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10 Best Small Business Payroll Software for 2022

10 Best Small Business Payroll Software for 2022

Aside from being affordably priced, the best small business payroll software calculates employee wages and deductions accurately and pays and files pa

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Aside from being affordably priced, the best small business payroll software calculates employee wages and deductions accurately and pays and files payroll taxes automatically. Most offer unlimited pay runs, two-day direct deposits, employee self-service portals, and access to employee benefits.

To find the ideal payroll systems for small businesses, we evaluated more than a dozen solutions and narrowed the list down to our top 10 recommendations.

  • Gusto: Best overall small business payroll software
  • QuickBooks Payroll: Best for QuickBooks accounting users
  • Paychex Flex: Best for solopreneurs and companies needing dedicated payroll support
  • Square Payroll: Best for restaurants and small retailers already using or interested in using Square POS
  • OnPay: Best for small companies that need an affordable payroll solution with robust system permissions
  • Rippling: Best for employers looking for a modular HR, payroll, and IT platform
  • ADP Run: Best for rapidly scaling startups needing flexible payroll plans that can be adjusted quickly
  • Paycor: Best for businesses upgrading from a manual payroll system as they increase hiring
  • Patriot Payroll: Best for mom-and-pop businesses looking for a low-cost do-it-yourself (DIY) payroll service (although provider also has a full-service option)
  • Homebase Payroll: Best for businesses with hourly workers

Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses Compared

*Pricing is based on a quote we received

**Patriot Payroll also offers a full-service payroll option with tax filing services that costs $37 + $4 per employee monthly (or $924 annually for 10 employees).***You have to get Homebase’s main time tracking and scheduling platform, which is free for one-location businesses, before you can purchase Homebase Payroll.

Unsure which the best payroll software for your business is? This three-question quiz will help you decide.

Answer a few questions about your business, and we’ll give you a personalized product match.

Need help determining the best payroll software for your business? This three-question quiz will help you decide.

Gusto: Best Overall Small Business Payroll Software

Gusto

Gusto logo

Overall Score: 4.66
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Unlimited pay runs
  • Automated payroll tax payments and filings with year-end reporting
  • Reasonably priced for small businesses

What’s Missing

  • Health insurance limited to 39 states
  • Time tracking is included only in Complete and Concierge packages
  • No dedicated payroll specialist

Gusto Pricing

  • Core: $39 per month + $6 per employee monthly
    • Includes full service payroll, two and four-day direct deposit, automated tax filings and payments, year-end tax reporting, health and financial benefits, and employee self-service portal
  • Complete: $39 per month + $12 per employee monthly
    • Core + time tracking, next-day direct deposits, PTO management, project and workforce costs tracking, hiring and onboarding tools, and performance reviews
  • Concierge: $149 per month + $12 per employee monthly
    • Complete + dedicated customer support and direct phone line support
  • Select: Custom-priced (requires a minimum of 25 employees)
    • Access to all of Gusto’s features (customized to fit your business needs), full-service payroll migration, and a dedicated account manager
  • Contractor-only plan: $6 per person monthly

Gusto ranks high among its competitors, as its payroll and HR features enable small businesses to operate with the amenities that some larger companies offer. Apart from running payroll automatically as scheduled, it notifies each new hire so that they can complete the required paperwork. If you’re in one of the 11 states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming) where it doesn’t offer insurance, consider any of the providers in this guide (except Patriot Payroll and Homebase Payroll, as neither offers benefits).

Scoring 4.66 out of 5 in our evaluation, Gusto earned perfect marks in pricing, reporting, and popularity among users. However, the limited coverage of its health insurance and having to subscribe to one of its higher tiers to access HR tools—such as time tracking and online paid time off (PTO) requests—prevented Gusto from getting a higher score.

In terms of user feedback, many find it a valuable payroll software given its intuitive interface and efficient tools. However, several reviewers are unhappy about the long hold times when contacting customer support.

Gusto time data in payroll solution.

Gusto lets you add employee time data and additional earnings (like bonuses) directly into its payroll solution.
(Source: Gusto)

Gusto Features

  • Automatic and unlimited payroll runs in all 50 states: Unlike ADP and Paychex, Gusto allows you to process unlimited payroll runs, including bonus and off-cycle payments, at no extra cost. On top of that, you can even set payroll to run on autopilot.
  • Automated tax payment and year-end report filing: Gusto automatically withholds, pays, and files taxes on federal, state, and local levels. It handles year-end tax reporting (W-2s and 1099s) for free, unlike ADP Run, which charges a fee for this service.
  • International contractor payments: Businesses can pay their contractors in more than 80 countries, including India, Canada, the UK, and the Philippines. Gusto is currently working on expanding its support to 100 countries.
  • Employee benefits: Gusto provides employee benefits in all 50 states but its health insurance is available only in 39 (as of this writing). While some small business payroll providers are cheaper (OnPay is $36 + $4 per employee monthly, for example), they don’t offer some of the employee perks that Gusto does, such as 529 college savings accounts, health reimbursement plans, and Gusto Wallet—a free financial management app that even has time tracking tools.

