9 Best Payroll Software for Small Business Users in 2023
This article is part of a larger series on Payroll Services.
Aside from being affordably priced, the best payroll software for small business users calculates employee wages and deductions accurately and pays and files payroll taxes automatically. Most offer unlimited pay runs, paid time off (PTO) tracking, 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 nine recommendations:
- Gusto: Best overall small business payroll software
- QuickBooks Payroll: Best for QuickBooks accounting users and fast direct deposits
- Square Payroll: Best for small restaurants, retail shops, and Square POS users
- Rippling: Best all-in-one human resources (HR), payroll, and information technology (IT) solution
- OnPay: Best for delegating payroll duties and those with niche payroll needs
- Paychex Flex: Best for solopreneurs and small companies that need a dedicated payroll specialist
- ADP Run: Best for rapidly scaling startups
- Homebase Payroll: Best for businesses with hourly workers
- Patriot Payroll: Best for mom-and-pops looking for a low-cost do-it-yourself (DIY) payroll service
Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses Compared
Starter Monthly Pricing
Contractor-only Payroll Plan
$6 per employee plus $40 base fee
$6 per worker plus $35 monthly
Included in higher tiers
30 days or 50% off for three months
$5 per employee plus $45 base fee
$15 monthly for 20 workers; plus $2 for each additional contractor
Included in higher tiers
$6 per employee plus $35 base fee
$6 per worker monthly
$8 per employee plus $35 base fee**
Included in quote
$6 per employee plus $40 monthly
Via third-party software integration
None, but offers three months' free payroll*
$5 per employee plus $39 base fee
None, but offers three months' free payroll*
$2.50 per employee, per weekly pay run plus $49 base fee**
$6 per employee plus $39 base fee***
$4 per employee plus $17 base fee****
Starts at $2 per employee plus $6 monthly
*This can end at any time. Visit the providers’ websites to view the latest promo on offer.
**Pricing is based on a quote we received.
***Requires purchase of Homebase’s main time tracking and scheduling platform, which has a free plan for one-location businesses.
****Pricing is for the basic plan with do-it-yourself tax filings. Patriot Payroll also offers a full-service option with tax filing services that costs $37 plus $4 per employee monthly.
All the providers in this guide offer full-service payroll, tax filing services and year-end reporting, direct deposit payments, employee self-service portals, time tracking (except OnPay) and new hire onboarding (except Patriot Payroll). Here are some of the key features.
Unlimited and Automatic Pay Runs
Standard Direct Deposit
Health Benefits Covers All States
Other HR Tools*
Limited to 37 states
Hawaii, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., are not covered
4-day; instantly with Square Payments
2-day or 4-day,
depends on risk assessment
Automatic pay runs
Automatic pay runs
2-day for qualified companies
*Some HR tools may be available in higher tiers or require add-on fees.
Need help determining the best payroll software for your business?
Gusto: Best Overall Payroll Software for Small Business Users
- Unlimited pay runs
- Automated payroll tax payments and filings with year-end reporting
- Reasonably priced for small businesses
- Supports international contractor payments in more than 90 countries
- Health insurance limited to 37 states
- Time tracking, next-day direct deposits, and multistate payroll are available only in higher tiers
- No dedicated payroll specialist
Gusto Plans & Pricing
- Simple: $40 per month plus $6 per employee monthly
- Plus: $80 per month plus $12 per employee monthly
- Premium: Custom priced
- Contractor-only payroll package: $35 plus $6 per contractor monthly
- State payroll tax registration: Pricing varies per state
- HR advisory services for Plus plan only: $8 per employee monthly, which is included for free in the Premium tier
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. It supports multiple pay rates and schedules and can process salary payouts through the Gusto Wallet app, via direct deposits, and with checks you print yourself. Hiring tools, such as job postings, applicant tracking, and offer letter templates, are also available to help you find and recruit qualified candidates. Gusto even notifies each new hire so that they can complete the required paperwork. This is unlike QuickBooks Payroll, Patriot Payroll, and Square Payroll, which have basic HR tools.
