR needs; those focused on data and efficiency
Straightforward, low-cost payroll service; businesses with 100 employees or less and businesses on a budget
Wave accounting users; payroll from a free accounting software provider
Automated, full-service payroll service with customized pricing

1. Gusto Payroll

Best for: Well-rounded, scalable payroll service

A popular all-in-one payroll/HR/benefits system, Gusto Payroll (previously known as ZenPayroll) is a user-friendly, intuitive package that automates many of the boring, repetitive, and error-prone tasks that HR and payroll management often come with.

From basic payroll to 401(k) and workers’ compensation, Gusto gives you everything in one—plus, they probably integrate with the software you already use for accounting, time tracking, and benefits administration.

Pricing: The Gusto Core plan starts at a flat rate of $39, plus $6 per employee per month. Gusto also has an option for contractor-only employers, who simply pay the $6/employee rate and no base price.

Pros:

  • Full-service payroll included with all plans
  • Employee self-service and profiles available with all plans
  • All plans offer health benefits and workers comp administration

Cons:

  • Time management tools and some HR features require higher-level plans
  • Per employee cost is more expensive than some competitors
Get Started With Gusto Payroll

2. QuickBooks Payroll

Best for: QuickBooks accounting users

Most people know Intuit as a provider of accounting software, but they also have payroll solutions for small businesses, QuickBooks Payroll. They offer three different small business payroll plans—ranging from the payroll basics to white glove automated payroll and tax management—and a host of combination packages with their popular accounting software, QuickBooks Online.

If you’re not sure which plan is right for you, you can try any plan for free for 30 days first to make sure it’s what you need (though you won’t get any promotional pricing after the trial). There’s also a payroll option that links up with QuickBooks Desktop for businesses that already use that as their accounting software.

Pricing: Depending on the plan you choose, you will pay either $45, $75, and $125 per month respectively, plus a smaller amount per employee per month. The base-level plan, Core, starts at $45 per month, plus $4 per employee per month.

Pros:

  • Integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks
  • All plans include full-service payroll with automatic tax calculations, health benefits administration, and a workforce portal
  • User-friendly

Cons:

  • Much more difficult to manage if you don’t use QuickBooks for accounting
  • Limited HR and recruiting features, even with higher-tier plans
Buy QuickBooks Payroll for 50% Off

3. Square Payroll

Best for: Square POS users

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, intuitive, and tech-friendly solution to payroll processing, it’s hard to beat Square Payroll, available in all 50 states.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best payroll services for retail businesses that already use Square point of sale and hire contractors or hourly employees. Your hourly employees can clock in and out from the Square app, wherever they are, and taxes are taken care of for you.

All in all, Square Payroll is much less expensive than many competitors, especially given that it integrates with a full suite of benefits providers so you and your employees can access health insurance, 401(k), and more.

Pricing: $35 per month, plus $5 per person per month—or $5 per month per person paid for contractors only plan.

Pros:

  • Full-service payroll with flat-rate, all-inclusive pricing
  • Seamlessly syncs with Square POS, as well as other Square tools
  • Allows you to connect to Square, or other tools, for time tracking and team management

Cons:

  • Limited HR-specific features and reporting tools
  • Many of Square’s other tools require monthly fees
  • Reviews suggest software can be buggy
Get Started With Square Payroll

4. Paychex

Best for: All-inclusive, scalable payroll and HR solution with top customer support

Although Paychex includes payroll services for any business, their small business product—Paychex Flex—is definitely worth considering.

If you have one to 49 employees, it’s a great solution for payroll and taxes, business insurance, 401(k)s, and HR management. Paychex is a cloud-based, mobile-friendly service that comes with a high-quality support team, available 24/7, to help you out with any complex questions or issues.

Pricing: Quote-based pricing

Pros:

  • Full-service payroll solution with 160+ reports and analytics, new hire reporting and labor compliance tools, and online employee self-service
  • Very scalable, designed to grow with your business
  • 24/7 U.S. based customer service and a dedicated payroll specialist for your account

Cons:

  • Quote-based pricing makes it difficult to compare costs upfront
  • Breadth of features make it less user-friendly than competitors
Request a Free Quote From Paychex

5. ADP

Best for: Diverse payroll and HR needs; solutions for businesses of all different sizes

ADP, or Automatic Data Processing, is one of the oldest and best-known names in payroll. Over 600,000 businesses across the country rely on ADP Payroll to pay their workers. They offer payroll services to businesses of all sizes, whether you’ve got just a handful of employees or are a multinational corporation.

With ADP’s small business packages (designed for one to 49 employees), you receive payroll and tax filing software, time and attendance tracking, benefits planning, insurance services, and more.