In case your employees have emergency expenses and need early access to their salary, they can easily get the funds through the Gusto Cashout feature of the Gusto Wallet. Aside from Square Payroll and Homebase Payroll, none of the other providers on our list offer an in-house solution.

  • Multiple pay options: With Gusto, employees are paid through manual checks, pay cards, or direct deposits. The standard direct deposit timelines are two and four days, but subscribing to Gusto’s higher tiers gets you a next-day option. However, if you require fast processing timelines, QuickBooks Payroll’s starter Core plan comes with next-day direct deposits (same-day for higher tiers). Square Payroll also offers instant payouts through its Square Payments solution.
  • Efficient time tracking and workforce management tools: Aside from monitoring your employees’ and contractors’ time through its system or via the Gusto Wallet, Gusto offers project tracking and workforce costing tools. You can even create custom PTO policies and send/approve time-off requests online. However, these features are available only in Gusto’s higher tiers. If you require affordably priced, full-service payroll with PTO and time tracking tools, consider either OnPay or Patriot Payroll.
  • Professional HR and tax experts on support: Gusto helps you avoid expensive compliance mistakes through its team of HR and tax experts that you can reach out to for help whenever you need them—provided you get its Concierge option.

QuickBooks Payroll: Best Payroll Solution for QuickBooks Accounting Software Users

QuickBooks Payroll

Quickbooks Online logo.

Overall Score: 4.59
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks accounting software
  • Same- and next-day direct deposits
  • Unlimited pay runs with automated payroll tax filings (federal and state)
  • Mobile app lets you run payroll and e-file taxes even while on the go

What’s Missing

  • Automated local tax filings available only in higher tiers
  • Lacks a contractor-only plan
  • Basic HR features
  • Doesn’t have mobile apps for employee self-service (only offers a workforce portal you can access online)

QuickBooks Payroll Pricing

  • Core: $45 per month + $4 per employee monthly
    • Includes full-service payroll, next day direct deposit, federal and state tax filings and payments, and access to 401(k) plans and benefits*
  • Premium: $75 per month + $8 per employee monthly
    • Core + same-day direct deposit, federal, state and local tax payments and filings, workers’ compensation administration, and HR support center
  • Elite: $125 per month + $10 per employee monthly
    • Premium + multiple state tax filing, project tracking, personal HR adviser, tax penalty protection up to 25k per year, and expert setup

*Additional fees may apply depending on the selected plan.

QuickBooks Payroll is the best option for most QuickBooks accounting users. It integrates seamlessly—you access it within the same system with the click of a button—and all information flows throughout both systems (you don’t have to enter twice).

Like Gusto, it offers full-service payroll with automated tax filings (federal and state, local taxes if subscribed to the Elite plan), year-end reporting (W-2s and 1099s), and an online portal where employees can access their pay stubs, tax forms, and PTO balances. It also has fast direct deposits; its standard timeline is next-day, but it has same-day options if you get one of its higher tiers.

In our evaluation, the platform earned a 4.59 out of 5, with perfect scores in ease of use, pricing, and reporting. While all of its other ratings are 4 and above, it scored the lowest in popularity, given the limited number of user reviews (less than 500) on third-party review sites like G2 and Capterra. However, many users still appreciate its ease of use, especially its seamless integration with QuickBooks accounting. A few others complained about having experienced occasional software glitches, while some said that it can be pricey for small businesses.

QuickBooks Payroll main dashboard.

Aside from a “to-do” list, QuickBooks Payroll’s main dashboard contains shortcuts for running payroll and adding employees.
(Source: QuickBooks Payroll)

QuickBooks Payroll Features

  • Automatic and unlimited payroll: You can approve and set payroll to run automatically with QuickBooks. It also lets you process payroll as many times as your business requires.
  • Automated payroll tax services: Like most of the payroll providers on this list, QuickBooks Payroll handles all tax calculations, payments, and filings (including year-end reporting) for you. However, its tax filing services only cover federal and state taxes. You have to be on an Elite plan if you want automated local tax filings—otherwise, you’ll have to file local tax forms yourself.
  • Fast direct deposits: Apart from next-day direct deposits, you can pay employees through same-day direct deposit at no extra cost, provided you subscribe to QuickBooks Payroll’s higher tiers. Note that most of the providers on this list have a standard two-day processing time—although Square Payroll offers instant payments if you have a Square Payments account.
  • Tax penalty protection: QuickBooks will cover the penalty and interest for any payroll tax error for up to $25,000 a year—regardless of who made the mistake. Note that you must purchase its Elite plan to have your errors covered. Experts will also represent you before the IRS and concerned agencies and will assist you to resolve the problem. No other providers on our list will offer to represent you to help fix tax issues or cover mistakes you make under any circumstance.
  • Payroll and tax filing while on the go: QuickBooks Payroll app (for iOS and Android), which is our top-recommended payroll app, allows you to process payroll, pay taxes, and e-file tax forms in all 50 states. Square Payroll, ADP Run, and Paychex may let you run employee payroll on their mobile apps, but they don’t have the tax e-filing feature that QuickBooks Payroll offers.

