Sage Payroll Review 2019: Features, Pricing, Alternatives

Randa Kriss

Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera, where she has written dozens of reviews on ecommerce, merchant services, payroll, and human resources solutions. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Iona College. Randa has previously written for the American Kennel Club, Planted, and Serendipity magazine.
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As a small business owner, your responsibilities are far-reaching and endless—they incorporate everything from big picture planning to day-to-day functions, like paying your employees. That being said, although running payroll is just one component of managing HR for your small business, there’s no doubt it’s one of the most significant. With the complexity involved in executing payroll manually, therefore, many business owners turn to a payroll software to help with the process.

Payroll software, like Sage Payroll, allows you to automatically pay your employees, manage deductions and withholdings, and file your taxes. But with a number of different payroll services on the market, how do you know if Sage is right for your business? This Sage Payroll review is here to guide you. We’ll go through the basics of Sage Payroll, the features of the platform, and the pricing, so that you can ultimately decide if Sage will best fit your needs.

Sage Payroll Services: The Basics

Sage Payroll is cloud-based payroll software, which means users can access the system from anywhere they have internet access. At its core, Sage Payroll allows you to efficiently manage and automate your payroll process. Sage Payroll Services gives you the ability to pay your employees accurately and on time, whether through direct deposit, paycards, or business-generated checks.

Additionally, Sage Payroll allows you to file your taxes, keep up-to-date on compliance, and manage employee data. Sage Payroll Services gives you the capability to integrate with a range of other software including accounting, HR management, time management, and payments. The service also offers customer support services, a six-month money-back guarantee, and access to the Sage Advice community.

Sage Payroll Features

The specific features included with Sage Payroll depends on the individual plan you select. Sage Payroll Services comes in three plan options: Sage Payroll Essentials, Sage Payroll Essentials Plus, and Sage Payroll Full Service.

Sage Payroll Essentials

Sage Payroll Essentials is the most basic plan. Sage describes their payroll software plans on a spectrum of “I want to do payroll myself” to “I want someone to do payroll for me.” The Essentials plan falls on the former end of the spectrum. With this plan, you receive payroll services through Sage’s cloud platform.

As part of the Essentials plan, you can pay your employees (deductions and tax withholdings taken care of), automatically based on your payroll schedule. You can pay your employees through direct deposit, paycards, or you can print your own checks. With this plan, you must manually enter your employee and business information in order to set up payroll. Once everything is all set up, however, you will have access to all of your payroll data in one place. Furthermore, your employees will have the ability to log in and access their personal payroll information such as W-2s and pay stubs.

On par with Sage’s payroll spectrum, this plan requires that you file your taxes yourself. Additionally, with Sage Payroll Essentials, you can integrate with your accounting software, including of course, Sage accounting software. You also have the ability to integrate this payroll platform with software such as: time management, ACA compliance, payment processing, and human capital management tools.

At this level, Sage Payroll Services also includes comprehensive payroll reporting, access to their customer support team, an advice community as well as a six-month money-back guarantee.

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Sage Payroll Essentials Plus

Payroll Essentials Plus is the second tier that Sage offers for their payroll software. On the spectrum we mentioned earlier, this plan falls slightly to the right of the Essentials option. The Essentials Plus plan covers everything included in the Essentials plan, with one major addition. Instead of filing taxes yourself, Sage Payroll Essentials Plus gives you the option to have it included in your plan. As such, tax filing for your business in the first three states is covered. This added tax service is truly the only difference between the Essentials and Essentials Plus plans.

Sage Payroll Full Service

The last Sage Payroll software plan is their most comprehensive, aptly called Sage Payroll Full Service. This plan falls on the “I want someone to do payroll for me” end of the spectrum. With the Full Service option, Sage will take on the responsibility and manual processes associated with the Essentials and Essentials Plus Plans.

To explain, with Sage Payroll Full Service, you are paired with a dedicated service representative to set up your payroll and support specific needs. In addition to the payroll processing services included in the previous plans, with this tier, Sage will file and remit your taxes in all states and jurisdictions.

