The best payroll apps make it easy for employers to manage payroll directly from their smartphones or tablets. Most are free to download, though you have to pay providers’ subscription fees to use their software. Some mobile payroll apps won’t let you e-file payroll taxes through its system, whereas others have full-service functionality so you can run payroll, pay employees and taxes, and approve time all via the app.
To find the best payroll apps for small businesses, we evaluated 11 solutions then narrowed the list down to our top five recommendations.
- QuickBooks Payroll: Best overall payroll app for small businesses
- Square Payroll: Best for restaurants and retail shops using Square POS that need fast employee payments
- Paychex: Best for solopreneurs and growing businesses requiring flexible plans and dedicated payroll support
- Roll by ADP: Best for tech-savvy small business owners that want a low-cost, chat-based mobile payroll tool
- SurePayroll: Best for employers with simple payroll needs (no major reporting or customization requirements)
Don’t want to download an app and would rather use a payroll solution with a mobile-responsive platform? Gusto is a good option since you can easily access its software (and pay employees) via the web browsers of iOS and Android devices. Its features are similar to most of the payroll apps in this list, plus your employees get free access to the Gusto Wallet app, a financial wellness solution that helps your workers better manage their funds and allows them access to their money as they earn it.
- Mobile app lets you run payroll and e-file payroll taxes
- Reasonably priced plans with unlimited and automated pay runs
- Same- and next-day direct deposits
- Seamless integration with QuickBooks and QuickBooks Desktop
- Employees don’t have access to the apps; pay and benefits details are available only through the online self-service portal
- Occasional mobile app glitches
- Inconsistent customer support quality
|RATING CRITERIA||Mobile-app specific features||3.75||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll features||4.25||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of use||4.63||OUT OF||5|
|HR features||4.38||OUT OF||5|
The QuickBooks Payroll app is ideal for small businesses, especially those that are existing QuickBooks users. With one click, you can access its payroll module directly through the QuickBooks accounting system—a favorite of many small businesses. This means that you don’t have to spend extra time importing and setting up your chart of accounts as you do with outside providers.
Scoring 4.13 out of 5 in our evaluation, QuickBooks Payroll earned ratings of 4 and up in nearly all of the criteria but scored the lowest (3.75) in popularity since its user reviews on third-party sites like G2 and Capterra average below 1,000. And, despite it having robust mobile payroll tools with e-payroll tax filing capabilities, it posted a 3.75 score in our mobile app functionalities criteria because of its app glitches and inconsistent in-app tech support. However, many users still find its mobile apps for iOS and Android devices easy and convenient to use, although there are a few reviewers who complained about having experienced poor customer support and occasional app glitches.
QuickBooks Payroll offers solid payroll solutions for managing both employee and contractor payments. Check out our QuickBooks Payroll review to learn more about its functionalities.
QuickBooks Payroll Pricing
- Mobile app: The app is free to download, but you have to sign up for a QuickBooks Payroll plan to use it.
- Software subscription fees: QuickBooks Payroll has a Core plan ($45 plus $4 per employee monthly) that includes full-service payroll with automated federal and state tax calculations, payments, and filings. It also offers a Premium tier ($75 plus $8 per employee monthly) and an Elite package ($125 plus $10 per employee monthly) that comes with additional features, such as same-day direct deposits, time tracking, and workers’ compensation administration.
- Additional costs: Integrating your payroll data with QuickBooks Accounting will run you anywhere from $25 to $70 per month. Core and Premium plan subscribers that require payroll tax filing in more than one state also have to pay $12 monthly for each additional state. However, the said additional state filing charges don’t apply to Elite plan holders.
QuickBooks Payroll Standout Features
- Efficient mobile payroll processing: Create, review, edit, and run unlimited payrolls from Android and iOS mobile devices. You can even set up payroll to run automatically—provided that all employees receive pay via direct deposit and your first payroll using QuickBooks has been successful.
- Fast direct deposits: While its Core plan allows you to remit employee payments through next-day direct deposits, its Premium and Elite tiers provide you with a same-day option. You may also want to consider Square Payroll, especially if you have a Square Payments account, since it comes with same-day direct deposits.