Paychex: Best for Solopreneurs & Companies Needing Dedicated Payroll Support

Paychex

Paychex logo

Overall Score: 4.45
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Flexible plans
  • Payroll and HR features are integrated
  • Dedicated payroll support

What’s Missing

  • Pricing isn’t all transparent
  • Payroll tax administration and year-end reporting cost extra
  • Access to a dedicated payroll specialist is available only in higher tiers

Paychex Flex Pricing

  • Paychex Flex Essentials: $39 per month + $5 per employee
    • Includes full-service payroll, payroll tax administration with year-end tax reporting*, workers’ compensation, new hire reporting, direct deposit option, self-service portal, and garnishment payment services
  • Paychex Flex Select: Custom-priced
    • Essentials (except garnishment payment services) + dedicated payroll specialist, time tracking*, and learning management
  • Paychex Flex Pro: Custom-priced
    • Select + garnishment payment services, accounting software integration, onboarding and background screening

Paychex plan for solopreneurs and the self-employed

  • Paychex Solo: Custom-priced
    • Includes payroll, self-employed 401(k), and incorporation services

*Additional fees may apply

Paychex has solutions suited for different business sizes. Its Paychex Solo package includes payroll, startup/incorporation services, and access to retirement plan options—making it a suitable solution for one-person businesses. It also offers Paychex Flex as its main payroll platform, which comes with several tiers flexible enough to cater to companies of different sizes (its higher plans include a dedicated payroll specialist). And, unlike Gusto, which provides health insurance only in 39 states, Paychex lets you offer health insurance in all US states.

The platform earned a 4.45 out of 5 in our evaluation. It scored the perfect marks on HR, reporting, user popularity, and expert review criteria. However, it doesn’t have transparent pricing for all of its plans and charges extra for payroll tax administration and W-2/1099 filings—services that most of the providers in this guide include without additional fees.

Analytics and Reports from Paychex Flex dashboard.

A snapshot of Paychex Flex’s dashboard
(Source: Paychex)

Paychex Features

  • Flexible plan options: Its Paychex Solo plan is perfect for solopreneurs and the self-employed. Aside from running payroll, Paychex can help them set up their business as an employer and select a retirement plan. None of the other providers in this guide have this package. Paychex even offers flexible HR and payroll subscriptions that target businesses of all sizes. And if you ever go through a growth period in which you need an HR expert but aren’t ready to hire, Paychex has a professional employer organization (PEO) service to help you manage essential day-to-day HR processes.
  • Workers’ compensation and benefits management: Paychex handles workers’ compensation and, unlike Gusto, offers health insurance in all 50 states. It also has retirement plans and garnishment payment services that include remitting the garnished wages to the appropriate agencies.
  • Multiple payment options: Aside from direct deposits, Paychex supports employee payments made through pay cards and paper checks. It even offers check logo and signing services. However, if you require options that allow you to pay employees fast, Square Payroll has an Instant Payments feature, while QuickBooks Payroll offers next- and same-day direct deposits.
  • HR tools: Paychex Flex’s higher tiers not only come with payroll tools but several HR solutions as well. In addition to a library of HR documents and an online employee handbook builder, you are granted access to a learning management module to help you run e-training courses for your staff. Screening applicants and welcoming new hires will also be easy with its background checks and online onboarding solutions.
  • Experienced customer service: During implementation, Paychex will assign you a representative to help you set up. Once its system is up and running, you get access to US-based support with experienced professionals you can contact 24/7 in case you need assistance. Live chat features, in-app help options, and how-to guides are also available.

Square Payroll: Best for Restaurants & Small Retailers Using Square POS

Square Payroll

Square logo

Overall Score: 4.28
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Easy to use and navigate
  • Flat pricing with an affordable contractor plan
  • Integrates with Square POS
  • Fast direct deposits, including an instant payment option

What’s Missing

  • Next-day direct deposits and instant payments require a Square Payments account
  • Limited advanced HR functions
  • Phone support requires a customer code; difficult to reach at times
  • Standard direct deposit has a four-day processing timeline

Square Payroll Pricing

  • Pay employee and contractors: $35 per month + $5 per employee monthly
    • Unlimited pay runs, full-service payroll, multiple pay options (direct deposit, check and via Square’s cash app), automatic tax payments and filings, year-end tax reporting, time tracking (via Square POS or Team App), pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation plans, and new hire reporting
  • Pay contractors only: $5 per person monthly
    • Includes everything in above plan except workers’ compensation and new hire reporting

Square Payroll is the best choice for restaurants and small retailers that are already using Square’s POS system. It enables you to pay both employees and contractors and import online timecards from the Square POS and other third-party partners into its system. It also has tip reporting features that allow you to record tip amounts, deduct taxes, and report them on your tax forms. You can run payroll as often as you need to at no extra cost (unlike some plans under big-name providers like ADP and Paychex), file quarterly and annual taxes, and sign up for pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation insurance.