Furthermore, with the Full Service plan, Sage incorporates additional HR data management.

Sage Payroll HCM

Although Sage Payroll HCM is not one of Sage’s three typical payroll software plans, it’s worth discussing in this context. As the name suggests, Sage Payroll HCM is essentially an extension of Sage Payroll Full Service.

Sage Payroll HCM starts with all of the capabilities of Sage Payroll Services and adds the tools of a human capital management system—recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding employees. With Sage Payroll HCM, you’ll get access to a career job portal to manage job descriptions and view candidate profiles. You can create and publish open jobs to various job searching platforms, manage applications, and generate reports. Once you’ve made your hiring decisions, you can use Sage to onboard new employees—giving them access to manuals, trainings, employment forms, and customizable workflow templates.

Sage Payroll Pricing

Although Sage does detail pricing for their accounting software on their website, they do not list pricing for their payroll services, nor for Sage Payroll HCM. In order to find out the Sage payroll cost, you have to contact Sage directly and speak with one of their sales specialists. Sage will give you customized pricing based on your individual needs.

For quote-based software like Sage, therefore, the price of your plan can depend your plan, on a number of factors including the size of your business, the specific plan you choose, your payroll schedule, and any additional capabilities or integrations you require and purchase. It’s worth noting that Sage’s payroll software competitors (which we’ll discuss further below) often break down pricing into a monthly base fee plus a monthly fee per employee. Ultimately, you’ll have to work with Sage directly to find out the price based on your specific business.

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Sage Payroll Services Reviews

On the whole, the user reviews of Sage Payroll are mixed. In fact, sometimes the reviews conflict one another, with customers saying they like a feature that others dislike. In general, some users speak positively and say they will continue to use Sage Payroll Services, while others say the platform leaves a lot to be desired. In many reviews, customers will, in fact, neither skew completely positive or negative, but rather discuss a number of both pros and cons of the platform.

Here’s an overview of what users are saying:

Positive Sage Payroll Reviews

The positive parts of reviews of Sage Payroll praise the platform for being simple, easy-to-use, and good for their target demographic, small to medium-sized businesses. Users who like the software say that the payroll processing is efficient, accurate, convenient, and customizable. Many users say in general, using Sage Payroll saves them time, they appreciate the range of reporting features and they like that it can be accessed through the cloud and therefore, in many different places.

Additionally, it seems like many users report utilizing Sage Payroll in conjunction with one of their accounting platforms. Businesses that use multiple Sage products seem to appreciate the way that they work together.

Negative Sage Payroll Reviews

In the reviews that highlight negative elements of Sage Payroll Services, users have a few core complaints. First, many users dislike the user interface, claiming it’s slow, difficult to use, can be buggy, and is also outdated. In the same vein, users say the platform is complicated to set up, especially for deductions and payroll taxes, and that the reporting features could be improved upon. Additionally, some say it’s not easy to manage complex employee information and payments with Sage.

On the whole, many users say that although it does what it needs to do, it could and should have more functionality. These customers write that the platform should have more features included. Furthermore, some users who have multiple Sage products, in contrast to other reviews, feel that the integration is inadequate.

It’s also worth noting that the Sage Payroll reviews out there are generally conflicted in terms of what users think of the price. Since Sage Payroll pricing is quoted based on the individual business, this conflict makes sense, as the actual price of the software is going to vary depending on the customer. However, for consideration’s sake, we noticed that some users claim that the price is reasonable, while others feel it’s too expensive, especially considering the capabilities of the platform, as well as the amount of add-ons that are required to extend what it can do.

Alternatives to Sage Payroll

As you consider all of your payroll software options, including Sage, you should also take a look at industry competitors so that you can best determine which product suits your specific needs. Here are a few top alternatives to Sage Payroll Services:

Gusto Payroll

If you’re looking for a well-rounded payroll software with extended functionality, Gusto Payroll is one of the most popular in the business. Like Sage Payroll, Gusto offers three different plans, with increased functionality and features in each tier. The most basic plan, Gusto Core, not only includes payroll processing, but additional features, like benefits administration, that are not part of either Sage Essentials or Sage Essentials Plus.

