Best low-cost payroll software in 2024

Payroll software isn’t one-size-fits-all. And some of the more robust options on the market can cost an arm and a leg. But the best low-cost payroll software for small business will handle all federal, state, and local taxes, keep you compliant, and give you peace of mind that payroll is accurate and on time, every time. It should be able to grow as your business grows, all with a price tag that won’t break the bank.

We’ve put together a handy guide to compare the most affordable payroll services to help you make the right choice for your growing team.

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1. Gusto – Best all-in-one affordable payroll software for small business

Overview

Gusto tops our list of affordable payroll software for small business with a wealth of easy-to-use, people-first features and fully integrated and automated functionality. Payroll is out the door in just a few clicks, and their intuitive interface simplifies even the most complex tasks—whether you’re an HR professional or it’s your first time running payroll. One low fee includes multiple pay rates and schedules and unlimited payroll runs each month, along with all federal, state, and local taxes. 

Basic hiring, onboarding, and benefits administration come included with every plan. Compared with other players in the space, Gusto offers a more robust set of tools at a more attractive price point than behemoths like Paychex and ADP. Their customer service is some of the highest rated in the industry, and their pricing is transparent, which is becoming a rarity.  

Gusto also won the top spot for payroll software for small business in 2023 in independent analysis by NerdWallet, U.S. News and World Report, Business.org, and Fit Small Business, just to name a few.  

AUTOMATIC TAX FILING & COMPLIANCE

Every time you run payroll, all federal, state, and local taxes are automatically calculated, filed, and paid along with benefits deductions, workers’ comp, and PTO. Gusto handles all your 1099s and W-2s, and they’ll keep you compliant with meal times, breaks, and minimum wage. This can be a lifesaver for small businesses that struggle with complex payroll tax requirements. 

FULLY INTEGRATED

Having a single system to manage payroll, taxes, time tracking, and compliance, as well as hiring, onboarding, performance, and benefits, reduces your admin burden and streamlines your tech stack. Gusto is ready to grow as you grow, offering more robust solutions as you need them.   

BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION 

Managing benefits can be cost-prohibitive for many small businesses. But Gusto offers custom no-cost, low-cost, and premium benefits options to help build a package that fits your budget. Benefits administration is included at no extra cost, which sets them apart from many competitors. Employees can self-enroll, saving time and simplifying the enrollment process.

EMPLOYEE SELF-SERVICE

Employee self-onboarding makes it easy to upload documents, e-sign contracts, and gives employees lifetime access to paystubs, W-2s, and more. Employees can view their paychecks, manage PTO, clock in and out, and access financial management tools right from the app.   

DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

Gusto recently expanded new-hire support to all 50 states with FUTA and SUI payments calculated and paid automatically. They also expanded international contractor support to 120+ countries, and they’ve just rolled out an Employer of Record service for global employees.

Key Features

  • Seamlessly integrated payroll, HR, time tracking, and benefits
  • Payroll, taxes, and compliance in all 50 states
  • Next-day / 2-day direct deposit
  • Multiple pay rates and schedules
  • Unlimited payroll runs 
  • Pay by direct deposit, check, or prepaid debit card
  • Integrated time tracking tools
  • Payroll on AutoPilot fully automates payroll for salaried employees
  • Support for international contractors in 120+ countries; global payroll currently being rolled out
  • Employee-self service 
  • Benefits administration included in all plans at no additional cost
  • AI-powered payroll and workforce reporting
  • Hundreds of software integrations at no extra cost 

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Intuitive, easy to use interfaceMulti-state payroll only available on Plus and Premium plans
Taxes and compliance are fully automated and don’t cost extraMobile app lacks full payroll functionality
All-in-one solution for payroll, time, benefits, and HRTime-tracking only included in Plus and Premium plans
Unlimited pay rates, schedules, and payroll runs at no extra cost
Transparent pricing, no hidden fees
Fully integrated time tracking
Excellent customer support
Hundreds of software integrations included with all plans

Pricing

Gusto offers three pricing plans, with the Simple plan starting at $40 per month plus $6 per person per month. The Simple plan includes Payroll on AutoPilot along with multiple pay rates and schedules and unlimited payroll runs. It also comes loaded with basic support for hiring and onboarding, and benefits administration, but it lacks support for multi-state payroll as well as time tracking and more complex PTO policies.  