In our evaluation, Square Payroll earned an overall rating of 4.28 out of 5, with a perfect score in reporting and high marks in nearly all of our criteria. It took a hit in ease of use and popularity among users because while it is easy to use, it doesn’t have a customizable interface. It also didn’t meet our sub-criteria of having more than 1,000 average user reviews online. Plus, several reviewers complained of having experienced difficulties contacting its support team.

A graph from Square Payroll main dashboard for pay run history and an overview of total labor costs.

Aside from letting you run payroll, Square Payroll’s main dashboard shows your pay run history and an overview of your total labor costs.
(Source: Square Payroll)

Square Payroll Features

  • Low-cost contractor-only plan: Square Payroll has the lowest contractor-only plan among all the providers on this list. Priced at only $5 per contractor monthly, it comes with all the features of its “pay employees and contractors” plan, including unlimited pay runs. Similar to Gusto’s contractor-only option, Square Payroll will only charge you for contractors that you paid for the month.
  • Square POS integration: Square Payroll seamlessly integrates with Square POS, making it easy for you to track and import employee time cards, including tips and commissions data for pay processing.
  • Multiple employee payment options: Aside from direct deposit, employees and contractors can be paid through manual checks or via Square’s Cash App. Square Payroll also offers next-day and instant payment options through its Instant Payments feature. You can even use its On-Demand Pay tool to allow eligible employees to get a portion of their earned salary before the pay period is over.
  • Online tax filing and reporting: Square Payroll will automatically file your quarterly and annual taxes as well as prepare and file your W-2s or 1099s, whether workers are paid an hourly, salary, or custom amount. This is unlike Patriot Payroll (if you’re on the self-service plan), Paychex, and ADP, which charge fees for some of its payroll tax services. QuickBooks Payroll may not have add-on fees to file taxes for you, but you have to get its highest tier if you want automated local tax filings.
  • Employee benefits: Square Payroll will provide your employees access to health insurance, pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation plans, and even retirement packages that will automatically sync with your payroll.

OnPay: Best for Small Companies That Need Affordable Payroll With Robust System Permissions

OnPay

Onpay logo

Overall Score: 4.23
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Files Form 943 (for agricultural companies)
  • Multiple payment options (like direct deposits, manual checks, and debit cards)
  • Affordably priced plan

What’s Missing

  • Lacks multiple tiers that cater to varying payroll and HR needs
  • Doesn’t have live phone support on weekends
  • Limited third-party software integrations

OnPay Pricing

  • $36 per month + $4 per employee monthly
    • Payroll processing, multiple payment options, payroll tax management, onboarding and new hire reporting, PTO management, employee benefits, self-service portal, reporting tools, and third-party integrations

If you have a limited budget, OnPay provides an affordable payroll solution that comes with basic HR tools for managing PTO, employee benefits, and onboarding. At $36 plus $4 per employee, its monthly fees are the lowest among the full-payroll services providers in this list (excluding Patriot with its DIY option). Its six-level system permissions even provide you with enough flexibility to control who has access to and visibility into payroll and HR.

For agricultural companies, OnPay handles Form 943 filings and processes payments and taxes for workers on H-2A visas. It can also handle the payroll needs of businesses in other industries (like healthcare and restaurant industries)—from filing tax forms (such as Forms 941, 1099, and W-2) to withholding your employees’ state and federal unemployment insurance payments and other contributions.

The platform received an overall score of 4.23 out of 5 in our evaluation. Similar to Square Payroll, it received high ratings in almost all criteria except for ease of use and popularity among users. While OnPay provides payroll services for different business types, it has limited third-party software integrations, customization options, and user reviews on G2 and Capterra. Those who left feedback complained about the occasional software and integration glitches. However, many users still find its online tools efficient as it helps them simplify and automate employee pay processing.

OnPay smart alerts sample.

OnPay is equipped with smart alerts that notify you of missing time entries and other pay run errors.
(Source: OnPay)

OnPay Features

  • Unlimited payroll runs: Like Gusto, Square Payroll, and a couple of the other payroll systems for small businesses on our list, OnPay lets you run payroll for both employees and contractors as many times as you need and want without having to pay extra. You can also generate year-end W-2s and 1099s without paying a per-employee rate (Paychex and ADP Run charge extra). And, for those with special tax requirements like agricultural businesses, OnPay offers automated tax payments and filings of Form 943.
  • Multiple employee payment options: With OnPay, employees can get their wages through direct deposits, debit cards, and paychecks. Your staff can also see their pay stubs online through OnPay’s self-service portal.
  • Essential HR tools: Streamline onboarding processes with OnPay’s in-app offer letters, online I-9 and W-4 forms, e-signature tool, and automated onboarding workflows. It handles state new hire reporting, plus you can create custom checklists to ensure that incoming employees complete all the new hire requirements. If you need HR guides and legal templates, OnPay has an online HR resource library that you can access.
  • Employee benefits: Unlike Gusto’s health insurance, which covers only 39 states (as of this writing), OnPay’s health plans are available in all US states. Your employees are also granted access to dental, vision, disability, and retirement plans. Further, OnPay can easily generate employee census data reports that you can use when requesting insurance quotes from carriers and benefits providers.
  • Payroll support: Aside from phone, chat, and email support, OnPay can guide you through pay processing if you need help. However, if you urgently require payroll assistance from OnPay’s support team on a weekend, you won’t be able to contact them via phone. It only offers email support on Saturdays and Sundays. ADP Run and Paychex are great choices if you require 24/7 support. Paychex even offers a dedicated payroll specialist, although this service is available only in its higher tiers.

