Updated February 16, 2021

Best Payroll Companies for Small Business

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What is the best payroll company and how much does it cost? Find out how a payroll service can help your business.

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Handling payroll by yourself is time-consuming and confusing. But deciding to use a payroll company or service can be just as daunting—where do you begin?

No matter the size of your small business, there are many factors to consider, from adjustment management to multi-state tax filings.

Whether you want to start using payroll services or switch to a new one, read on for ways to find the perfect pick for your business.

Here are the 10 best payroll companies for small businesses:

What Does a Payroll Service Do?

Hiring employees is not as simple as just sending paychecks. There's a lot of recordkeeping and regulations to keep track of. A payroll service can help you handle the time-consuming tasks.

Payroll services have two basic functions:

  • Payroll Processing
    Payroll services calculate and distribute salaries to employees. They begin by determining gross wages and then deducting any necessary items, such as payroll taxes and health insurance. Net wages are then given to each employee by direct deposit or physical check.

  • Tax Statements
    Payroll services help prepare the required tax statements. They also prepare year-end tax fillings for your business and your employees, including 1099s and W-2 forms, saving you hours of manual data entry and bookkeeping.

However, some payroll services will offer added help with select HR tasks, healthcare and benefits management, PTO, time and attendance tracking, and 401(k)s.

How many employees do you have on payroll?

How much do payroll services cost?
You can expect to pay between $25 and $200 per month for payroll services. The prices for different payroll software companies will vary.

Evaluate what's included for the cost. Some companies may charge extra for services outside of payroll processing, like healthcare, HR assistance, or payroll tax preparation.

Best Payroll Services

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A basic Google search brings up thousands of payroll options. So how do you find the best payroll for you?

Here are some of the most popular payroll services to start your search.

How do you currently handle payroll?

Gusto: Best for Startups

Gusto is an all-in-one payroll software that automates many standard payroll functions, as well as HR and benefits services. All plans offer a baseline of comprehensive services, including:

  • Unlimited tax filings in all 50 states
  • W-2 employees and 1099 contractors
  • State and federal unemployment insurance
  • Garnishments
  • Multiple pay rates and schedules
  • Tip credits
  • Direct deposit
  • New hire reporting
  • Payroll reports

Gusto integrates with your accounting and time and attendance tracking software. You can add extra benefits, like 401(k)s, FSAs, and more, to any plan for an added cost.

Gusto offer 4 pricing plans:[1]

1. Gusto Basic
This is Gusto's newest beta plan designed for tiny teams of 1 or 2. It costs $19 per month plus $6 a month per employee. It includes:

  • Full-service payroll
  • Employee self-service portal and profiles
  • Workers' comp administration
  • 4-day direct deposit
  • Paid time off policies
  • Support

1. Gusto Core
This plan offers streamlined payroll services for small businesses. It costs $39 per month plus $6 a month per employee. Features include:

  • 2-day direct deposit
  • Full-service payroll
  • Employee self-service portal and profiles
  • Employee onboarding tools
  • Accounting and time tracking integrations
  • Health benefits administration
  • Workers' comp administration
  • Employee access to Gusto Wallet

2. Gusto Complete
Gusto's mid-level plan offers some added payroll tools. It costs $39 per month plus $12 a month per employee. Extra features include:

  • Next-day direct deposit
  • Admin permissions
  • Customized employee onboarding tools
  • PTO policies and time off requests
  • Employee directory and surveys
  • Project tracking and workforce costing

3. Gusto Concierge
Gusto's Concierge plan offers a large variety of payroll and HR services for a relatively affordable cost. It costs $149 per month plus $12 per month per employee. Features include:

  • Next-day direct deposit
  • Employee self-service profiles
  • Health benefits administration
  • Workers' comp administration
  • Dedicated support
  • Admin permissions
  • Customized employee onboarding tools
  • Time and attendance tracking
  • PTO policies and time off requests
  • Employee directory and surveys
  • Certified HR pros
  • HR Resource center

Gusto has a great resource hub to help small businesses navigate through the Covid pandemic. Find the latest news and policies, including information about relief options.

Gusto is a great option but every business has different needs. Stick around to the end to see how to choose a payroll service.

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll: Cheapest Pricing

QuickBooks Payroll management is one of the cheapest payroll companies for small businesses. It offers an excellent intro price and low per-employee cost.

