Free payroll software makes it easier to run paychecks without adding to your budget. The best options can calculate pay for hourly and salary workers, handle tax calculations and deductions, and print checks and pay stubs. Some of the software even files taxes and offers direct deposits. In this guide, we reviewed six free payroll services and then narrowed it down to our top three recommendations.
If you need software that will automatically update all of your company’s payroll tax rates and file them electronically, you won’t get it with free payroll software. Instead, consider an affordable payroll software like Gusto. It pays employees via direct deposit, paycard, and manual check, while payment options with free software are usually limited and/or charge extra for convenience. Payroll taxes are calculated, filed, and paid electronically, and employees can get access to their paychecks early. Try it risk-free for 30 days.
- TimeTrex: (Best overall) Small businesses wanting free payroll software
- HR.my: Startups needing basic HR and payroll tools at zero cost
- Payroll4Free.com: Companies with 25 or fewer workers looking for a free platform to pay employees
The best free payroll solution for your business depends on your specific employee and business needs. In order to evaluate features and pricing quickly, review the top free payroll software side-by-side in our comparison table.
Free Payroll Software Compared
# of Employees Included in Free Plan
Unlimited Pay Runs
Calculates Taxes & Payroll
Limited; Manual tax rate entry
Files & Pays Taxes
Preps Year-end Tax Forms
Free Direct Deposit
Only free if using your bank account
Free Time Tracking
Free Scheduling Tools
Free Performance Management
How We Evaluated the 3 Best Free Payroll Software
We started our research with six providers that offer free payroll services rather than merely free trials. Then, we examined the features and ease of use, focusing on paycheck processing and tax preparation.
Based on our evaluation, TimeTrex is the best free payroll for small businesses. Its forever-free plan covers unlimited employees and provides many features—from automatic pay runs and direct deposits to scheduling and time tracking.
To view our full evaluation criteria, click through the tabs in the box below.
40% of Overall Score
Having free direct deposits to pay employees is preferred, followed by the capability to pay contractors, run automated payroll, and calculate federal and state taxes. We also considered other tax and payroll functions, such as year-end reporting and a manual check option. TimeTrex earned a perfect score here, while HR.my and Payroll4Free.com received low marks due to either limited tax services or charging extra.
20% of Overall Score
We specifically chose payroll services with free payroll functions. However, we favored those that cover unlimited employees and offered basic HR functions on a forever-free plan. Of the top three software, the provider that didn’t get a perfect score here is Payroll4Free.com because its payroll service is free only for 25 or fewer employees.
20% of Overall Score
Free is no good if you have to fight the program. We looked for software with an intuitive interface, checked how easy it was to learn, and compared support options. We also considered whether it integrates with other programs or at least allowed CSV file downloads.
TimeTrex received perfect marks here since it has an intuitive interface, integrates with third-party software, and offers how-to guides. For HR.my and Payroll4Free.com, you get limited integration options plus their platforms aren’t as user-friendly as TimeTrex.
10% of Overall Score
We gave points based on the reports available and whether you could customize them. While the three software that we reviewed offer standard payroll reports, only TimeTrex and Payroll4Free.com have customized reporting.
10% of Overall Score
We considered online user reviews from third-party sites (like G2 and Capterra) based on a 5-star scale, wherein any option with an average of 4+ stars is ideal. Both TimeTrex and HR.my scored well under popularity; Payroll4Free.com received an average score of 3.80 out of 5 on online review sites.
- Automatic pay runs with free direct deposits
- Offers a feature-rich free plan; comes with payroll, time tracking, scheduling, and HR management tools
- Integrates with other payroll tools like QuickBooks, ADP, and Paychex
- Its dashboard looks somewhat dated
- Details about the free option and paid plans are difficult to find on its website; pricing isn’t transparent
- Doesn’t handle payroll tax filings
|RATING CRITERIA||Pricing||5.00||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll Features||5.00||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of Use||5.00||OUT OF||5|
TimeTrex is the best free payroll software for small businesses, because it does more than Payroll4Free.com and HR.my. Scoring 5 out of 5 in our evaluation, it has time tracking, scheduling, payroll, and HR management tools that you can access for free. You even get an online time clock that lets your employees clock-in/out through web browsers.
TimeTrex also generates tax forms (like W-2s and 1099s) and calculates federal, state, and local taxes. However, it doesn’t file taxes on your behalf. You may want to consider Payroll4Free.com if you need tax filing services, but it isn’t free—you have to pay $15 per month.
You can access TimeTrex’s free payroll software through its Community Edition solution, which is a downloadable open source workforce management platform. What’s great about it is that there are no employee limits, and you get basic HR and payroll tools for free.