Rippling: Best for Businesses Looking for a Modular HR, Payroll & IT Solution

Rippling

Rippling logo

Overall Score: 4.08
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Has modular HR, payroll, and IT solutions that integrate seamlessly with each other
  • PEO option can be easily switched on and off
  • Connects with 500+ business apps
  • IT tools simplify the company computer/app provisioning and deprovisioning processes

What’s Missing

  • Pricing isn’t all transparent
  • You have to purchase its employee management platform before you can buy its other modules; can get pricey as you add more features
  • HR help desk option with phone and email support costs extra
  • Occasional software glitches

Rippling Pricing*

  • $35 plus $8 per employee monthly
    • Includes Rippling’s core workforce management platform, employee onboarding and offboarding, full-service payroll, time tracking, and software integrations

Other Per-Module Costs*

  • App, device, and computer inventory management: $5 per employee monthly
    • Includes IT tools to manage business apps and computer provisioning and deprovisioning processes
  • Benefits administration: Pricing varies, depending on your insurance broker
  • HR help desk: Custom-priced
    • One-on-one email/phone support from HR experts

*Pricing is based on a quote we received

What makes Rippling a good payroll option for businesses is its modular HR, payroll, and IT tools that allow you to choose only the solutions you need. While its workforce management platform is a must-purchase, the cost of adding full-service payroll is still reasonable—Rippling can even create a custom plan based on your needs. However, it isn’t as cost-effective as most of the small business payroll software in this guide (like OnPay and Patriot Payroll).

It still made our list because it is the only HR and payroll software we reviewed that can help you manage essential IT processes, such as assigning and deploying computers and business apps that employees can use. It earned a 4.08 out of 5 in our evaluation, scoring high (4 and up) in nearly all of our criteria. It posted the lowest ratings in ease of use, primarily because it lacks free phone support—you have to purchase its HR help desk add-on that includes phone and email support from HR experts.

In terms of user feedback, many appreciate its user-friendly platform and efficient payroll and HR tools; it has solid payroll analytic tools to ensure you don’t make any mistakes before running. However, some said that it can be glitchy at times with occasional login issues.

Rippling approve and run payroll.

Rippling lets you preview your payroll journal and even compare current vs previous pay runs.
(Source: Rippling)

Rippling Features

  • Modular solutions: Rippling has a flexible workforce management platform that lets you choose the payroll, HR, and IT features that you need. You can start with its workforce management (a must purchase) and full-service payroll tools, and then add more solutions, like employee benefits and applicant tracking, as you grow your business.
  • Payroll Analytics: Rippling automatically pulls your last payroll numbers when you begin processing a new payroll so you can easily compare the two. It helps you identify any obvious errors quickly to prevent you from having to backtrack to correct them later.
  • Full-service payroll: With Rippling, you can run payroll with just three clicks. It automatically calculates all employee payments, taxes, and deductions. Payroll tax filings are also automatically done by Rippling. If you have employees and contractors based in satellite offices outside of the US, Rippling can help you manage international payroll processes so you can pay your workers accurately and on time.
  • Robust HR tools: Rippling offers more than payroll and employee information management solutions; it also has applicant tracking, benefits administration, time and attendance, and learning management tools. However, these modules are paid add-ons to Rippling’s core workforce management platform.
  • IT solutions: Rippling’s IT tools are designed to streamline and automate device and apps management processes. If you have new hires, Rippling can help you assign the computer units and identify business apps that employees have access to. For resigning employees, you can easily disable access to business apps and lock their computers on their last day. Rippling even stores your unassigned computer units in its warehouse, and you can check the inventory through its system. None of the providers we reviewed have robust IT solutions.
  • Flexible PEO: Rippling offers PEO services to businesses that need help managing payroll and day-to-day HR operations. And, unlike ADP and Paychex, if you decide that you no longer need a PEO, then you can simply turn Rippling’s PEO services off from your account.