Plus plans start at $80 per month plus $12 per person per month and include time-tracking, complex PTO, multi-state payroll, and next-day direct deposit along with the full suite of advanced hiring, onboarding, and team management tools. 

You can also pay contractors for just $6 per month per contractor, and you’ll only be charged in the months you pay them. 

Premium plans are priced exclusively, and include everything Gusto has to offer with no hidden monthly fees. For more info on Premium pricing, contact their sales team today

Free Trial? Yes, Gusto is free until you run your first payroll.

Free Version: No.

Transform your payroll processes with Gusto, a platform that’s already the choice of over 300,000 businesses.

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2. OnPay – Best for multi-state businesses

Overview

OnPay is consistently rated as the best cheap payroll software for small businesses. They offer a simple, straightforward set of tools at one low price. There are no tiers or extras to figure out. Their single package comes with payroll, taxes, compliance, basic HR tools, and benefits administration in all 50 states. They support multi-state payroll as well as multiple pay rates and schedules. With OnPay, what you see is what you get.  

OnPay is a great choice for companies that need payroll with a few HR extras and aren’t planning on growing in the near future. Multi-state payroll costs extra with most providers, so OnPay is the best value if your team members are spread across the country. But if you’re looking for more advanced features like time tracking or workforce costing reports, Onpay probably isn’t robust enough for your needs.

Key Features

  • Automated federal, state, and local taxes
  • New hire compliance and payroll in all 50 states
  • Multiple pay rates and schedules
  • Pay by direct deposit, paper check, or prepaid debit card
  • 2-day or 4-day direct deposit
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Employee self-service with lifetime access
  • Basic HR functionality including onboarding workflows and document storage

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
A single price includes (almost) everything they offerNo room to grow as your business grows
Great for basic payroll needsOnly 11 software integrations supported
Includes PTO managementCharge extra to print and mail W-2s and 1099s
No benefits administration feesNo international support
No email or chat support

Pricing

OnPay has a single pricing structure with no hidden fees: $40 per month plus $6 per employee per month. All of their payroll, HR, and benefits functionality is included, and you only pay each month for the employees you paid. OnPay will create 1099s and W-2s that you can download and send out, but if you want them to physically print and mail them, that will cost extra. 

Free Trial? Yes. One month free. 

Free Plan: No.

Learn more about OnPay

3. Justworks – Best affordable PEO for small businesses

Overview

For some small business owners, using a full-service PEO makes more sense than handling payroll, hiring, and HR in-house. While the PEO may seem expensive, depending on the size of your business, it can often be cheaper than the cost of hiring an HR professional.

Justworks is one of the most affordable PEO options out there, and comes with support for payroll, tax filings, onboarding, PTO management, and compliance along with low-cost benefit options. They also offer traditional benefits like medical, dental, and vision, but these are only included with their higher-tier plan. 

The PEO co-employment relationship means Justworks takes on some legal liability as an employer that you don’t have to bear, which isn’t the case for software-based payroll services. In exchange, you hand over control of some things like the employee handbook and workplace policies.

Justworks’ software is highly rated as easy to use, and their customer service responds quickly and is available 24/7. They also recently released a mobile app to allow your employees to easily access the data they need.    

For smaller businesses looking to take complex HR and compliance tasks off their plate, Justworks is an affordable option that can grow as you grow your business. They keep their prices low by paring down their HR options, but for many small businesses, they’ll have everything you need. For larger businesses with more complex needs and more money to spend, there are more robust PEOs out there.