The services also integrate with QuickBooks. Even if you don't use QuickBooks, you can still sign up for Payroll and receive a discount.

With Intuit's mobile app, you can even manage payroll on your own.

All of Intuit QuickBooks plans have a 30-day free trial.

Quickbooks offers 3 plans at different service levels.[2]

1. QuickBooks Payroll Core
The basic package costs $22.50 per month if you pay for the first three months in advance (normally $45/mo). Each employee costs an additional $4 per month.

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Next day direct deposit
  • Automated tax and forms for W-2 and 1099
  • Automated tax calculations on paychecks
  • Auto Payroll for salaried employees on direct deposit
  • Add bonuses and deductions on paychecks
  • Manage garnishments and deductions
  • Payroll support via phone and chat

2. QuickBooks Payroll Premium
This the most popular plan. It costs $37.50 per month if you pay for the first three months in advance (normally $75/mo). Each employee costs an additional $8 per month. Extra features include:

  • Same-day direct deposit
  • Employees can clock in or out anywhere
  • Workers' comp administration (at additional cost)
  • HR support center
  • Expert will help you set up and review your work

3. QuickBooks Payroll Elite
This highest tier plan costs $62.50 per month if you pay for the first three months in advance (normally $125/mo). Each employee costs an additional $10 per month. Extra features include:

  • White glove customized setup
  • Personal HR advisor
  • 24/7 expert product support via phone and chat
  • Track time and projects in real time
  • Tax Penalty Protection

Affordable pricing isn't always enough. Find out why Square might be a better choice if you work with contractors.

What is your biggest payroll challenge?

Square Payroll: Best for One Employee & Contractors

Square, the popular payment processing company, also offers payroll services. You don't have to use Square processing to use Square Payroll.

It's affordable at $29 per month plus $5 per person paid. It's also especially great if you hire contractors. The cost is only $5 per contractor with no subscription fee.[3]

Square

Square Payroll

  • Employees can sign on to online accounts and clock in and out
  • Import timecards from Square app or other partner apps
  • Pay your team with check or direct deposit
  • Multiple pay rates
  • Customizable pay schedules
  • Unlimited bonus and off-cycle pays at no extra charge
  • Automatically distribute W-2 and 1099 forms at year end
  • Healthcare and other benefits available at additional cost

If you do use Square processing, the payroll service is fully integrated into all Square products. You can manage your entire business all from one POS app.

PayUSA: Best for Flexibility

PayUSA customizes payroll services for small businesses up to 1,000 employees. There is no pricing online because the quotes are based on your custom needs.

It offers the flexibility to choose which payroll features you want. Features include:

  • Direct deposit: Employees can deposit their money into one account or several accounts at the same time
  • Check-stuffing services with signatures printed on the check, if you need physical checks
  • New hire reporting
  • Workers' compensation
  • Federal, state and local tax filings and payments
  • Quarterly state and federal unemployment payments
  • ACA Compliance
  • W-2/W-3 printing
  • Additional payroll tax services

ADP: Best Full Service Payroll

ADP is one of the oldest payroll companies in the US. Out of the 600,000+ businesses that use ADP, 80% are small businesses. Despite their size, they have thousands of positive reviews.

ADP has four different options for small businesses of up to 50 employees. It doesn't provide pricing on its website since each plan is custom to your business needs and size.

Each option includes these basic features:

  • Online payroll via desktop and mobile
  • Direct deposit
  • Payroll delivery
  • Robust reporting
  • Reporting
  • New hire reporting
  • W-2 and 1099 fillings
  • Tax fillings
  • ADP employee access
  • State and federal forms and resources
  • HR checkups
  • Healthcare compliance
  • Insurance
  • Retirement

The 4 plans are:[4]

1. ADP Essential Payroll
The basic of the four systems is best for startups and small businesses looking for basic payroll services.

It lacks any HR services. If you're looking for HR integration as well as payroll, read on.

2. ADP Enhanced Payroll
Enhanced Payroll includes wage garnishment payments, state unemployment insurance (SUI) and labor law posters to display in your office.

In addition to the basic features, Enhanced Payroll also offers:

  • Check signing and stuffing
  • Poster compliance
  • State unemployment insurance (SUI)
  • Garnishment payment services
  • New-hire onboarding
  • Access to ZipRecruiter to post jobs
  • Background checks
  • Employee discounts on national brands

3. ADP Complete Payroll & HR Plus
ADP's Payroll & HR Plus combines advanced payroll features and basic HR support into one monthly package.