Since our last update
Gusto is no longer offering the Cashout program, which enabled employees to access a portion of their earned salaries between paydays.
Scoring 4.78 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 (available only in 37 states) and having to subscribe to one of its higher tiers to access HR tools, such as time tracking and online PTO requests, prevented Gusto from getting a higher score.
- 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 withholds, pays, and files taxes on federal, state, and local levels automatically. It handles year-end tax reporting (W-2s and 1099s) for free, unlike ADP Run and Paychex, which charge a fee for this service.
- International contractor payments: Businesses can pay their contractors in more than 90 countries, such as India, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines.
- Employee benefits: Gusto offers standard and nonstandard benefits options, such as 529 college savings accounts and Gusto Wallet—a free financial management app with time tracking tools. It also provides employee benefits plans in all 50 states, but its health insurance is available only in 37 (as of this writing).
- 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.
- Efficient time tracking and workforce management tools: Aside from project tracking and workforce costing tools, you can monitor your employees’ and contractors’ time through Gusto or via the Gusto Wallet. 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 offering benefits is important to you, then Gusto is a great choice—provided your business is not located in one of the 13 states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) where it doesn’t offer insurance. If you are, consider any providers in this guide except Patriot Payroll and Homebase Payroll as neither offers benefits.
Employers with staff working in different states must upgrade to at least its Plus plan ($80 plus $12 per employee monthly) to unlock Gusto’s multiple state pay runs. If you have a limited budget, any of the payroll programs for small business users on our list can handle your multistate payroll needs (although Patriot Payroll charges $12 monthly for each additional state tax filing).
To help you determine whether this software meets your HR payroll needs, read our Gusto review.
QuickBooks Payroll: Best for QuickBooks Accounting Software Users
- Integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks accounting software
- Same- and next-day direct deposits
- Unlimited pay runs with automated payroll tax filings (federal and state)
- Affordable plan for processing contractor payments
- Automated local tax filings and time tracking available only in higher tiers
- Limited health benefits coverage (doesn’t include Hawaii, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.)
- Basic HR features
- Doesn’t have mobile apps for employee self-service (only offers a workforce portal you can access online)
QuickBooks Payroll Plans & Pricing
- Core: $45 per month plus $5 per employee monthly
- Premium: $75 per month plus $8 per employee monthly
- Elite: $125 per month plus $10 per employee monthly
- Contractor payments package: $15 monthly for 20 workers; plus $2 for each additional contractor
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).
As with 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 as 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 4.54 out of 5, with perfect scores in 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 (fewer 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 Overview
- 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.
- Low-cost contractor payments: For small businesses that only need to pay contract workers, QuickBooks Payroll has a budget-friendly contractor payments package. For $15 per month, you can process payments for up to 20 workers (plus $2 for each additional contractor), e-file 1099 forms, and pay contractors via next-day direct deposits.
- 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 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 in resolving 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.
QuickBooks Payroll lacks the advanced HR features you need to manage employees. It doesn’t have the job posting and hiring tools that Rippling, Gusto, Homebase, and ADP Run offer. While its contractor payments plan includes next-day direct deposits, it lacks Square Payroll’s flexible options that allow you to pay contract workers via check, direct deposit, or its Cash App.
Read our QuickBooks Payroll review to know more about what this software offers.
Square Payroll: Best for Restaurants, Retail Shops & Square POS Users
- Easy to use and navigate
- Flat pricing with an affordable contractor plan
- Seamless integration with Square POS
- Fast direct deposits, including an instant payment option
- 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 Plans & Pricing
- Pay employees and contractors: $35 per month plus $6 per employee monthly
- Pay contractors only: $6 per person monthly
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 Square POS and other third-party software 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 4.51 out of 5, with perfect scores in pricing and 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 has limited customization options. It also didn’t meet our subcriteria of having more than 1,000 average user reviews online. Plus, several reviewers complained of having experienced difficulties contacting its support team.
Square Payroll Overview
- 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 commission 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.
