The Best Payroll for Small Business

Payroll software isn’t one-size-fits-all. But the best payroll services 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 all the best payroll apps for small business to help you make the right choice for your growing team.

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

Overview

Gusto tops our list for best 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 are in the process of rolling 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 and PTO 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 PTO.  

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

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 no-frills payroll for small businesses

Overview

OnPay is consistently rated as the best value 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. 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. Remote – Best global payroll for small businesses

Overview

The future of work is global, and Remote makes it easy to hire and pay your team in more than 180 countries around the world. Their impressive suite of international support includes global payroll, contractors, hiring, self-service onboarding, compliance, and benefits. The best part is you can pay all of your team members around the world—whether contractor, full-time, or EOR—with a single payment.

  

In 100+ countries where your business already has an established entity, they offer global payroll services. If you don’t have an entity, you can take advantage of their Employer of Record (EOR) service. They don’t contract with outside entities, which means better, faster support. For hiring international contractors, they provide compliant local contracts to make sure you’re staying within local labor laws as well as support for local taxes. 

Their website also includes a guide to local laws, compliance, holiday and mandatory leave policies in every country they cover, which can be helpful as you’re thinking about expanding your talent pool to new countries. 

One downside is that Remote’s pricing can start to add up, especially for EOR services, and at some point it makes more financial sense to open your own entity. But for small businesses and startups especially, using Remote for global payroll and contractors is a no brainer. 

Key Features

  • Contractor payments in 180+ countries and global payroll and EOR in 80+ countries
  • Payment supported via wire transfer, ACH, SEPA, and card
  • 70+ currencies supported with no conversion fees
  • Localized compliance, contracts, and benefits administration including stock options
  • Contractor misclassification risk assessment included
  • One-click or autopay contractor invoices
  • Seamless onboarding and employee self-service portal

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Integration for domestic and international employees, contractors, full-time and part-timeCustomer support via email only
Easy onboarding processNo transparent pricing for global payroll 
Owned entities are not outsourced to third-party vendorsNo support for common international payment methods like Payoneer and PayPal
Great, user-friendly interface
Country-specific compliance and benefits

Pricing

Remote prices their services based on which kind of global hiring you need. For their EOR service, it costs $599 per employee per month (on an annual plan), which is in line with industry standards. To go month-to-month it increases to $699. Their international contractor payments are reasonable at $29 per month, but if you only have international contractors and not full-time employees (or if you are operating 100% within the US), there are much more affordable solutions out there. 

For global payroll in countries where you operate your own entity, you have to contact sales for pricing.

Free Trial? You can set up an account and explore features including hiring and onboarding at no cost for 30 days. You’ll only be charged when you pay global workers.

Free Plan: No.

Learn more about Remote

4. ADP Run – Best payroll for quickly growing businesses

Overview

ADP is the largest payroll provider in the world and offers multiple payroll solutions depending on the size of your business. Roll by ADP is an affordable solution aimed at startups and very small businesses, but comes with barebones payroll functionality, and we think there are better options out there for this market. 

For small- and medium-sized businesses they offer ADP Run (fewer than 50 employees) and ADP Workforce Now (50–999 employees). ADP Run includes payroll, onboarding, and reporting features, while ADP Workforce Now also includes retention tools like employee engagement and development. 

For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, ADP Run is a highly rated payroll platform. It has all the powerful payroll tools you’d expect from a major player including automated tax fillings, new-hire reporting, direct deposit, and multi-jurisdiction payroll support. But it’s not competitively priced, even for the most basic package. If you want any popular tools like time tracking or benefits administration, you’ll have to pay for an add-on. If you need to pay contractors, you’ll have to purchase a separate tool. 

For businesses that are quickly scaling, however, ADP’s robust list of payroll, time tracking, and HR features, along with their a la carte pricing can make it an attractive candidate to grow as you grow. Especially if you’re planning on crossing that crucial “50 employee threshold” in the near future. It’s not the cheapest service on the block, but there’s no question they have the tool you need to run your business. And when you’re ready to move up from small biz to medium-sized, their Workforce Now platform is even more powerful.

Key Features

  • Fully integrated payroll, HR, time tracking, and benefits
  • Payroll, taxes, and compliance in all 50 states
  • Multiple pay rates and schedules
  • Pay by direct deposit, check, or prepaid debit card
  • Next-day direct deposit
  • Over 700 software integrations available
  • Job and workforce costing reports
  • Mobile app
  • Features siloed based on # of employees

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Tons of products and features for maximum scalabilitySoftware feels clunky and dated
Largest payroll provider in the worldSlow customer service
Robust HR options for businesses with 50999 employeesPricing is not transparent and difficult to piece together
No out-of-the-box payroll solution
State Unemployment Insurance not included in base package
Requires an additional product to pay contractors

Pricing

ADP’s pricing tiers are confusing at best. For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, they offer 4 pricing tiers: Essential Payroll; Enhanced Payroll that includes wage garnishment, unemployment, background checks, and job postings; Complete Payroll and HR+ that adds on some HR tools like employee handbooks, proactive compliance alerts, a job description wizard, and access to the HR help desk; and HR Pro Payroll and HR,that includes an applicant tracking system, onboarding tools, and an LMS. 

ADP no longer posts pricing for any of their packages, so you’ll need to contact sales in order to get a quote. According to Forbes, users reported pricing starts from $79 per month plus $4 per employee per month, but it’s unclear if that’s still accurate, or how much any of the add-ons like time tracking and benefits cost. No doubt the price per month can start adding up quickly.  

ADP might make sense for quickly growing companies who need a custom-built package that’s ready to scale, but for more agile startups and small businesses looking for an easy, out-of-the box solution, Gusto consistently takes the top spot. 

Free Trial? Yes, three months free on select products.

Free plan? No. 
Learn more about ADP Run.

5. Justworks – Best 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

6. Payroll4free  – Best free payroll for small businesses

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 25 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 25 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 25 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 25 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. 

Learn more about Payroll4free

7. Quickbooks – Best small business payroll for bookkeepers

Overview

With more than 72% market share in the bookkeeping and accounting space, you most likely use Quickbook 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 accountingOverpriced 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

FAQs

Prices start at $46/month

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