- Complete tax compliance: Aside from automated federal and state tax calculations and year-end forms, you can electronically pay and file taxes directly from QuickBooks Payroll’s mobile app. However, it doesn’t handle local tax payments and filings unless you subscribe to at least its Premium plan. If you want tax filing services that cover federal, state, and local taxes, then the other providers in this list are good alternatives.
- Employee benefits: Small businesses can purchase medical, dental, and vision insurance through QuickBooks Payroll’s partner, SimplyInsured. Flexible workers’ compensation is also available, including three 401(k) retirement plans (with monthly fees that start at $49 plus $8 per employee). For those looking for a financial wellness program, Paychex is a good option.
- Payroll reports: Apart from the current pay period’s register, you can generate reports on past pay runs (up to one year’s worth of paycheck history) directly from the QuickBooks Payroll app, including past and upcoming payroll tax details.
- Expert support: For new users who require assistance getting QuickBooks Payroll up and running, the provider has a guided payroll setup and experts who can help you stay compliant. It also offers 24/7 chat support and US-based phone support Mondays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific time. However, if you need a dedicated payroll specialist, consider Paychex, as it assigns a payroll expert to act as a single point of contact to each of its clients.
- Affordable full-service payroll with unlimited pay runs
- Offers next-day direct deposits and instant payment options
- Timecard management features included in mobile app
- Seamless integration with Square POS
- Next-day direct deposits and instant payments require a Square Payments account
- Standard direct deposits take four days (if without a Square Payments account)
- Available only for employers; employees have to download a separate app to view pay stubs and manage staff info
- Occasional app glitches
|RATING CRITERIA||Mobile-app specific features||4.13||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll features||4.50||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of use||3.75||OUT OF||5|
|HR features||3.75||OUT OF||5|
The seamless integration between Square Payroll and Square POS makes it easy for retail shops and restaurants to accept payments and track employees’ work hours from mobile devices. Those data are transferred directly to its payroll system that can even handle tip reporting. This is much simpler than signing up with a provider like QuickBooks Payroll and having to research and install POS systems that manually integrate with it.
Square Payroll earned an overall score of 3.91 out of 5 in our evaluation. It got ratings of 3 and higher in nearly all of our criteria given its affordability, ease of use, efficient payroll tools, instant payment options (if you have a Square Payments account), and helpful HR features (that include benefits and basic timekeeping). The criteria that it posted low scores on (2.5 and below) are reporting (standard reports are fewer than 60) and popularity (average user reviews online is below 500).
Note, also, that the Square Payroll app is available only for employers. Your employees will have to download the Square Team App to check their pay stubs, view their hours worked, and access tax forms (W-2s and 1099s). This is unlike Roll by ADP and Paychex that offer a single app for both employers and employees. However, many users still appreciate its straightforward interface that makes mobile pay processing quick and easy. On the other hand, some users said that its app is glitchy and that its customer support isn’t always responsive.
If you’re wondering whether Square Payroll has all the pay processing tools you need, read our Square Payroll review to help you gauge whether or not it fits your business’s requirements.
Square Payroll Pricing
- Mobile app: The Square Payroll app is free to download, but you have to pay software subscription fees in order to use its features.
- Software subscription fees: If you’re paying both employees and contractors, Square Payroll’s pricing is $35 plus $5 per employee monthly. This includes full-service payroll, tax filings and payments, time tracking, and multiple pay options. However, if you’re only paying contractors, the rate is $5 per person monthly.
Square Payroll Standout Features
- Affordability: Compared to the other payroll app providers that we reviewed, Square Payroll (behind Roll by ADP) has one of the cheapest plans at only $35 plus $5 per employee monthly.
- Mobile payroll processing: Pay hourly and salaried employees, including contractors, via Square Payroll’s mobile app (for Android and iOS). While you can run payroll as many times as you need, you can’t electronically file payroll taxes through the app like with QuickBooks Payroll.