- On-demand pay option: This allows eligible employees to get a portion of their earned salary before the pay period is over. You don’t need to track these transactions manually because Square will deduct the applicable amount (including transfer fees, if any) automatically when you run payroll.
- Affordable contractor-only plan: Priced at only $6 per contractor monthly, Square Payroll’s contractor package comes with all the features of its “pay employees and contractors” plan, including unlimited pay runs.
- Online tax filing and reporting: Square Payroll will file your quarterly and annual taxes automatically 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 their 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.
Similar to QuickBooks Payroll, Square Payroll doesn’t have a wide range of HR solutions. Rippling is a great choice if you want an all-in-one HR payroll software. It even has IT tools to manage business apps and devices, as well as finance solutions for processing expense reimbursements.
For contractor-only businesses with a handful of workers and only need direct deposit payments, we recommend QuickBooks Payroll’s contractor payments plan as it is more affordable. QuickBooks will charge you $15 monthly for 20 workers (plus $2 for each additional worker), whereas Square will bill you $6 per contractor monthly.
Find more to like about this system by reading our Square Payroll review.
Rippling: Best All-in-one HR, Payroll & IT Solution
- Has modular HR, payroll, and IT solutions that integrate seamlessly with each other
- Its professional employer organization (PEO) services can be easily switched on and off
- Connects with 500-plus business apps
- IT tools simplify the company computer/app provisioning and deprovisioning processes
- Offers global payroll and employer of record (EoR) services for hiring and paying international workers
- Pricing isn’t all transparent
- You have to purchase its workforce 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 Plan & 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: $8 per employee monthly
- Benefits administration: Pricing varies, depending on your insurance broker
- HR help desk: Custom priced
*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 payroll software for small business users in this guide, such as Square Payroll 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. Rippling earned a 4.49 out of 5 in our evaluation, scoring high (4 and up) in all of our criteria. It lost several points because it doesn’t have pay-on-demand features, its pricing isn’t fully transparent, and it lacks free phone support—you have to purchase its HR help desk add-on that includes phone and email support from HR experts.
Since our last update
Rippling has released a new headcount planning and compensation bands solution. This feature provides you with a single source of truth for all your headcount numbers and compensation costs, streamlining the process of tracking approved headcount for new hires while preventing out-of-compensation band salary offers.
- 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 necessity) and full-service payroll tools, and then add more solutions, like employee benefits and applicant tracking as you grow your business.
- Payroll analytics: Rippling pulls your last payroll numbers automatically when you begin processing a new payroll so you can compare the two easily. 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 calculates all employee payments, taxes, and deductions automatically. Payroll tax filings are also done by Rippling automatically. 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 to manage 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 turn Rippling’s PEO services off from your account.
Rippling’s feature-rich HR payroll platform may be too much for small businesses that only need basic pay processing solutions. If you don’t require robust software integrations and advanced HR functionalities, try Patriot Payroll. Its full-service plan is more affordable than Rippling ($37 plus $4 per employee monthly vs $35 plus $8 per employee monthly) and the other providers on our list and comes with all the essential tools you need to run payroll.
Read our Rippling review to know more about its functionalities.
OnPay: Best for Delegating Payroll Duties & Niche Payroll Needs
- Files Form 943 (for agricultural companies)
- Multiple payment options, such as direct deposits, manual checks, and debit cards
- Affordably priced plan
- 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 Plan & Pricing
- $40 per month plus $6 per employee monthly
If you have a limited budget, OnPay provides a reasonably priced payroll solution that comes with basic HR tools for managing PTO, employee benefits, and onboarding. While it only has a single plan ($40 plus $6 per employee monthly), it’s one of the lowest-priced full-service payroll packages on our list—excluding Patriot with its DIY option. Plus, you get complete access to all of OnPay’s tools as other providers require you to upgrade to higher plans to unlock additional features. 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, such as healthcare and restaurants—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 4.48 out of 5 in our evaluation, with ratings of 4 and up in almost all criteria. It didn’t rank higher on our list because 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.