TimeTrex also has three paid product editions (Professional, Corporate, and Enterprise), which come with additional features like facial recognition tablet time clocks, document management, applicant tracking, invoicing, and expense monitoring. However, pricing isn’t transparent—you have to call the provider to request a quote.
The representative we contacted said that pricing is based on the number of employees you have and the system deployment option selected (cloud-hosted or on-site). For a cloud-based version of its Professional Edition, you have to pay $3 per employee monthly for 10 employees. There’s also an account activation fee of $99.
TimeTrex Standout Features
- Feature-rich free tier: Even at its free level, TimeTrex grants you access to several integrated solutions designed to help you manage your workforce. You get online tools to create schedules, capture clock-ins/outs, track attendance, monitor paid time-off (PTO), pay employees, conduct performance reviews, and record staff information in a centralized database. This is more than what Payroll4Free.com offers (it doesn’t have free HR tools) and what HR.my provides as part of its forever-free solution (which doesn’t have performance reviews).
- Online time tracking: TimeTrex’s web browser-based time clock allows you to turn computers into employee time tracking devices. However, geofencing capabilities, facial recognition time clocks, and mobile time tracking apps aren’t included in its free Community Edition. If you require geolocation and face verification tools to prevent buddy punching, we recommend HR.my as it offers the said functionalities for free.
- Efficient pay processing: With TimeTrex’s efficient payroll tools, you don’t have to worry about doing payroll yourself. In addition to automatic payroll runs, it automatically calculates taxes and custom deductions like garnishments, PTO accruals, and benefits. It also offers electronic pay stubs, free direct deposits, and pay checks that you can print in several different formats.
- Third-party software integrations: TimeTrex seamlessly integrates with other payroll software like QuickBooks, ADP, Paychex, Ceridian, and Sage. Note that HR.my doesn’t have this functionality, while Payroll4Free.com has limited options and connects with other software through payroll data exports and time data imports.
- Custom reporting: Aside from standard payroll, HR, and employee reports, you are granted access to built-in templates that you can customize.
- Feature-rich free HR solution
- Multilingual platform with free access to payroll, time clocks, and basic HR tools
- Additional paid features are only $5 per month
- You need to know the current tax tables; doesn’t file payroll taxes
- Dashboard is basic and looks outdated
- Limited customer support
|RATING CRITERIA||Pricing||5.00||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll Features||3.00||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of Use||2.88||OUT OF||5|
HR.my is a free multilingual HR software that is crowdfunded. The company works with those interested in translating the software into additional languages. It has basic payroll and HR features (such as employee information management, time tracking, and expense claims) that you can use for free. Overall, it earned a score of 3.53 out of 5 in our evaluation with high marks for pricing (since its free payroll tool covers unlimited employees) and popularity (its average rating on third-party review sites is 5 out of 5 stars).
What pulled its score down is the lack of custom reporting and phone support, plus tax calculations are done manually. You need to have the current tax tables so that you can input the percentages into its system for calculations. Similar to TimeTrex, HR.my doesn’t handle payroll tax filings. Now, if this service is an essential feature for you and you’re willing to pay a minimal fee, Payroll4Free.com is a good option as it charges only $15 per month.
While HR.my is easy to set up, its platform looks a bit basic. Users even described its interface as outdated, adding that it can be a bit difficult to navigate, especially for new employees. In case you need help with a feature, you leave a comment or message on its Facebook page as it doesn’t have a support team. You can also visit its community forum and access its online user guide, which is more of an FAQ page but with limited information.
To learn more about HR.my and whether it will fit your business needs, read our HR.my review.
HR.my is completely free, plus you get unlimited storage and can add unlimited employees. Unlike TimeTrex that collects fees through its paid tiers, HR.my has a crowdfunding campaign that you can opt to join. For a $5 monthly sponsorship, you get the following additional features:
- Early access to newly developed features
- Ad-free employer and employee web accounts
- Additional 3,500MB of file storage (or 6,000MB for an annual sponsorship) for employer accounts with every $5 unit of sponsorship
- Email notifications for HR.my managers in addition to those sent to the HR.my administrator
- More advanced email notifications, including for expense claims, leave requests, and announcements
HR.my Standout Features
- Cloud-based software: If you’re always on the go, HR.my has a cloud-based system that you can access 24/7 and from any device (such as Windows and Mac computers, Android tablets, and the iPad). There’s no software installation needed—unlike TimeTrex’s free Community Edition that you need to download.
- Multilingual platform: Of the three free payroll software that we reviewed, only HR.my has a platform that is multilingual. While its default language is English, you can change this directly from the system and choose from 65 options that include Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Vietnamese.
- Feature-rich free HR solution: HR.my doesn’t only provide free payroll tools—you also get time tracking, PTO management, expense claim management, and self-service solutions for employees. However, it doesn’t have the scheduling and performance review tools that TimeTrex offers for free.