- Multiple pay options with instant payments: Apart from manual checks (this requires a printer) and four-day direct deposits, you can pay employees instantly through Square’s Cash App or the next day via direct deposit—provided you have a Square Payments account. If you’re not a Square Payments user but want fast direct deposits, we recommend either QuickBooks Payroll or Roll by ADP since both offer next-day direct deposits as their standard timelines.
- Complete tax compliance: Unlike QuickBooks Payroll, Square Payroll handles all payroll tax payments and filings for you. It also provides quarterly and annual tax forms, such as W-2s and 1099s.
- Time tracking: With Square Payroll’s time tracking feature, employees can clock in/out through the Square POS or the Square Team mobile app. Then, you can view and edit digital timecards through your Square dashboard. Other providers will require you to pay extra for time clock integrations (like SurePayroll) and time tracking tools (like QuickBooks Payroll, but only for Core subscribers).
- Employee benefit plans: The Square Payroll app provides easy access to employee health insurance and retirement plans, including workers’ compensation. However, it lacks the financial wellness services that Paychex offers.
- Payroll expertise: For new subscribers who switched payroll providers, Square offers the assistance of a payroll specialist to help guide you through the system set up. You can also contact Square’s support team during weekdays via phone and email from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time and through live chat from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific time.
- Flexible payroll and HR plans, including one for solopreneurs
- 24/7 support for all plans and a dedicated payroll specialist for higher tiers
- Multiple pay options (i.e., paper checks, direct deposits, pay on-demand, and pay cards)
- Pricing isn’t all transparent
- In-app tech support isn’t responsive
- Has a bit of a learning curve (due to robust features)
|RATING CRITERIA||Mobile-app specific features||3.50||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll features||4.50||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of use||4.38||OUT OF||5|
|HR features||5.00||OUT OF||5|
Paychex is great for solopreneurs and growing businesses because it offers flexible payroll and HR plans. You can start with its Paychex Solo solution (for solopreneurs) and then transition to Paychex Flex (and maybe even its PEO option) if you need to offer competitive benefits or want to outsource more of the HR and compliance function to a team vs doing it yourself.
Paychex’s mobile app is for its Paychex Flex product, and unlike the other providers in this list (except Roll by ADP), it has functionalities for both employers and employees. Aside from processing payroll, employers can use the mobile app to access staff profiles, payslips, tax documents, and health insurance enrollment information. Employees, on the other hand, can check their pay stubs, Form W-2s, paid-time-off (PTO) balances, health insurance benefit details, and more.
Scoring 3.69 out of 5, Paychex received high marks in nearly all the criteria with perfect scores in HR and reporting features (it has more than 60 canned reports). It received the lowest scores in pricing and popularity given its non-transparent fees and low number of average user reviews online, respectively. User feedback about its mobile apps are also mixed—several reviewers commented that it is convenient to use while some said that it is glitchy, crashes a lot, and loads slow at times.
To learn more about Paychex’s functionalities, check out our review of Paychex Flex, its product designed for 10 to 49 employees.
- Mobile app: The app is free to download but requires a Paychex software subscription.
- Software subscription fees: Paychex offers three full-service payroll solutions, Paychex Go ($39 plus $5 per employee monthly), Paychex Flex Select (custom priced), and Paychex Flex Enterprise (custom priced).
- Additional costs: Payroll tax administration, Paychex’s time and attendance module, and access to accounting software integrations cost extra. You have to call the provider to get pricing information.
Paychex Standout Features
- Flexible payroll processing: Review, edit, and submit payroll for employees and contractors via the Paychex Flex mobile app for Android and iOS devices. Even if you started running payroll on your desktop computer, you can easily resume pay processing on your smartphones and tablets. None of the payroll apps included in this guide have this functionality.
- Early access to wages: Aside from direct deposits and pay cards, Paychex supports paper checks with check signing and stuffing services. It also has a pay-on-demand feature that provides employees access to earned wages before a payroll date.