In addition to the previous features, Complete Payroll & HR Plus includes:

  • Employee Handbook Wizard
  • Job Description Wizard
  • Phone and email support from HR Help Desk
  • Tracking of employee information
  • HR forms and documents
  • HR Fundamentals Training and toolkits
  • HR compliance and alerts when HR laws change
  • Access to ADP's document vault

4. ADP HR Pro
ADP's most advanced option for small businesses includes enhanced HR support and payroll.

In addition to the previous features, HR Pro includes:

  • Extra help to create your employee handbook
  • Enhanced HR support from a team of business advisors
  • Work-life employee assistance programs, like counseling sessions and legal help
  • Sexual harassment training
  • Access to prepaid legal services for employment matters

Learn More: ADP Review

Paychex: Flexible Plans for Growing Businesses

Paychex is a cloud-based payroll company that offers 3 plans for businesses of different sizes.[5]

1. Paychex Go
Paychex's most basic option works best for very small and new businesses. You can open an account online and start running payroll in less than 24 hours. The cost is $59 per month + $4 per employee.

It has basic features like:

  • Payroll taxes & automatic W-2s and 1099s
  • Direct deposits and online paystubs
  • HR and business forms
  • New hire reporting
  • General ledger report
  • 24/7 phone and chat support

However, this plan doesn't give you access to the Paychex mobile app.

2. Paychex Flex Select
Paychex Flex Select is most popular for businesses with less than 49 employees. You'll have to speak to a rep to get a custom quote.

Includes the above features, plus:

  • Free mobile app access
  • Free time and attendance tracking
  • Dedicated payroll specialist
  • Employee Financial Wellness Program
  • Paychex learning management system, with online courses designed to help employees
  • Integration with software like QuickBooks, Sage, and Xero

3. Paychex Flex Enterprise
This is designed for large businesses. Again, you must get a custom quote for this plan. Includes the above features, plus:

  • Garnishment payment services
  • Workers' compensation reports
  • State unemployment insurance service
  • Custom analytics and reporting
  • Mobile employee onboarding
  • Employee background checks

If you're a small company, it doesn't make sense to pay for robust features. See how you save and still get your basic payroll needs covered below.

OnPay: Payroll + HR Combined

OnPay is a basic payroll and tax filing service with a transparent fee structure. It also comes with HR tools at no extra cost. It works best for businesses with basic needs.

The payment structure is simple: a $36 base fee per month, plus an additional $4 fee per month for each employee.[6]

OnPay integrates with multiple accounting programs, including QuickBooks.

OnPay will set up everything and migrate your information for free. Here's some of what their plan includes:

  • Payroll tax filings and payments
  • Annual W-2 and 1099 forms: Free to print, or mailed for $5 each
  • Employee offer letters and self-onboarding
  • PTO approvals and tracking
  • Access to HR documents and resources
  • Org charts and a company roster
  • Ability to cancel pay runs and make corrections
  • All payroll and tax filings guaranteed
  • HR auditing

Unlike other services, OnPay does not charge extra for direct deposit, debit cards, or printing your own checks. There are also no added fees for withholding, remitting, or filing payroll taxes.

OnPay has several add-on features: HR tools, workers' comp, 401(k) contributions, and health benefits. The costs vary, but even using these may be cheaper than going with an alternate option, depending on your needs.

If you regularly want printed checks or payment cards, opt for another provider. OnPay charges extra for each of these features. If you need printed checks often, it can become pricey.

Rippling: Employee + IT Management

Rippling offers several employee management services all on one platform: payroll, IT management, benefits administration, and hiring tools.

The cost starts at $8 per month, per user.[7] You can purchase HR and IT services separately. You'll need to get a custom quote depending on how many employees you have and what features you want.