ADP Run: Best for Scaling Startups Needing Flexible Plans

ADP Run

ADP Run logo

Overall Score: 3.76
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Multiple plans to choose from
  • Automatic quarterly and annual tax filings
  • Advanced HR support available
  • Built-in compliance tools that flag potential errors

What’s Missing

  • Pricing isn’t transparent
  • Setup fee required
  • Year-end reporting costs extra
  • Benefits, time tracking, and workers’ compensation are add-on products

ADP Run Pricing

  • Essential: Custom-priced
    • Includes payroll processing, direct deposit, tax payment and filings, customizable reports, employee self-service portal and new hire onboarding
  • Enhanced: Custom-priced
    • Essential + state unemployment insurance management, ZipRecruiter job postings, and background checks
  • Complete: Custom-priced
    • Enhanced + expert assistance
  • HR Pro: Custom-priced
    • Complete + Enhanced HR help desk, which includes scheduled check-ins and one-off questions with ADP’s HR business advisers.

ADP Run is ADP’s payroll system for small businesses with up to 49 employees. It comes with all of the essential payroll and payroll tax management tools you need, plus new hire reporting, onboarding, background checks, and access to job postings (via ZipRecruiter). Its higher tiers even come with extra HR support and handholding that you don’t get with your typical small business payroll software like Gusto and Square Payroll. ADP also makes it easy to transition from one plan to the next if your company scales and you need additional HR tools.

In our evaluation, ADP Run earned an overall score of 3.76 out of 5. It was rated highly in ease of use, payroll and HR features, reporting, and popularity among users. However, its setup costs and non-transparent fees contributed to its very low rating in our pricing criteria—and users even commented that it can be expensive for small businesses. However, reviewers said they do appreciate its easy-to-use platform, adding that its payroll solution helps simplify employee pay processes.

ADP Run payroll dashboard sample.

ADP Run’s payroll dashboard
(Source: ADP)

ADP Run Features

  • Fast and accurate payroll and tax filing: In addition to its solid payroll tools, ADP Run offers automated payroll tax payments and filings. While it also handles year-end reporting (W-2s and 1099s), ADP charges extra for this. Its built-in compliance tools also notify you of payroll errors.
  • Multiple employee payment options: With ADP Run, you can pay your employees via direct deposit and paychecks and through the Wisely Direct Debit Card. It also offers secure paychecks with check signing and stuffing services. ADP will even deliver the sealed envelopes containing employee paychecks to your office so you can distribute these to your staff.
  • Flexible plan options: In addition to ADP Run’s multiple tiers with full-service payroll and access to essential HR tools, ADP has a wide range of products that can cater to midsize and large businesses. It even offers a PEO option, ADP TotalSource, for companies that need to completely outsource their payroll and HR administration.
  • Certified, experienced payroll professionals available 24/7: Similar to Paychex, ADP Run allows you to get in touch with payroll and HR experts whenever you need them. You even get legal assistance on employment matters from Upnetic Legal Services—provided you subscribe to its highest tier.
  • Recruitment and HR tools: ADP’s partnership with ZipRecruiter makes it possible for you to post open jobs to leading job boards. It also offers background checks, state new hire reporting, and onboarding, in addition to training tools and an online library of HR forms and documents. You won’t get this level of HR support with any other provider on our list except Paychex and Paycor. However, if you need time tracking, pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation, and benefits, these solutions are paid add-ons to ADP Run’s payroll plan.

Paycor: Best for Businesses Upgrading From a Manual Payroll System as Hiring Efforts Increase

Paycor

Paycor logo.

Overall Score: 3.71
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Payroll and HR features are integrated
  • Customizable pay grid and pay stubs
  • Setup fees are waived (as of this writing)

What’s Missing

  • Pricey for small businesses
  • PTO tracking and HR tools are available only in premium plans
  • Customer support delays

For growing businesses with increased hiring needs, Paycor is a good option as those companies transition from manual payroll. Businesses can benefit from its human capital management (HCM) suite that includes features like automated recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training tools.

However, it isn’t the most affordable payroll system for small businesses. Its starter Basic plan costs $99 plus $5 per employee monthly—pricier than big-name payroll and HR providers like ADP and Paychex.

Scoring 3.71 out of 5 in our evaluation, Paycor received high marks in nearly all of our criteria with perfect scores in reporting, HR features, and popularity among users. However, its expensive pricing and limited interface customizability prevented it from ranking higher on our list.

Several users said that not being able to fully customize some of its features (like creating special vacation accrual rules) is one of the things they like least about Paycor. Others commented that while it offers solid payroll and HR tools, its support team isn’t always responsive and can be difficult to reach at times.

Paycor payroll list dashboard.

Paycor automatically captures information that you need (like employee attendance and deductions) to run payroll.
(Source: Paycor)

Paycor Features

  • Time and attendance: Paycor enables you to collect and monitor employee work hours, helping manage attendance and labor costs through automated and accurate processes. Its system is much more robust than Gusto’s simple time tracking tool. Employees can clock in and out, and you can use it to schedule shifts.
  • All-in-one HR platform: Paycor offers an all-in-one platform that combines its payroll software with onboarding, time tracking, scheduling, performance management, employee surveys, and recruiting tools. You won’t get these robust HR features with traditional small business payroll software like Gusto, OnPay, Patriot Payroll, and Homebase Payroll.
  • Customizable pay grids: Paycor’s payroll solution is flexible, allowing you to create intuitive workflows and build an online pay grid to fit your unique pay processing needs. You can select the pay data columns you want, remove those you don’t need, and choose whether you want the system to display the applicable hours or amount (or both) for each data type. You can even create a customized pay stub.
  • Accurate payroll and tax filing: Aside from calculating employee payments and deductions, Paycor handles your quarterly tax payments and filings, including year-end reports. It also automatically pays and files your taxes at the federal and state levels on time. You can pay employees via direct deposits and manual checks. Paycor even offers check stuffing services.