- Tax compliance: Paychex offers accurate and efficient payroll tax calculations, payments, and filings for federal, state, and most local taxes. It also provides automatic W-2s and 1099s for your staff. Unlike the other providers we reviewed, Paychex can help you claim tax credit incentives in case your business is eligible for tax credits.
- Self-service tool for employees: Paychex Flex’s app has different permission settings for employees. This allows them to use the same mobile program to access and view their employee profiles, benefits information, retirement balances and contributions, pay stubs, and W-2s. Other providers (like SurePayroll and QuickBooks Payroll) will require your employees to download a separate app to access this information.
- Reporting: Paychex is the only provider in this guide with 60+ reports you can use to evaluate your payroll detail. Plus, the reports are customizable.
- Dedicated payroll support: Subscribing to Paychex’s higher tiers grants you access to a dedicated payroll expert who can help with all of your tax and pay processing needs. In addition, you can contact Paychex’s support team by phone and via its 24/7 US-based live chat service.
Roll by ADP
- Affordable plan with unlimited pay runs and live chat support
- Next-day direct deposits
- Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered assistant guides you through the payroll process and conducts error checks in real time
- Three-month free trial
- Slight learning curve (due to its chat-based commands)
- No benefit options, accounting integrations, automated 1099 tax filings, and live phone support
- Limited reporting
- Chat support wait times can be a bit long
|RATING CRITERIA||Mobile-app specific features||4.00||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll features||3.50||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of use||1.38||OUT OF||5|
|HR features||2.25||OUT OF||5|
Roll by ADP is the only mobile app in this guide that lets you run payroll and set up staff profiles online through chat commands. While its chat-based mobile system may take some getting used to, its smart in-app assistant can help guide you through its functionalities in addition to running error checks and sending proactive alerts. Plus it offers an affordably priced plan (cheapest on our list) that costs $17 per month + $5 per employee monthly. This makes it a good option for small businesses that require low-cost yet smart mobile payroll tools without all the bells and whistles of a cloud-based payroll software.
With an overall score of 3.30 out of 5, Roll by ADP earned ratings of 3.5 and above in pricing, payroll tools, and mobile-app functionalities. It scored the lowest in reporting and ease of use because it has limited reports and customization options, lacks phone support and employee benefits plans, and doesn’t integrate with third-party solutions (as of this writing). You may need time adjusting to using its chat commands.
Roll by ADP Pricing
- Mobile app: The app is free to download, but you need a paid Roll by ADP subscription to use its payroll tools.
- Software subscription fees: It costs $17 per month + $5 per employee.
Roll by ADP Standout Features
- Chat-based mobile payroll app: Roll by ADP is the first of its kind—you can set up employee profiles, add deductions, run payroll, and pay employees through direct deposits by using only chat commands on your mobile iOS and Android devices. It even has a scanner icon that lets you view its mobile platform on computer desktops and laptops.
- Affordably-priced plan: For $17 per month + $5 per employee monthly, you get full service payroll with unlimited pay runs. If you need employee benefits, tip reporting, and integration options with QuickBooks Online and time tracking solutions, we recommend Square since Roll by ADP has none of these.
- Next-day payments: What’s great about Roll by ADP is that it automatically provides next-day direct deposits to its clients (even a same-day option if via manual check). This is comparable to QuickBooks Payroll although QuickBooks’ same-day option includes direct deposit; you also have to subscribe to a premium plan to access it whereas Roll by ADP includes it under its one plan.
- AI-powered assistant: Paychex may offer the services of a dedicated payroll specialist, but with Roll by ADP, you get a smart in-app assistant that learns how you do payroll and automatically lines up your to-dos in advance. It sends automated alerts and even conducts error checks to make sure that your payroll is in line with your normal pay runs. In case you need to consult with a customer representative, Roll by ADP provides unlimited live chat support.