Key Features

  • Full service PEO with dedicated HR rep
  • New hire compliance in all 50 states
  • International contractor support in 28+ countries included (rolling out EOR services soon)
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Direct deposit requires 4-day advance approval  
  • Paydays must follow set schedules (bi-weekly or bi-monthly)
  • Off-cycle payrolls included
  • Unemployment, HR, PTO, and expense management included
  • Benefits administration and time tracking cost extra 
  • Self-service employee onboarding
  • Flexible admin permissions
  • Highly rated customer service 
  • Mobile app

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Takes all payroll, HR, and compliance off your plateTime-tracking app costs extra
Affordable for smaller businesses with the option to growOffering traditional benefits nearly doubles the monthly base price
Highly rated, user-friendly interfaceFewer HR tools than some other PEOs
24/7 customer service on phone, email, chat, Slack, or SMSPayroll tool isn’t quite as powerful as some dedicated payroll software
Unique, low-cost benefits available

Pricing

Justworks has two pricing tiers: Basic and Plus. The Basic plan costs $59 per employee per month up to your 50th employee, where it drops down to $49 per employee per month. This includes everything Justworks offers save for traditional benefits and their time tracking app. The Plus plan jumps up to $99 per employee per month ($89 from your 50th employee onwards) and includes traditional benefits like medical, dental, vision, COBRA, and access to HSAs and FSAs.   

While the Basic plan is much more expensive than out-of-the-box payroll solutions, it’s one of the cheaper PEOs on the market, and may be a good option for businesses looking to offload most of their day-to-day HR. However, for startups and smaller businesses, there are more affordable and more agile payroll products on the market.  

Free Trial? Yes, 14 days.

Free Plan: Yes.

Learn more about Justworks

4. Payroll4free – Best free payroll software for small business

Overview

Payroll4free is far from the best payroll provider on the block. Its features are bare bones, and they keep the service free by showing you ads inside the software. But for nonprofits, startups, and very small businesses where every dollar counts, having a completely free payroll option while you get up and running can be a lifesaver until you’re ready to upgrade.  

Payroll4free offers the basic payroll services you’d expect including paying employees and 1099 contractors as well as calculating taxes and generating tax forms at the end of the year. However, while their free plan will calculate taxes and generate forms for you, you’ll need to file and pay them yourself (or pay for their payroll tax service). 

In addition to basic payroll, you can set up a variety of options to track and monitor employees’ PTO, sick leave, and vacation time. They also provide standard reporting including earnings, taxes, benefits, accrued time, and payroll journal reports. They offer an employee self-serve portal as well as payment by direct deposit or paper checks (though direct deposit costs extra). For a free platform, this isn’t too shabby.

Unsurprisingly, Payroll4free doesn’t support hiring, onboarding, or benefits administration. But if you’ve got fewer than 10 employees with basic payroll needs, Payroll4free will get the job done while you work on growing your business.

Key Features

  • Free for businesses with fewer than 10 employees
  • Direct deposit and paper checks 
  • Support for 1099 and W-2 employees
  • PTO and vacation tracking included
  • Employee self-service
  • No support for multiple pay rates and schedules

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Completely free for up to 10 employeesBare bones functionality
Vacation and PTO tracking includedOnly for Windows OS; no mobile site or app
Basic reporting includedLimited integrations
Filing and paying taxes costs extra
Direct deposit costs extra

Pricing

Payroll4free is totally free for up to 10 employees. This includes all of their services except for direct deposit and tax filing and payments. Both Direct Deposit and their Payroll Tax Service cost $25/month or $250 a year individually, or you can bundle both extras for $30/month or $300 a year. While this is still much cheaper than most payroll services, the adage “you get what you pay for” rings true here. 

Free Plan: Yes.

Learn more about Payroll4free

5. QuickBooks – Best cheap payroll software for bookkeepers

Overview

With more than 72% market share in the bookkeeping and accounting space, you most likely use QuickBooks for your accounting. Which can make it seem like an easy choice for payroll. QuickBooks payroll is a respectable tool with most of the functionality you need.

Their platform is intuitive and easy to use, and for small businesses who are just trying to manage the books and get the team paid, it can be a dream to have everything all in one place. Benefits are included in every plan, and next-day direct deposit comes loaded on their most basic plan, which is a step above the industry. 

That being said, if you’re not already using QuickBooks for accounting, you should probably look elsewhere. Their payroll software doesn’t integrate with any other accounting platforms. While federal and state taxes are included with all plans, local taxes are only built into higher tiers. 

If you need any more complex functionality like multi-state payroll or off-cycle payroll runs, then there are plenty of more powerful competitors in the space that don’t cost an arm and a leg. And luckily, just about every payroll provider on the market already integrates with QuickBooks’ accounting software.