Furthermore, with Gusto’s two higher-level plans, you receive even more benefits like PTO approvals, employee offers and onboarding, and HR resources. Although Sage and Gusto both offer integration possibilities, Gusto’s general plans offer greater functionality than any of the three from Sage Payroll Services.

Additionally, unlike Sage, Gusto lists their pricing on their website, with the Core plan starting at $39 per month plus $6 per month per employee you pay using the software. Again, since Sage Payroll operates on quote-based pricing, we can’t directly compare the costs. However, in comparison to other payroll software out there, Gusto is generally considered one of the most comprehensive for a reasonable price. Therefore, if you’re looking for a full breadth of functionality included with your payroll software, Gusto is a worthy alternative to Sage Payroll.

QuickBooks Payroll

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a payroll software with a robust accounting integration to compare to Sage Payroll, you might want to consider QuickBooks Payroll. If you’re already using QuickBooks for your accounting needs, using QuickBooks Payroll will be one of the easiest ways to complete your payroll processing.

QuickBooks Payroll, unlike Sage and Gusto, only has two different service plans—Self Service Payroll and Full Service Payroll. Similarly to Sage, however, QuickBooks’s plans are wholly payroll focused, unlike the wider variety of functions (time management, HR capabilities) that Gusto plans can offer. As you might imagine from the plan names, the main difference between QuickBooks’ two offerings is how much of your payroll and tax processing you want to do yourself—with Full Service providing full tax service and W-2 filings. Additionally, just as you can with Sage, QuickBooks provides various integrations you can purchase to receive added capabilities.

Pricing for QuickBooks Payroll, depends of course on your plan, with Self-Service costing $35 per month plus $4 per employee per month and Full-Service costing $80 per month plus $4 per employee per month. As of April 2019, you can get either of these plans at 50% off for three months. QuickBooks offers a free 30-day trial of their payroll plans as well. In comparing these prices to other payroll software, it seems that QuickBooks’ range is fairly competitive. This being said, if you’re considering Sage for its accounting integration and straight-forward focus on payroll, you might want to take a deeper look at QuickBooks, as well.

Patriot Payroll

Just as Sage covers the essential payroll needs for small businesses, Patriot Payroll strives to do the same. Patriot Payroll is known for their simplicity, affordability, and low cost. Patriot Payroll has two offerings, Basic and Full-Service. Their Basic plan includes your general payroll processing, similar to the Sage Essentials plan. Patriot’s Full-Service plan brings the additional functionality of tax processing, just like the upper tier levels of Sage Payroll.

Patriot also offers add ons for time and attendance as well as HR software. While Patriot Payroll doesn’t have some of the extended capabilities that Gusto has, their thorough payroll offerings are proportionate to that of Sage. Patriot, however, is also known for their affordability, with the Basic plan costing $10 per month with an added $4 per month per employee. Patriot Payroll also offers a 30 day free trial for both of their plans. If you have a small team and are looking mostly for payroll functionality at a low price, Patriot is a worthy alternative to Sage.

Is Sage Payroll Right for Your Business?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine the right payroll software for your business’s needs. It seems that Sage Payroll Services is best suited for small to medium-sized businesses that want a simple, foundational payroll system they can rely on. If your business already works with a Sage product, this is definitely something to consider when looking at their payroll software. If you’re looking for a payroll system with included, extended functionality, however, you might want to consider one of Sage’s alternatives.

Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone. They haven’t been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the companies mentioned above. Learn more about our editorial process and how we make money here.

Randa Kriss

Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera, where she has written dozens of reviews on ecommerce, merchant services, payroll, and human resources solutions. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Iona College. Randa has previously written for the American Kennel Club, Planted, and Serendipity magazine.

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