- Affordable and transparent pricing
- Free trial lasts for two months
- Extended weekday evening and weekend support
- Add-on fees for multiple state tax filing and software integrations (with limited options)
- Separate apps for employers and employees
- Mobile app is glitchy (freezes and crashes frequently)
|RATING CRITERIA||Mobile-app specific features||2.63||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll features||4.25||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of use||3.63||OUT OF||5|
|HR features||2.75||OUT OF||5|
The SurePayroll app is designed for small businesses that need to run payroll without all of the extra features that QuickBooks Payroll, Square Payroll, and Paychex provide. It is also an affordable full-service provider, meaning it calculates and files your payroll taxes plus pays employees, but it charges extra if your business grows and expands to additional states. It even offers small businesses two months of free payroll service as of this writing, making it easy for you to try it out risk-free.
However, your staff will have to download an employee-specific SurePayroll app for viewing payslips, PTO balances, retirement deductions and contribution rates, and tax forms. If you prefer having only one app for both employers and employees, then try either Roll by ADP or Paychex.
In our evaluation of the best payroll apps, SurePayroll earned an overall score of 3 out of 5. It posted ratings of 4 and up in pricing and payroll functionalities but received ratings of below 2 in reporting and popularity given its limited report options and the low number of average user reviews online (fewer than 500). Several users also complained about its “clunky” app that crashes most of the time. Other reviewers, on the other hand, like its user-friendly and intuitive interface.
To learn more about SurePayroll’s DIY option and full-service payroll tier, read our SurePayroll review.
- Mobile app: The app is free to download, but you will need a SurePayroll software subscription to use its payroll functionalities.
- Software subscription fees: SurePayroll’s self-service option—wherein you pay and file federal and state payroll taxes yourself—is priced at $19.99 plus $4 per employee monthly. Meanwhile, its full-service payroll option costs $29.99 plus $5 per employee monthly.
- Additional costs: You have to pay extra to access its multistate filing ($9.99 per month), Ohio and/or Pennsylvania local service tax filing ($9.99 per month), accounting software integration ($4.99 per payroll), and time clock software integration ($9.99 per month).
SurePayroll Standout Features
- Payroll processing for mobile: SurePayroll designed its mobile app (for Android and iOS devices) to have the same functionalities as its online software. You can set up unlimited and automatic pay runs to process pay for employees and contractors. You can also enter actual hours worked, earnings, deductions, and hours for vacation and sick leave directly into the app.
- Flexible direct deposit pay options: SurePayroll’s full-service option lets you pay employees either via next- or same-day direct deposits. You have the option to choose the payout timelines, provided you meet SurePayroll’s submission deadlines of 10:30 a.m. Central time for same-day direct deposits and 3 p.m. Central time of the prior business day for next-day payrolls.
- Tax compliance: SurePayroll calculates payroll taxes automatically. If you get its full-service payroll plan, the provider also pays and files payroll taxes on your behalf—but you have to pay for Ohio and/or Pennsylvania local tax filings ($9.99 per month). For a more budget-friendly option, consider Paychex, Square Payroll, and Roll by ADP since all three don’t charge extra for this.
- Live customer support: SurePayroll has a US-based support team that you can contact six days a week (with extended weekday evening hours) either through email, phone, or live chat. However, it doesn’t have a smart in-app assistant that Roll by ADP does or the dedicated payroll specialist that Paychex provides.
Alternative Payroll App
The five payroll apps we recommended may provide you with all the essential tools you need to process employee pay while on the go. However, for employers who need to compute the salaries of a very small team, then Payroll Guru is the app for you.
Unlike the other mobile solutions mentioned in this guide, Payroll Guru has a free-to-use app, Paycheck Free. You don’t need to purchase a software subscription in order to use its online payroll and payroll tax computation tools. It doesn’t run payroll—just calculates—so if you need more functionalities (such as hourly calculations, pre- and post-tax deductions, multiple employee payroll profiles, and zero in-app ads), consider using the paid Payroll Guru app, which costs $4.99.
Note that you can’t run payroll directly from Payroll Guru’s free and paid apps. It only allows you to compute your expected payroll and payroll tax deductions. In fact, many users who left feedback on the App Store and Google Play mentioned that they primarily use the app to estimate their take-home pay.