Key Features

  • The gold standard for small business accounting software
  • Next-day and same-day direct deposit 
  • Automated federal and state taxes (local taxes included with higher-tier plans)
  • New hire compliance and payroll in all 50 states
  • Automated payroll for salaried employees
  • Employee self-service 
  • Health benefits and 401(k)s available with all plans
  • Time tracking with Premium and Elite plans

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Ability to bundle payroll and accountingSlightly overpriced for what you get
Taxes include year-end filing and tax penalty guarantee Local taxes only included with Premium and Elite plans
User-friendly interfaceMulti-state payroll only available on Elite plan
24/7 chat support with extended hours phone support Monday to Friday and limited support on SaturdaysTime tracking only available on Premium and Elite plans
Benefits administration available with all pricing tiers No integrations with other bookkeeping software

Pricing

QuickBooks offers a payroll-only option starting at $45 per month plus $6 per employee per month. It comes with only the most basic payroll and tax-filing functionality, though it does include next-day direct deposit, which is a premium feature with most other providers. It also includes access to workers’ comp, healthcare, and retirement benefits for your team. 

For $80 a month plus $8 per employee per month, the Payroll Premium plan includes same-day direct deposit, time tracking tools, and the HR support center. 

And finally, their Payroll Elite at $125 per month plus $10 per employee per month plan adds more advanced time tracking, $25,000 in tax penalty protection, and a dedicated HR advisor. 

Payroll and Bookkeeping bundles start at $75 per month plus $6 per employee per month and range up to $170 per month plus $8 per employee per month. This is difficult to understand as their basic accounting package starts at $15 a month. But for businesses already utilizing Quickbooks’ more powerful accounting packages, the higher-tier bundles start to look attractive.

Free Trial? Get either 50% off the monthly base price for three months or a 30-day free trial.

Free Plan: No.


Learn more about QuickBooks

6. SurePayroll – Best for household and nanny payroll

Overview

Sure Payroll is an online payroll and tax solution for small businesses. SurePayroll is owned by Paychex, but the product is very different from Paychex Flex. While they’ve got all the basic functionality you’d expect in a low-cost payroll provider, like W-2s, 1099s, and direct deposit, SurePayroll offers much more limited capabilities in terms of HR management. They do offer basic benefits administration along with 401(k)s and workers’ comp, but you’ll pay extra for benefits, and the monthly cost can add up if you want other advanced features like time tracking and local and multi-state tax filing. SurePayroll also charges extra to integrate with your favorite time tracking software, which is a rarity among payroll providers.

What sets SurePayroll apart among budget payroll options is their support for nanny payroll. Even robust providers like Gusto lack support for paying household workers.

     

Ultimately, SurePayroll is a great choice for very small business owners and households who aren’t looking to get HR and people tools bundled with their payroll. As soon as you’re looking for hiring, onboarding, and benefits, a more robust platform like Gusto quickly becomes attractive from a cost perspective.  

Key Features

  • Federal, state, and local tax filing available
  • Overtime, tips, and FICA calculations
  • Wage garnishments
  • New hire compliance and payroll in all 50 states
  • Multiple pay rates and schedules
  • Pay by direct deposit or paper check
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Online paystubs 
  • New-hire reporting and pre-employment screening

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Very affordable base packageIntegrations cost extra
Night and weekend hours for customer serviceLocal and multi-state tax filings cost extra
Same-day and next-day direct deposit availableLacks transparent pricing

Pricing

SurePayroll’s pricing is no longer listed on their site, but they offer both self-service and full-service payroll options. If you’re comfortable filing your own taxes, the self-service payroll can save you a pretty penny each month, with user-reported pricing starting at just $19.99 per month plus $4 per employee per month. Upgrading to full service includes filing federal and state taxes, but you’ll still have to pay extra for local taxes or multi-state payroll. Full-service plans start at $29.99 per month plus $5 per month, which is still attractive pricing compared with most other providers on the list.  

As you start to add features like software integrations, time tracking, or local tax filing, the cost can add up quickly, so SurePayroll is best for those with basic payroll needs. 

Free trial? Yes. Six months free for a limited time. 

