10 Best Payroll Software for Small Business

Updated on March 31, 2022
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What Is the Best Payroll Software for Small Business?

  1. Gusto offers the fullest payroll plans for small businesses—at the most reasonable price.
  2. QuickBooks Payroll is the best fit for business owners who use QuickBooks accounting software.
  3. Patriot Payroll is the best low-cost payroll software for small businesses.
  4. Payroll4Free is the best free payroll software.
  5. ADP Payroll is best for businesses of any size that want custom pricing and options.
  6. OnPay Payroll is the best payroll option for businesses with hourly and contract workers.
  7. Paychex Flex is the most scalable payroll product for growing businesses. 
  8. Square Payroll is best for business owners who already use Square for their POS.
  9. Zenefits Payroll is the best comprehensive option that syncs with HR functions.
  10. Wave Payroll is best for businesses looking to try other software for free.

Choosing payroll software for your small business is a weighty decision because paying your employees accurately and on time is important to retaining a high-functioning team. There’s a wide range of payroll software available on the market from free payroll apps with barebones features to full-service payroll systems with HR add-ons. Here are some of the top options to consider.

The Best Payroll Software for Small Business

1. Gusto Payroll

Gusto is our pick for the best payroll that offers the fullest package—at the most reasonable price. This payroll, benefits, and HR platform is available to small businesses starting at just $45 a month. Gusto also has an option for contractor-only businesses, with no base price and a monthly fee of $6 per person.

All versions of Gusto offer access to full-service payroll. As you move up the plan tiers, the more features you’ll get.

Gusto Core is the least-expensive plan at a monthly base price of $39 and $6 per person. Every Gusto plan comes with these features:

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Employee self-service options with lifetime access
  • Health benefits administration
  • Workers’ comp administration
  • Live customer support by phone, email, and chat
  • Accounting, time tracking, and other integrations

The Gusto Complete plan is the next level up and has the same $39 base price but is an additional $12 per employee per month. The added features are:

  • Next-day direct deposit option
  • Time tracking and time off management
  • Employee offers and onboarding
  • Employee directory, org charts, and surveys

Gusto Concierge, the most-expensive plan, costs $149 per month plus an additional $12 per employee with the added features of:

  • Dedicated customer support
  • Certified HR professionals
  • HR resource center

Gusto offers an interactive demo so you can explore plan features. Extra benefits such as 401(k) retirement plans and health insurance can be added to your Gusto plan.

Get Started With Gusto Payroll

2. QuickBooks Payroll

QuickBooks Payroll is another top option for small businesses. If you’re already using QuickBooks accounting software to track your business’s finances, it will be easy to add payroll. You can simply activate this payroll software within QuickBooks Online.

There are three versions of software to choose from, starting with QuickBooks Payroll Core at $45 monthly plus $4 per employee. QuickBooks Payroll Premium is $75 plus $8 per employee per month. And for $125 monthly plus $10 per employee, you can purchase QuickBooks Payroll Elite. A 50% reduction in the base price for three months may be available to reduce the initial cost of the plans.

The Core plan offers full-service features including the following:

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Direct deposit (next day)
  • Federal and state payroll taxes filing and payment
  • Employee portal
  • Payroll support from experts
  • Payroll reports
  • Options for health benefits and 401(k) plans

Features such as HR support and employee services are available in the Premium plan. This package has everything in the Core plan, plus the following additional features:

  • Same-day direct deposit
  • Workers’ comp administration
  • Mobile time tracking
  • Expert review of your payroll setup
  • HR support center

The Elite plan offers more personalized assistance. It has everything in the other two plans, plus:

  • Setup provided by an expert
  • 24/7 product support
  • Personal HR advisor
  • IRS tax penalty protection

QuickBooks doesn’t limit who can use their payroll product. It’s available to businesses of any size, even those with just one employee.


Get Started With QuickBooks Payroll

3. Patriot Payroll

Another option on our list of the best payroll software for small businesses is Patriot Software Payroll. The software comes in two versions, and you can try it for free for 30 days.

The Basic version costs $10 a month plus $4 per employee or contractor. Standard payroll features are included, except the payment and filing of payroll taxes is your responsibility. The software has the following payroll capabilities:

  • Payroll setup and support
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Direct deposit or the option to print checks
  • Employee portal
  • Workers’ comp, accounting, and time management integrations

The other Patriot option is Full-Service payroll which includes payroll tax features. It costs $30 per month plus $4 per employee or contractor. You’ll have access to all Basic features along with the following:

  • Federal, state, and local taxes filing and payment
  • Year-end payroll tax filings including W-2s
  • Guaranteed tax filing accuracy

Patriot Payroll is designed for businesses with up to 100 employees. It may not work for you if you currently have more than 100 workers or expect to exceed that amount in the near future.

Try Patriot Payroll for Free

4. Payroll4Free

If you’re strictly on the hunt for a free payroll software, then consider Payroll4Free. If you have 25 or fewer people to pay, you can access basic payroll features at no cost.

Basic features include the following:

  • Payroll processing for employees and contractors
  • Direct deposits to your bank account or checks
  • Tax calculations for federal, state, and local taxes with filing for a fee
  • Time tracking
  • Employee access
  • Ability to export payroll data
  • Customer support

Beyond those basic features, you can pay $30 monthly to have Payroll4Free deposit and file your payroll taxes and also transfer direct deposit funds to your employees’ bank accounts instead of yours.

5. ADP Payroll

Automatic Data Processing, also known as ADP, is a huge name in the business software world and ADP Run is their payroll product for small businesses with one to 49 employees. ADP also offers payroll plans for 50 or more employees under the Workforce Now product.