- Special payroll services: OnPay can handle the pay processing requirements of various businesses (like restaurants and bars) and organizations, such as churches and nonprofits. For those with special tax requirements like agricultural businesses, OnPay offers automated tax payments and filings of Form 943.
- 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 37 states (as of this writing), OnPay’s health plans are available in all states in the United States. Your employees are also granted access to dental, vision, disability, and retirement plans. Furthermore, OnPay can 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. The provider even assists new clients in setting up their accounts, migrating employee information, and customizing integrations with accounting and time tracking solutions.
If you require payroll assistance from OnPay’s support team on a weekend, you won’t be able to contact them via phone. It only provides email support on Saturdays and Sundays. ADP Run and Paychex are great choices if you need 24/7 support. Paychex even offers a dedicated payroll specialist, although this service is available only in its higher tiers.
In addition, OnPay’s HR functionalities are basic. While it has offer letters and automated onboarding workflows, it doesn’t post your open jobs like Gusto, Rippling, Paychex, and ADP Run do. Time tracking and scheduling tools are also available only through its integration with When I Work, Deputy, and QuickBooks Time. This is unlike Homebase, which has time tracking and staff scheduling as its core functionalities.
Check out our OnPay review for more details about this software.
Paychex: Best for Solopreneurs & Companies That Need Dedicated Payroll Support
- Flexible plans
- Payroll and HR features are integrated
- Dedicated payroll support
- Offers free optional services, such as a financial wellness program, a pay card, and an employee assistance program
- 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
- Time tracking is a paid add-on
Paychex Flex Plans & Pricing
- Paychex Flex Essentials: $39 per month plus $5 per employee
- Paychex Flex Select: Custom priced
- Paychex Flex Pro: Custom priced
- Paychex Solo: Custom priced
- Payroll tax administration services and year-end tax reports: Custom priced
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). Unlike QuickBooks Payroll and Gusto, which have limited health insurance coverage, Paychex lets you offer health insurance in all states in the US.
Since our last update:
Paychex has made some adjustments to its Paychex Flex pricing plans, wherein a few of its solutions are now paid add-ons (like garnishment payment services and document management). The provider also no longer charges extra for payroll tax filings. It has even introduced a new “Paychex Pre-check” tool that lets employees review their paychecks before pay dates.
The platform earned a 4.38 out of 5 in our evaluation. It scored perfect marks in reporting, user popularity, and our expert review criteria. However, it doesn’t have transparent pricing for all of its plans and charges extra for some of its services, such as benefits administration, time tracking, and third-party software integrations.
- Flexible plan options: Paychex offers flexible HR and payroll subscriptions that target businesses of all sizes. 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.
- Hands-free pay processing: The “Paychex Voice Assist” feature offers a hands-off experience in processing, reviewing, updating, and submitting payroll. This voice-activated tool, which works on any Google Assistant-compatible device, comes with built-in verification and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for user authentication. You can start a new pay period, make adjustments, or continue a pay run that’s already in progress—without having to log in to your Paychex Flex account manually.
- PEO services: If you ever go through a growth period in which you need an HR expert but aren’t ready to hire, Paychex has a PEO service to help you manage essential day-to-day HR processes.
- 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. Similar to Square Payroll and QuickBooks Payroll, Paychex also has a same-day payment option but via automated clearing house (ACH) transfers—provided you get its Select plan.
- 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. You even have the option to submit payroll via phone to your designated payroll specialist. Live chat features, in-app help options, and how-to guides are also available.
Budget-constrained small business owners may find Paychex a bit expensive given its add-on fees for payroll tax administration, tax filings, and year-end reporting—services that most of the providers in this guide offer at no extra cost. Unlike Square Payroll and QuickBooks Payroll, it doesn’t have a low-cost contractor-only payroll plan.
To learn more about its features and services, check out our Paychex Flex review.