Although you might find the price tag a little large, especially compared to some competitors on our list, ADP is a powerful tool for any entrepreneur looking for a bit more organization in their lives.

Pricing: Quote-based pricing

Pros:

  • Robust feature set that includes everything from full-service payroll to new hire reporting, HR checkups, state and federal forms, and other resources
  • Extremely scalable—can start with one payroll service and increase your features as your business grows
  • 24/7 customer support

Cons:

  • Quote-based pricing makes it hard to compare pricing upfront
  • Expansive platform may be more than some businesses need
Get Started With ADP Payroll

6. OnPay

Best for: Feature-rich payroll service at an affordable, all-inclusive price

OnPay is a straightforward payroll planning, reviewing, and submission tool (plus tax filings and payments).

With unlimited payroll processing, an intuitive and mobile program, and a transparent monthly pricing scale, OnPay is one of the best payroll providers for basic payroll needs. They guarantee all payroll and tax filings.

Pricing: Starts at $36 per month, plus $4 per person per month

Pros:

  • Full-service payroll with accuracy guarantee
  • All-inclusive price includes HR tools like automated onboarding flows, compliance audits, and state new hire reporting
  • Customer support offers free account migration, help setting up integrations, and emergency email support on weekends

Cons:

  • Limited third-party integrations
  • Reviews suggest some features could be more intuitive
Get Started With OnPay

7. Paylocity

Best for: Larger businesses with a wide range of payroll and HR needs

Paylocity is all about efficiency and data. They will take care of payroll and compliance for you, and they offer an array of reports to help you understand your company’s payroll better. Plus, if you want additional features, Paylocity also has online integrations with retirement providers, wellness plans, and point-of-sale systems.

Pricing: Quote-based pricing

Pros:

  • Full-service payroll system with focus on data
  • Extensive suite of tools beyond payroll, including HR, workforce management, talent, benefits, etc.
  • Integrations for time tracking, accounting, workers comp, and more

Cons:

  • No upfront pricing available
  • Can be a learning curve getting started
  • Reviews suggest customer service could be improved

Read our complete Paylocity review.

8. Patriot Payroll

Best for: Businesses with 100 employees or less

This small business-oriented option has a completely online experience, transparent monthly pricing, pre-printed checks for customers, free setup and support, and a free 30-day trial.

One of the most affordable options on our list, Patriot Payroll’s focus is on simplicity and usability—no need to waste time learning a complicated program just to manage a few employees (although they service businesses with up to 100).

Pricing: Starts at $10 per month, plus $4 per person per month

Pros:

  • Option for self-service or full-service payroll with low fees
  • Both plans include free payroll setup, free expert support, direct deposit, and employee access
  • Integrations with accounting software and workers comp tools; additional software available for monthly fees
  • Very highly reviewed across customer review sites

Cons:

  • Limited in scope of features compared to competitors
  • Limited third-party integrations—most are Patriot add-ons
  • Not designed for businesses with more than 100 employees
Try Patriot Payroll for Free

9. Wave Payroll

Best for: Payroll from a free accounting software provider

Wave offers multiple financial products for small business, and their commitment to smaller companies shines through. For businesses in large states like California and New York, Wave offers full-service payroll. With smaller states, they’ll handle payments for you, but you’ll need to file tax paperwork on your own.

You can expect year-end filing, tax liability tracking, paystubs, and W-2s available on an employee portal, and backups and encryption, all on top of the usual selection of direct deposit and check printing. Plus, this small business payroll service integrates with the rest of Wave’s free accounting software as well, so it’s definitely one of the best options for keeping your payroll in the same place as your accounting and invoicing.

Pricing: $20 per month plus $6 per person for self-service; $35 per month plus same per person fee for full-service

Pros:

  • Automatically integrates with Wave Accounting, Invoicing, and Payments
  • Includes live chat support during the week, as well as email assistance
  • Offers time tracking in addition to direct deposit and employee self-service portal

Cons:

  • Full-service payroll only available in 14 states
  • Not a great option for those who don’t use Wave accounting software
  • Limited advanced payroll and HR features

Read our complete Wave Payroll review.

10. SurePayroll

Best for: Automated, full-service payroll with customized pricing

Owned by Paychex, SurePayroll is available for desktop or mobile, letting you adjust your small business’s payroll services 24/7. They provide a guarantee on federal, state, and local taxes, so you have peace of mind. And you can easily contact their staff by email, live chat, or phone.

SurePayroll is specifically oriented for small businesses by offering flexible payroll schedules, easy online reporting, a payroll tax guarantee, and options for contract hires.