- Robust time clocks: Compared to TimeTrex’s free time clock, HR.my’s free time tracking solution offers more features, such as geolocation tracking, facial verifications of clocking in employees, and mobile time-ins/outs for field staff.
- Efficient pay processing: HR.my’s payroll tools are designed to simplify and automate employee pay processing. It has automatic pay runs and payslips, and you can remit employee salaries through direct deposits or print paychecks. What it doesn’t support are payroll tax filings and year-end reporting—you have to fill out W-2 forms yourself.
- Free-forever payroll services with essential online tools (including an employee portal)
- Offers email and phone support with access to payroll and tax experts
- Tax filings and direct deposits (not using own bank) are affordable add-ons
- Free only for 25 or fewer employees
- Limited system compatibility (Windows only)
- Payroll software comes with ads; interface looks outdated
|RATING CRITERIA||Pricing||4.38||OUT OF||5|
|Payroll Features||2.94||OUT OF||5|
|Ease of Use||3.50||OUT OF||5|
Payroll4Free.com is a popular free payroll software for businesses with 25 or fewer employees. It calculates payroll and taxes, tracks PTO accruals, prints paychecks, and provides free direct deposits if you use your own bank. The software can also handle year-end tax reports (W-2s and 1099s), providing you with pre-formatted forms to send to the government. If you want Payroll4Free.com to file your tax forms, you have to pay $15 per month.
Overall, it earned a score of 3.50 out of 5 in our evaluation. It didn’t get perfect marks like TimeTrex, since its free payroll tool has an employee limit. Payroll4Free.com also comes with in-app ads, and it only works on computers with a Windows operating system. In addition, the software is not as easy to use as paid programs, often taking extra steps to complete what a paid program can do in a single click.
If you want to know more about Payroll4Free.com and whether it can handle your business’ pay processing needs, check out our Payroll4Free.com review.
Payroll4Free.com is free to use—provided your business has 25 or fewer employees. While it earns money through small ads placed inside the software, it also collects fees from the following payroll services that you can purchase as add-ons.
- Payroll tax deposits and filings, including year-end reporting: $15 per month
- Direct deposits using Payroll4Free.com’s bank*: $15 per month
*This requires a security deposit equal to the highest estimated net payroll you plan to process in a seven-day period.
Payroll4Free.com Standout Features
- Efficient pay processing: In addition to paying employees and calculating taxes (federal, state, and local) for free, it allows you to set up any kind of deduction, contribution, and earning. Payroll4Free.com will automatically compute it—provided you have specified how these items should be calculated. Note that it doesn’t have the integrated time tracking tools that both TimeTrex and HR.my provide for free. You have to manually import time data into its system before you can run payroll.
- Check printing setup assistance: If you prefer to pay employees via checks, Payroll4Free.com can help set up its software to add any data that you want to appear on the check. You won’t get the said free service with both HR.my and TimeTrex.
- Access to payroll and tax experts: Aside from unlimited customer support, Payroll4Free.com has a team of experienced payroll and tax specialists that you can contact if you have queries or need payroll advice. However, it doesn’t have the community forum that TimeTrex and HR.my offer, which allows you to get input from other business owners and HR professionals.
- Custom reporting: You get custom and detailed reports, enabling you to stay up-to-date with payroll information, tax details, PTO accruals, and employee deductions. It may have several reporting options, but the choices aren’t as robust as HR.my and TimeTrex, simply because these two providers’ free packages include other HR solutions.
If you need help selecting from our list of best free payroll services, follow our step-by-step guide on choosing payroll services.
Alternative Free Payroll Software
The three free payroll services that we recommend provide you with the essential pay processing tools you need. However, if you’re looking for a simple payroll calculator with check printing options, then consider Paycheck Manager. Not only does it compute employee pay, it also calculates taxes and overtime for free. A downside is that it can print only one paycheck at a time, so it’s only good for businesses with fewer than five employees.
For those who are more comfortable using spreadsheets to handle basic payroll, ExcelPayroll.org is a great alternative. With its free VBA payroll program, you don’t need to manually input formulas to calculate pay. It’s already programmed with the essential formulas and payroll tools you need, plus it keeps numbers updated for the current tax year.
We also have Excel templates for payroll that you can download for free. Check out our guide that contains 15 free payroll templates, including tips on how to use them.
Businesses that are on a tight budget or have limited payroll needs may find free payroll software a way to save time and help prevent mistakes that can cost money and even legal problems. The free payroll services on our list offer online tools to make your pay processing tasks easier.
Overall, we found TimeTrex to be the best free payroll software because of its wide range of useful features that include tax calculations, automatic pay runs, and free direct deposits. Its free version provides you with efficient payroll and HR tools, while its paid plans offer even more HR functions. Sign up for TimeTrex today.