Payroll features include:

  • Automatic federal, state & local tax filing
  • W2, W4, 1099 & new hire filing
  • Direct deposit and checks
  • Workers comp' & garnishments
  • Track hours and PTOs
  • Job codes & multiple pay rates

A unique service Rippling offers is IT management. This allows you to manage employee devices remotely. Features include:

  • Set up and disable app access for each employee; see who used each app and when
  • Team password manager
  • Buy and set up devices
  • Reassign devices to new employees
  • Track, lock, and wipe lost or stolen devices

It also offers onboarding and HR management, with tools like:

  • Post jobs to boards like LinkedIn and Indeed
  • New-hire paperwork
  • Track employees' compliance training
  • Create your own training courses
  • Let employees review and enroll in benefits

Rippling works with over 400 app integrations, so you can integrate almost any business tools you already use.

Bank of America: Best for Existing Customers

BoA partners with Intuit's payroll program and ADP. If you already use Bank of America as your small business checking provider, using their payroll system can be a simple and convenient integration.

Intuit and ADP offer similar payroll services. However, ADP offers added access to human resource professionals to help understand labor laws and HR policies.

Intuit, on the other hand, lets you manage your own payroll with their software.

What's the price difference? It's hard to say. While Intuit is transparent about their pricing, ADP requires you to call for a quote.

ADP (via Bank of America)
ADP offers the same services through Bank of America as they do for their customers, in addition to 24/7 payroll customer support (find the detailed plan-by-plan analysis above).

For more information on ADP via Bank of America, you can also call 866-543-2808.

Intuit (via Bank of America)
There are three payroll options through Intuit: Intuit Basic, Intuit Enhanced, and Intuit Full Service Payroll. All services support a maximum of 150 employees.

Whichever option you pick, expect full reports, processing for multiple pay types, and a tax accuracy guarantee. But you will need a Bank of America business checking account and access to Small Business Online Banking.

Plans:

  1. Intuit Online Payroll: Basic
    This works best for small businesses with few employees and basic needs. It's completely free if you pay all employees through direct deposit to a Bank of America account.

  2. Intuit Online Payroll: Enhanced
    A middle ground between their basic and full-service options, this plan fits best for growing and developing businesses with a diverse workforce.

  3. Intuit Full Service Payroll
    The most expensive (and most convenient) option is ideal for business owners with a dedicated income for payroll systems and little free time to spare.

Under each Intuit plan, Bank of America lets you offer your employees a low-cost 401(k) (through Merrill Edge).

Keep in mind, good customer service can make or break your HR and payroll experience. Take a look at one of the most highly-rated providers below.

SurePayroll: Best for Small Niche Businesses

SurePayroll is unique in that it provides payroll solutions for niche businesses like nannies, caretakers, churches, farmers, restaurants, and non-profits.

These types of businesses often have more unique needs, like different tax forms and regulations. SurePayroll helps to make sure you're in compliance and correctly file year-end forms. For example, if you have household workers, you're required to pay "nanny tax" on time.

SurePayroll starts at $19.99 per month plus $4 per employee for the self-service plan with self tax filing. The full service plan costs $29.99 per month plus $5 per employee. This plan handles tax filings for you.[8]

Some features include:

  • Run unlimited payrolls
  • 2-day payroll processing
  • Pay multiple rates and bonuses
  • Direct deposit or print physical checks
  • Options for same-day and next-day payroll
  • Auto generated W-2 and 1099s
  • Integrated time tracking and attendance
  • Benefits for your employees (at extra cost)

Next, use this cheat sheet to figure which features to get.

What Your Small Business Needs From a Payroll Service

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Payroll services to be able to do basic functions like payroll processing and tax statements. But depending on your needs, your payroll company may need to do more.

Here are some of the factors to consider when you look for payroll services:

Pricing
Most small businesses will want to opt for a base rate price with added costs per employee in the system. Base rates will include:

  • Payroll processing
  • Tax fillings
  • Payroll taxes

Be wary of companies that are not transparent about pricing. There's no way to know if payroll services will raise prices down the line.

Understanding the pricing structure in advance is important. Some companies will list prices online and others will require you to call for a quote.

Ease of Use
You will have to input data yourself, so it's important that you understand how to use your payroll system. If it's too complicated, you'll waste valuable time.

Tax Filing Services Guarantee
Ask for a guarantee that you will not be responsible for any mistakes the processor might make, like missing deadlines or making payments. Sign with a service that agrees to absorb the cost of their mistakes.

401(k) Management
The ability to manage and distribute 401(k) payments for employees would be an added perk.

Paid Time Off (PTO) Management
Some payroll services will offer PTO requests, approval, and tracking for employees and employers.