Patriot Payroll: Best for Mom-and-Pop Businesses Wanting a Low-cost DIY Option

Patriot Payroll

Patriot Payroll

Overall Score: 3.66
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Affordable
  • Multiple plans include full-service payroll and a do-it-yourself (DIY) option
  • Unlimited pay runs
  • Free payroll setup and expert support

What’s Missing

  • Multistate tax filings cost extra
  • Lacks benefits options
  • Standard lead time for direct deposits is four days
  • Very limited HR tools

Patriot Payroll Pricing

  • Basic Payroll with DIY tax filings: $17 per month + $4 per employee monthly
    • Includes unlimited pay runs, multiple pay frequencies and locations, and track PTO accruals
  • Full Service Payroll: $37 per month + $4 per employee monthly
    • Basic + federal, state, and local tax filings, and year-end payroll tax filing

Add-on fees

  • Multistate tax filings: $12 monthly for each additional state
  • 1099 e-filings (for Basic Payroll subscribers only): $20 for up to five 1099 e-filings; an additional $2 per 1099 is required for six to 35 filings (no additional charge for 36 or more)

Patriot Payroll offers a flexible option that others in this guide don’t: a choice between full-service payroll and a more affordable DIY version. Both come with unlimited payroll runs, multiple pay rates, automated PTO accrual calculations, and customizable deductions and contributions. You can pay employees through direct deposit or manual checks, and if you choose its full-service plan, Patriot will pay and file all federal, state, and local taxes. It even has payroll packages that include access to time tracking tools and an HR solution for managing employee information.

Scoring 3.66 out of 5 in our evaluation, Patriot Payroll received perfect marks in reporting, pricing, and popularity among users. It posted the lowest score in HR functionalities because it doesn’t offer new hire onboarding and employee benefits that most of the payroll software in this list provides. However, users still appreciate its reasonably priced plans and helpful support team. Others said that while it has user-friendly and efficient payroll tools, they wished Patriot Payroll offered faster direct deposits and additional integration options.

Patriot Payroll payroll dashboard.

Patriot Payroll’s payroll dashboard
(Source: Patriot Payroll)

Patriot Payroll Features

  • Self-service plan: You can save the most money if you have a couple of employees and are willing to file payroll taxes on your own using Patriot’s Basic Payroll plan. Priced at only $17 plus $4 per employee monthly, this is the most cost-efficient option among all the payroll providers in this guide.
  • Flexible payroll system: In addition to unlimited pay runs, Patriot Payroll supports multiple pay rates, plus you can either use its standard deduction and contribution types or create your own to capture payroll details for garnishments, health insurance options, and retirement plans. Employees and contractor payments are made through direct deposits, but the processing time is four days. If you want fast direct deposits, consider QuickBooks Payroll (its basic Core plan comes with next-day options) and Square Payroll (its Instant Payments feature lets you pay employees instantly).
  • Multiple full-service payroll packages: Aside from its standard Full Service option, Patriot has payroll packages that include time tracking and employee information management tools. All plans include one state filing, but if you need to file taxes in multiple states, each additional filing costs $12 monthly.
  • Tax penalty guarantee: If you subscribe to one of its Full Payroll plans, Patriot ensures that your taxes will be calculated and filed on time. Any disputes will be resolved and paid for by Patriot for tax filing mistakes that its representatives will commit.

Homebase Payroll: Best for Businesses Employing Hourly Workers

Homebase Payroll

Homebase logo.

Overall Score: 3.64
OUT OF 5

What We Like

  • Flat pricing with reasonable monthly fees
  • Payroll plan includes time tracking, scheduling, job postings, and applicant tracking tools
  • Unlimited pay runs with automated payroll tax payments and filings

What’s Missing

  • Payroll services available only in 47 states (as of this writing)
  • Lacks health insurance options
  • Integrates only with QuickBooks Online

Homebase Payroll Pricing

  • $35 per month + $5 per employee monthly
    • Includes payroll processing, direct check payments, tax filing and payments, and mobile app

*Requires subscription to its time tracking and scheduling software, Homebase (which has a free plan for one-location businesses).

Homebase Payroll is an add-on module to Homebase, which has a suite of time tracking, hiring, and scheduling solutions. Similar to Square Payroll, it offers flat pricing for its easy-to-use pay processing solution that includes automated payroll tax payment and filing services. Its payroll platform is designed specifically for hourly teams as it comes with scheduling and time tracking solutions for managing your hourly workforce. It even offers job postings, applicant tracking, PTO management, new hire onboarding, and time clock apps.