Employers, on the other hand, can take advantage of the app’s functionalities if they don’t have a more efficient way to calculate payroll amounts. It’s best to only use it if you have fewer than five employees because it only gives calculations and can get tedious if you have a big team.
Not seeing what you’re looking for? Check out our guide on best payroll software.
How We Chose the Best Payroll Apps
We looked at pricing (software subscription fees and whether the app is free), ease of use, payroll functionalities, and HR features—such as online onboarding, new hire reporting, and benefits administration. We rated each function on a 5-star scale designed to assess payroll apps.
Based on our evaluation criteria, QuickBooks Payroll has the best payroll app for small employers. The software and its mobile app scored the highest according to our grading system, having received an overall score of 4.13 out of 5. In addition to running payroll, you can remit staff wages via direct deposits and electronically pay and file payroll taxes (in all 50 states)—all from your mobile device.
To see our full evaluation criteria for best payroll apps, click through the tabs in the box below.
50% of Overall Score
Mobile solutions that allow employers to run payroll and e-file payroll taxes, including those that offer in-app tech support, received high marks. Extra points are also given to those that are free to download, can be accessed by both employers and employees, have positive mobile app reviews (average of 4+ stars), and provide paid-time-off (PTO) management and self-service tools—such as viewing payslips and managing employee data. QuickBooks Payroll is great if you want payroll e-filing capabilities, while Roll by ADP is ideal for those who are comfortable using chat commands to run payroll.
15% of Overall Score
Automatic payroll runs, payroll tax filing, 1099 form preparation, manual check capabilities, and two-day direct deposits are just some of the features that we looked for. Providers also get points if they can handle both employee and contractor payroll and offer manual checks, pay cards, and pay on-demand options. While all of the software we reviewed scored well here, we recommend Paychex if you want to provide employees with early access to earned wages and Square Payroll for those that need multiple pay options with instant payments (through Square Payments and its Cash App).
10% of Overall Score
Payroll providers that offer a plan that’s priced at less than $50 for one employee are rated more favorably. We also looked at whether or not each provider has transparent pricing, multiple plan options, and unlimited pay runs. Additional points were also given to those that don’t charge setup fees. Square Payroll and Roll by ADP offer the lowest rates ($29 plus $5 per employee monthly), followed by SurePayroll ($29.99 plus $5 per employee monthly for its full-service option).
10% of Overall Score
Aside from having a user-friendly, intuitive, and customizable platform, payroll software that integrates with common third-party systems (like QuickBooks, Homebase, and TSheets) are awarded extra points. We also prioritized providers that offer quick problem resolutions and live phone support. The only provider that posted a score of below 2 here is Roll by ADP, mainly because it lacks live phone support, third-party software integrations, and customization options.
5% of Overall Score
Having access to a professional who can provide expert advice on compliance issues is one of the top criteria, including new hire state reporting. Following closely behind these is the capability to provide online onboarding and employee benefits (like health insurance and workers’ compensation) that are available in all 50 states. Roll by ADP scored poorly here since it lacks benefits options, whereas SurePayroll got low marks because it doesn’t offer online onboarding tools.
5% of Overall Score
Aside from having access to customizable reports, providers that have a robust selection of canned reports (more than 60) were rated favorably. QuickBooks Payroll and Paychex received perfect marks here, while Roll by ADP posted the lowest score due to its limited reporting capabilities.
5% of Overall Score
Using mobile apps to manage payroll out of the office is a necessity for many business owners. Those that are considered good are designed to provide payroll services that help employers pay their staff accurately and on time and avoid potential tax-filing penalties. The best payroll apps for your business also depend on the type of workers you hire (employees versus contractors), your compliance needs, and whether or not you have in-house payroll or HR support staff to handle employee pay processing.
Our recommendation for the best payroll app is QuickBooks Payroll. It lets you run payroll, electronically file and pay payroll taxes, and remit employee wages via direct deposits all from your mobile device. Moreover, it’s easy to use and integrates with QuickBooks seamlessly—a plus for existing users of the provider’s accounting software. Sign up for its 30-day free trial today.