Free plan? No.

Learn more about SurePayroll

7. Square Payroll – Best budget payroll software for POS integration

Overview

Square Payroll is an obvious choice for businesses that are already using Square’s POS software. Employee hours and sales data seamlessly flow into the payroll system, eliminating the need for manual data entry. Tips are automatically imported from the POS, and they make it easy to pool and split tips if you need to. 

Square’s payroll platform sports a user-friendly interface, making it easy for managers and owners to handle payroll tasks without the need for extensive training. 

Like most well-rated payroll providers, Square Payroll also does a lot of the heavy lifting for you, from calculating wages to processing taxes, reducing the risk of errors and keeping you compliant. They also provide basic reporting tools, allowing business owners to gain insights into labor costs, employee performance, and other critical metrics. These insights empower decision-making, enabling businesses to optimize staffing levels and control expenses effectively, however they don’t offer any custom reporting.  

Square also offers time tracking and scheduling capabilities, which make it a great option to streamline your tech stack and have everything you need in one place. Time tracking tools cost extra, but they’re free for teams up to 5 people. If you’re already using Square’s POS for your restaurant or retail business, using their payroll software is an easy choice.

Key Features

  • Full service multi-state payroll
  • Built-in time tracking and scheduling tools
  • Shift swapping and time-off requests
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Off-cycle payroll
  • Automated tax filings
  • Pool and split tips feature
  • Pay by check, direct deposit, or Square Cash App
  • Instant payments available 
  • Employee self-service

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Intuitive, easy-to-use interfaceFewer HR offerings than other competitors 
Seamless integration with Square POSLimited customer support
Free basic time trackingFour-day direct deposit processing time
Affordable, flat-rate pricingNo custom reporting options
Powerful time & scheduling tools available

Pricing

Square’s payroll pricing is simple and straightforward. You’ll pay $35 a month plus $6 per employee per month. This includes all of the payroll features they offer along with time cards and automated tax filings. If you want to access their more robust time tracking and scheduling tools, you’ll need to sign up for “Square Shifts.” It’s free for up to 5 team members, and after that you’ll pay a per-person-per-month rate that starts at $4 and gets lower the more team members you have. 

Free trial? No. 

Free plan? No.

Learn more about Square Payroll

8. Patriot Payroll – Best cheap payroll software for DIY taxes

Overview

Patriot payroll is a cloud-based system that can be accessed anywhere. Their basic payroll product includes unlimited payroll runs, multiple pay rates & schedules, and two-day direct deposit for qualifying customers. Their website is mobile friendly, and they offer employee self-service for paystubs, documents, and more. 

While Patriot Payroll lets you pay employees in multiple states, you’ll need to pay an extra $12 per month for each state you run payroll. They don’t offer automated payroll for salaried employees, and they don’t offer any benefits outside of 401(k) and workers’ comp.

Where Patriot shines is their DIY tax option. You can access their basic payroll tools at an exceptionally low price so long as you’re happy to pay and file federal, state, and local taxes on your own. As soon as you move up to their full-service plan that includes tax filing and payment, the value quickly diminishes.

Key Features

  • DIY tax option
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Multiple pay rates & schedules
  • Multi-state payroll available for a fee
  • Federal, state, and local tax filing available for a fee
  • Time tracking integration available
  • Employee self-service
  • Integrated 401(k) and workers’ comp

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Exceptionally low price for basic packageTax filing only available on full-service plan
Time-off accrual includedFees can quickly add up
Only integrates with QuickBooks
No benefits administration available

Pricing

Patriot’s payroll software starts at $17 per month, plus an additional $4 per employee or contractor per month, but this only includes their basic payroll product. You’ll be responsible for handling your own tax filings—arguably the most complex piece of the process. Their full service payroll that includes tax filings jumps to a base fee of $37 per month, but this still doesn’t include their full suite of tools. Their accounting software costs an additional $20 per month, bare bones HR software adds on $6 per month plus $2 per employee, and time tracking starts at $6 per month plus $2 per employee per month. 

Free trial? Yes, the first 60 days are free. 

Free plan? No.

Learn more about Patriot Payroll

FAQs

Prices start at $46/month

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