There are four Run packages to choose from: Essential, Enhanced, Complete, and HR Pro. Additional features are available as you move up the tiered plans. Pricing isn’t available online; ADP only provides custom quotes.

The Run Essential plan offers basic payroll features that include:

  • Payroll runs by computer, mobile device, and phone.
  • Direct deposit and payroll delivery
  • Tax filing and deposit
  • Payroll and HR reporting
  • Employee access
  • New hire onboarding
  • Employee discounts

The Run Enhanced plan offers additional payroll and HR features such as:

  • State unemployment insurance management
  • ZipRecruiter access
  • Background checks

The Run Complete plan offers more HR support and tools including:

  • HR help desk, forms, and documents
  • HR tracking, training, and toolkits

The Run HR Pro plan offers the most HR features and includes:

  • Access to HR business advisors
  • Marketing tools and advice
  • Legal assistance from Upnetic Legal Services

ADP Run also offers add-on options for their plans that include health insurance, retirement, workers’ comp, and time and attendance.

Get Started With ADP Payroll

6. OnPay Payroll 

OnPay may be a great option for you to consider when you want free help switching payroll companies, including the migration of prior period payroll data. OnPay offers a single plan with pricing readily available on the website. The cost is $36 per month plus $4 per person and the first month is free.

OnPay may be a good fit for your business if you’re paying contractors or part-time employees because you’re only billed for the people you actually pay during the month. You select the workers you want to pay and then enter their hours or wages before running payroll.

Features included with OnPay Payroll are:

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • Tax filing and payments
  • W-2 and 1099 forms
  • Direct deposit, debit card, or printed check
  • Employee self-onboarding and lifetime account access
  • Accounting and other software integrations
  • Phone, chat, and email support available Monday through Friday
  • HR tools including state new hire reporting
  • Health and dental benefits in all 50 states.
Get Started With OnPay

7. Paychex

Paychex Flex offers several plans for growing businesses. You can start with a lower-tier plan and move to the more expensive and more robust ones as necessary. The simplest plan is Paychex Flex Essentials starting at a monthly base price of $39 plus $5 per employee. Paychex Flex Select, Paychex Flex Pro, and Paychex Flex Enterprise, which offer more robust features, are available at quote-based pricing.

All four of the Paychex plans have these features:

  • Payroll services including direct deposit
  • Tax services
  • New-hire reporting
  • Workers’ comp insurance, at an additional cost
  • Free mobile app
  • 24/7 phone and chat support
  • HR library with documents

When you opt for the Select and Pro plans, you get more features, such as a dedicated payroll specialist to help with tax or payroll questions. One drawback about Paychex Flex is that pricing isn’t readily available on their website for all plans, so it can be a little difficult to compare services.

Request a Free Quote From Paychex

8. Square Payroll

You’re probably familiar with Square’s point-of-sale product, but it also offers full-payroll service. The standard plan costs $35 per month plus $5 per employee. If you only pay contractors, Square Payroll has a plan that’s just $5 per contractor per month.

Some of the features in the full-service payroll product are:

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Direct deposit, check, or Cash App
  • Tax filing and payments
  • Employee app
  • Live support of payroll setup
  • Workers’ comp insurance
  • Healthcare and retirement benefits
  • HR partners to help with compliance

You can run payroll from your phone and also sync employee hours, manage permissions, and review sales through the Square Team Management integration. There’s no long-term contract with Square, you can cancel at any time or pause billing.

Get Started With Square Payroll

9. Zenefits Payroll

Zenefits offers a payroll option that can automatically sync with other HR functions such as time tracking, new hire onboarding, and benefit deductions. Of the three plans offered, the least expensive is the Essentials plan at $8 per month per employee. The Growth plan is $14 per month per employee and the Zen plan is $21 per month per employee. Higher-priced plans offer more features.

Some of the many features of the payroll software are:

  • Unlimited payroll runs including contractor payments
  • Direct deposit
  • Federal and state tax filing
  • Lifetime account access for employees
  • Automatic state notification of new hires
  • Prorated payments for new employees
  • Payroll, tax, and general ledger reporting

Zenefits has a robust offering of integrations including ones for productivity, applicant tracking, retirement savings, accounting, travel, performance management, and more.

Get Started With Zenefits Payroll

10. Wave Payroll

Wave offers free accounting and invoicing software, but you’ll have to pay for Wave Payroll. The cost of Wave Payroll varies by state because in some states Wave offers tax services. In states where tax services are offered, the cost is $35 per month plus $6 per active employee or contractor. The cost is reduced to $20 monthly plus $6 per active employee or contractor in “self-service” states. This means that Wave will calculate the amount but you have to pay and file payroll taxes yourself.

Here are some of the features provided with Wave Payroll:

  • Direct deposits
  • Employee portal
  • Tax filing and payment, limited to certain states
  • W-2 and 1099 forms
  • Timesheets
  • Live chat support on weekdays
  • Integration with Wave accounting, payments, and invoicing

If you are in the market for accounting and invoice software in addition to payroll, the overall cost of Wave may be reduced since two out of the three apps are free.

The Bottom Line

Determining your must-have features can help when you weigh the pros and cons of each payroll software. You should also consider how much help you need with your taxes and payroll setup. Finally, when looking at the cost of the software, don’t forget to allow for the additional monthly expense that comes with adding employees as your business grows.

Maddie Shepherd
Contributing Writer at Fundera

Maddie Shepherd

Maddie Shepherd is a former Fundera senior staff writer and current contributing writer for Fundera. 

Maddie has an extensive knowledge of business credit cards, accounting tools, and merchant services, but specializes in small business financing advice. She has reviewed and analyzed dozens of financial tools and providers, helping business owners make better financial decisions. 

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