ADP Run: Best for Scaling Startups That Need Flexible Plans
- Multiple plans to choose from
- Automatic quarterly and annual tax filings
- Advanced HR support available
- Built-in compliance tools that flag potential errors
- Pricing isn’t transparent
- Setup fee required
- Year-end reporting costs extra
- Benefits, time tracking, and workers' compensation are add-on products
ADP Run Plans & Pricing
- Essential: $49 base monthly fee plus $2.50 per employee, per weekly pay run*
- Enhanced: Custom priced
- Complete: Custom priced
- HR Pro: Custom priced
*Pricing is based on a quote we received for 25 employees.
ADP Run is ADP’s payroll system for small businesses with up to 49 employees. It comes with all 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 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 4.06 out of 5. It was rated highly in ease of use, payroll and HR features, reporting, popularity among users, and our expert review criterion. It scored the lowest in pricing because of its setup costs and nontransparent fees—and users even commented that it can be expensive for small businesses. However, many reviewers said they do appreciate its easy-to-use platform, adding that its payroll solution helps simplify employee pay processes.
ADP Run Overview
- 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 that 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 offers a PEO option, ADP TotalSource, for companies that need to outsource their payroll and HR administration completely.
- 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 also receive 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.
If you need time tracking, pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation, and benefits, note that these solutions are paid add-ons to ADP Run’s payroll plan. For benefits plans that cover all 50 states, we recommend Rippling, Paychex, Square Payroll, and OnPay. For capturing the clock ins/outs of employees, Gusto, Homebase Payroll, QuickBooks Payroll, and Patriot Payroll are good options (Rippling, Paychex, and Square Payroll also have time tracking capabilities).
Check out our ADP Run review to help you gauge if this software has the HR payroll features that your business needs.
Homebase Payroll: Best for Businesses Employing Hourly Workers
- Flat pricing with reasonable monthly fees
- Offers early access to wages
- Unlimited pay runs with automated payroll tax payments and filings
- Lacks health insurance options
- Its payroll tool integrates only with QuickBooks Online
Homebase Payroll Plan & Pricing*
- $39 per month plus $6 per employee monthly
*Requires subscription to its time tracking and scheduling software, Homebase, which has a free plan for one-location businesses (with up to 20 employees).
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 solid solutions for planning staff schedules and capturing employee attendance at work. It even offers job postings, applicant tracking, PTO management, and new hire onboarding tools.
Homebase Payroll earned an overall score of 4.06 out of 5 in our rubric. Its reasonably priced plan 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 Overview
- 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 $39 plus $6 per employee monthly, you get time tracking and scheduling tools in addition to full-service payroll and automatic tax filing services. Gusto, 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 that 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 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.
Homebase Payroll is great for small businesses that don’t operate in multiple states because you only need to pay for its payroll module and still access its main platform’s free plan (which comes with time tracking, scheduling, and hiring tools). However, if you plan to grow into a multilocation company, you’ll be charged monthly fees for Homebase itself (in addition to the fees you pay for Homebase Payroll).
For fast-growing startups, consider Paychex and ADP Run. Both offer flexible payroll plans that can fit the needs of small to large businesses. Rippling is also a good option because it has modular solutions that you can mix and match—provided you get its core workforce management platform.
To know more about this software’s functionalities, read our Homebase review.
Patriot Payroll: Best for Mom-and-Pop Businesses That Want a Low-cost DIY Option
- Multiple plans include full-service payroll and a do-it-yourself (DIY) option
- Unlimited pay runs
- Free payroll setup and expert support
- Multistate tax filings and time tracking tools cost extra
- Lacks benefits options
- Standard lead time for direct deposits is four days
- Very limited HR tools
Patriot Payroll Plans & Pricing
- Basic Payroll with DIY tax filings: $17 per month plus $4 per employee monthly
- Full Service Payroll: $37 per month plus $4 per employee monthly
- 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 4.06 out of 5 in our evaluation, Patriot Payroll received perfect marks in 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 Overview
- 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.
- 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 commit. Compare this to QuickBooks—under its Elite plan, it covers the penalty and interest for any payroll tax error for up to $25,000 a year, regardless of who made the mistake.