You can easily run payroll and manage other functions from their comprehensive mobile app, which is convenient for small business owners on the go. It also has special options for paying childcare providers and home-based workers, if those apply to you.

Pricing: Quote-based pricing

Pros:

  • Ability to choose between self-service and full-service payroll, as well as customize your plan for your needs
  • Live, U.S.-based customer support with weekend and extended hours
  • Range of proprietary add-ons, as well as a handful of third-party integrations

Cons:

  • No upfront pricing for overall cost of service
  • Timeclock and accounting software integrations and tax filings require additional monthly costs

Read our complete SurePayroll review.

How to Choose the Best Payroll Service for Your Small Business

Now that we’ve reviewed our list of the best payroll services, you may still be wondering: How do I pick one?

Ultimately, there are thousands of solutions, and choosing the right payroll system for your company can be difficult.

But one thing is clear: Even if you have just a handful of employees, it’s often better to use a payroll company than to try to do things completely on your own. At the end of the day, the upfront investment for payroll services is usually worth it.

That said, as you compare different options, here are a few factors to keep in mind to try to decide which service is best for your needs.

Pricing

The price for small business payroll services typically ranges from a $20 to $50 monthly base rate, plus an additional per-employee fee.

For example, you might purchase a payroll service for $39 a month, plus $6 per employee per month. Some companies offer free trials, which we recommend using to get a feel for the payroll software or service. And companies often have multiple plans or tiers depending on what services you need.

Many companies that offer payroll services for small businesses also offer other HR solutions, such as onboarding help and accounting services. As you might expect, you’ll pay more for all-in-one solutions, so purchase these services as a bundle only if you plan on using everything.

Tax Guarantee

For some entrepreneurs, the whole point of purchasing payroll services is so that they don’t have to pay any payroll tax fines or penalties.

Accordingly, there are certain payroll companies that offer a guarantee. They promise you won’t face any fines—and if you do, they’ll reimburse you.

Don’t see a lack of a guarantee as a deal-breaker, though: it usually depends on how automated or manual the actual service is. If payroll uploading and submitting is all on you, then your payroll taxes probably aren’t guaranteed.

Industry Specifics

If you’re in an industry with specific payroll demands, you’ll want to double-check that your favorite service can handle those extra steps.

For example, restaurants need special payroll filings for tips. And if you hire independent contractors, there are special forms you have to file. If the payroll provider you selected can’t handle those specific requirements, you should reconsider your choice.

Necessary Features

What do you actually need from a payroll service? If you’ve just got one or two employees, you might want to only pay for the basics: paying your employees, calculating your payroll taxes, and filing your tax forms.

If you have dozens of employees or a fast-growing business, then some extra human resources-focused add-ons, such as recruitment and onboarding support for new hire paperwork, could be worth paying extra.

Just know that the more you get, the more you pay—so when you’re comparing the best payroll services, think about what you need now and in the immediate future.

Ease of Use

Whether you end up choosing a mobile app, a desktop application, or a full-service firm, your payroll service should be easy to figure out. You don’t want to spend as much time learning how to use your payroll software as you would’ve spent doing payroll yourself, after all.

So read reviews online, check out screenshots, and try a free trial if you can to make sure the payroll solution that you’re considering makes sense to you.

Customer Service

Can you reach this service by phone? Over email? With live chat support? Are their hours convenient for your business? Have you tried their customer service line a few times to test out whether they’re helpful?

Even with the best payroll services for small businesses, payroll is complicated. It’s always important to make sure that you have the right customer service options in case something goes wrong—and even more so, to help you with any payroll compliance concerns.

The Bottom Line

With some of the best payroll services listed here (and even more available on the market) to choose from for your small business, how do you decide? Rely on the factors we mentioned above, such as budget, features, and industry, to make your pick.

Also, many of the best small business payroll providers offer free trials or free quotes, making it easy to compare their features and see which holds the best value for your specific needs.

Try out the packages that sound like the right fit, see what systems you and your employees are most comfortable with, and check the pricing to understand what you can afford.

Looking for the most affordable options? Use our guide to compare the best free payroll software solutions.

Priyanka Prakash, JD
Senior Contributing Writer at Fundera

Priyanka Prakash, JD

Priyanka Prakash is a senior contributing writer at Fundera.

Priyanka specializes in small business finance, credit, law, and insurance, helping businesses owners navigate complicated concepts and decisions. Since earning her law degree from the University of Washington, Priyanka has spent half a decade writing on small business financial and legal concerns. Prior to joining Fundera, Priyanka was managing editor at a small business resource site and in-house counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup.

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