Homebase Payroll earned an overall score of 3.64 in our rubric. Its reasonably priced plan with flat pricing and efficient HR tools contributed to its high scores (4 and up), while the lack of online reviews resulted in it getting a zero rating in our popularity criteria.

Homebase Payroll sample.

With Homebase Payroll, you can process payroll in three easy clicks.
(Source: Homebase)

Homebase Payroll Features

  • Flat pricing: Both Square Payroll and Homebase Payroll offer flat pricing, allowing you to easily plan your payroll software expenses. You also don’t have to worry about having to pay extra fees if you exceed a plan’s user limits or need additional payroll and essential HR solutions. Homebase Payroll has only one plan that includes all the tools you need to hire, onboard, and pay employees.
  • Robust payroll plan: Homebase Payroll is one of the payroll systems for small businesses that we reviewed that’s reasonably priced and comes with several HR features. For only $35 plus $5 per employee monthly, you get hiring, onboarding, time tracking, and scheduling tools in addition to full-service payroll and automatic tax filing services. Paycor, ADP, Paychex, and Rippling may offer similar functionalities, but you either have to pay extra or subscribe to its higher tiers to get these solutions.
  • Full-service payroll: Unlike Paychex and ADP Run, Homebase Payroll offers unlimited pay runs so you can process employee and contractor payments as many times as you need in a month. Salaries are sent to the employees’ accounts via direct deposits, although Homebase Payroll also supports payments made through printable checks. In addition to W-2 and 1099 reporting, Homebase provides automated payroll tax payments and filings.
  • Early access to wages: Similar to Gusto and Square Payroll, Homebase Payroll offers an employee perk that grants your staff early access to wages. Your workers can transfer a portion of their salary to their bank account before payday to help pay for emergency expenses.

How We Chose the Top Payroll Software

We checked and compared the best payroll software for small businesses across industries; most of them offer many of the same basic payroll tools with certain nuances in features, i.e., same-day vs two-day direct deposit or unlimited pay runs vs limited pay runs. Generally, the top payroll software offer direct deposit, tax filing, and year-end tax report preparation. Some even provide benefits and HR support.

Click through the tabs below for a more detailed breakdown of our evaluation criteria.

20% of Overall Score

We checked to see if the provider has transparent pricing, zero setup fees, and multiple plan options with unlimited pay runs. Those priced at $50 or less per employee monthly were also given extra points. Gusto, QuickBooks Payroll, and Patriot Payroll earned perfect marks in this area.

20% of Overall Score

We gave priority to those that offer multiple pay options, two-day direct deposits, tax payments and filings, year-end reporting (W-2s and 1099s), and a penalty-free tax guarantee. Most of the payroll software we reviewed scored 4 and above here, except Patriot Payroll and Homebase Payroll. Gusto and Square Payroll scored highest because both provide robust payout options that include on-demand pay and a pay card option.

20% of Overall Score

Payroll service and software should be simple to set up, customizable, and have a user-friendly interface. We also looked at whether the provider offers live support and integration options with online tools that most SMBs use. QuickBooks Payroll earned perfect marks here because of its intuitive interface, how-to guides, and easy payroll setup.

15% of Overall Score

Online onboarding, which means giving employees the option to fill out forms like W-4s electronically, is the top criterion, followed by state new hire reporting and the availability of a self-service portal where employees can view pay stubs, edit information, and access forms. Extra points were also given to providers who offer expert HR support, benefits options, and health insurance plans that cover all US states. ADP Run, Paycor, and Paychex received perfect ratings here because all three offer more comprehensive HR features for businesses as they grow.

15% of Overall Score

In this criterion, we assess whether the software’s ease of use, pricing, and the width and depth of its payroll and HR tools are ideal for SMBs. While Paychex, ADP, and Paycor all have a wide range of HR and payroll solutions to fit different-sized businesses, only Paychex scored 5 out of 5. ADP’s non-transparent pricing and Paycor’s expensive plans prevented the two from getting perfect scores here.

5% of Overall Score

We considered user reviews, including those of our competitors based on a 5-star scale; any option with an average of 4+ stars is ideal. Also, any software with 1,000+ reviews on any third-party site is preferred. Gusto, ADP, Paycor, Rippling, and Patriot earned a perfect rating in this criterion.

5% of Overall Score

Preference was given to software with built-in basic payroll reports and customization options. All of the small business payroll software we reviewed received perfect scores here, except for Homebase Payroll since it lacks customizable reports.

*Percentages of overall score

Bottom Line

Small businesses need reliable payroll software to save time and money. Most providers calculate wages, offer direct deposit, and pay taxes; however, you should consider your business needs and budget limitations. Small businesses can benefit from features such as automated tax payments, year-end report filing, and unlimited payroll runs.

We found that Gusto offers all of the features that most small businesses need at a very competitive price. Users find it very easy to use and navigate, and the software is widely used in different industries. Sign up for a Gusto plan today.

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