Patriot Payroll only offers its two-day direct deposit feature to qualified clients. If you want fast direct deposits, we recommend QuickBooks Payroll (its basic Core plan comes with next-day options) and Square Payroll (its Instant Payments feature lets you pay employees instantly).
For companies with business locations in several states, Patriot can handle multistate pay runs but charges a $12 fee for each additional state tax filing. If you don’t want to pay extra, consider the other payroll providers on our list (except Gusto and Paychex).
To know more about Patriot’s payroll solutions, read our Patriot Payroll review.
How We Chose the Top Payroll Software
We checked and compared the best small business payroll software across industries; most of them offer many of the same basic payroll tools with certain nuances in features, such as same-day vs two-day direct deposit or unlimited pay runs vs limited pay runs. Generally, the top payroll software offers 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.
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.
20% of Overall Score
15% of Overall Score
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.
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-plus stars is ideal. Also, any software with 1,000-plus reviews on any third-party site is preferred.
5% of Overall Score
Preference was given to software with built-in basic payroll reports and customization options.
Keeping track of payroll trends will help your business adapt to potential changes that may impact business operations. Here are some payroll trends and statistics you need to know this year.
- Payroll runs: The most common pay period in the US is biweekly pay runs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Employment Statistics (CES) study. Nearly half of the survey respondents, which belong to around 131,000 businesses and government agencies, pay their workers every two weeks or biweekly. The second most common pay frequency is weekly, followed by semi-monthly and monthly.
- Payment options: The 2022 “Getting Paid in America” survey conducted by the American Payroll Association shows that 93% of employees are paid through direct deposit. This signifies the continued popularity of digital payments, reducing the risk of payroll fraud.
- Pay rates: Many workers want higher wages from their employers, according to the 2022 “Getting Paid in America” survey. 65% of the survey respondents want competitive wages over better health benefits. Most US employers have also paid higher pay rates in the previous year. The BLS Employment Cost report showed that compensation costs for private workers increased 5.1% for the 12-month period ending in December 2022. In December 2021, the increase was 4.4%.
To know other payroll trends that might affect your business, check out our payroll statistics article.
Best Payroll Software Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A payroll system can accurately calculate employee wages, such as salaries, overtime, and deductions for required payroll taxes, and pay workers either through direct deposits, pay cards, or paychecks. Many payroll solutions also include tax payment and filing services. Others even provide access to basic HR tools like time and PTO tracking, allowing to capture employee attendance data for pay processing easily.
The best payroll software for small business users should be reasonably priced and meet your budgetary needs while providing essential solutions you need to compute and process employee payments. Given that it’s important you handle payroll the right way, it should have compliance tools to ensure that you’re correctly doing payroll for different worker types, such as employees vs contractors. Plus, having a payroll provider who can remit tax payments, file tax forms, and generate W-2/1099 reports is a necessity as it will take the burden off of having to manage all these tax processes yourself.
For small businesses with unique payroll needs, such as agriculture companies with specific tax filing rules, look for providers who can handle your requirements. You should also consider the size of your business and company growth plans as payroll software with scalable plans and advanced features will be more beneficial than getting a basic payroll service that only pays employees and files taxes.
A payroll software with essential pay processing tools can cost anywhere from $30 to $50 per employee monthly. You should expect to pay more if you want additional functionalities like time tracking, employee benefits, and HR advisory services.
Basic HR tools like employee data management, PTO and time tracking, and new hire onboarding are essential as these help small business payroll software users streamline day-to-day HR tasks. Plus, it reduces the need for multiple data entries because employee information typically flows seamlessly between solutions.
Aside from these features, having access to benefits plans and benefits administration tools are also important. These allow you to manage workers comp, health insurance, and other employee benefits through your small business payroll software.
Aside from helping you accurately calculate salaries, earnings, and deductions, online software for payroll for small business users help automate processes given its workflow and compliance tools. This helps you save time and enables you to manage payroll easily while ensuring that you remain compliant with federal regulations and labor laws.
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 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.