Paychecks and Direct Deposits
Ensure your future payroll service also offers direct deposit services as well as printed paychecks. Direct deposit specifically will save paper—and time.

Alerts
Some small business owners will want alerts for matters like employees approaching overtime or benefits eligibility.

New Hire Reports
Some states—like Texas—require companies to report information about new hires. If your business is based in one of these states, your payroll service can handle this for you.

Web-Based System
In this day and age, ensure your payroll service has a comprehensive webpage to file payroll.

Varied Pay Rules Engine
If your business has many different types of employees, your payroll service needs to support different types of pay, from overtime to shift differentials to location and more.

Adjustment Management
Ensure that your business has will be able to handle tips for employees, bonuses, reimbursements, and more.

Mobile Access
If you prefer working on the go, your payroll service should offer comprehensive mobile accessibilty, including an app.

Employee Self-Service
Most services will offer a portal for employees to access their payroll information, like payroll stubs and PTO requests.

Analysis Reports
Analysis reports may not seem urgent, but access to analysis and data can help show you how your business grows.

You're almost ready to outsource your payroll needs. But before you sign-up, make sure you ask the provider these following questions.

Questions to Ask a Potential Payroll Service

Your initial research may raise additional questions. If possible, get on the phone with a representative from a specific payroll service. This ensures you'll get the answers you need.

Here are some additional questions BEFORE you sign a contract:

What is your pricing structure? What services are included at each price point?
Get an exact quote for the services your business needs right now and may need in the future. If the pricing will change, it's important to know whether it's in your budget.

What industry do you specialize in?
Pick a company that specializes in your industry, so they're familiar with the structure of your business and the related tax laws.

What insights do you offer through the dashboard?
Insights can help your business better understand the financial breakdown.

Is the payroll system customizable?
This question will be especially important for small businesses with different types of employees like:

  • Freelancers
  • Salaried full-time employees
  • Hourly part-time employees

Payroll services should be able to accommodate all types of pay structures.

What customer support does your service offer?
Many companies will promise many types of customer service, but the best way to check is to give them a call. See who picks up and how they help you. Call at different times of the day to see if there is a wait time.

Will you be assigned a representative to help, or do you get the next available customer service representative? Is support available during business hours or around the clock?

How secure is your service?
Payroll involves lots of sensitive information, from Social Security numbers to tax information.

As a business owner, you need to be confident your employees' information is secure: ask how they protect the data on their servers.

Is there an added cost to file taxes in multiple states?
Clarify all costs associated with filing taxes in multiple states.

What am I responsible for and what will the company handle?
Narrow down what you will need to handle and what the payroll service will take care of.

A few more questions to consider:
What payroll taxes do you include in your service and which taxes cost extra?

Do annual fees fluctuate? How have they changed in the past?

Can they integrate with your current accounting software?

How often will I receive reports from your service?

How to Choose a Payroll Service

Here are a few ways to ensure you found the best payroll services for your business:

Ask for References
Speaking to their references—real customers—will allow you to talk to someone who has been using the service.

However, some larger companies, like ADP, may not have personal references to offer aside from testimonials on their site.

Seek recommendations from similar businesses. They'll likely be honest in their assessment.

Check with the BBB
The BBB gives you a better sense of the business, including:

  • How many years it's been in business
  • Customer complaints
  • Reviews
  • An overall rating

If the company has any complaints, take time to read those too.

Read Online Reviews
Check Google and Yelp to see what customers are saying. Just be sure not to take every negative review so seriously—weigh all the reviews.

Ask for a Sample Report
Make sure the analysis reports are easy to read and simple to understand right off the bat. You need to be able to understand all important information.

Payroll providers can save you a lot of time but it doesn't mean you get to be on autopilot. Here's what you need to do on your end.

What Happens After You Sign With a Payroll Service

When signing with a payroll service, you should understand what tasks you will do yourself and what the payroll service will take care of.

In most cases, you will provide employees' information, such as:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Wages
  • Deductions
  • Void checks for direct deposit

W-2 forms will be provided by your payroll service. But employees will have to fill out the W-2 forms.

Most businesses will keep their old payroll system for the first month or so after switching over to ensure a smooth transition. Double-check the numbers the first few pay cycles to make sure your new company works correctly.

If you find your payroll service is not working the way you want it to, consider switching.

There are two ideal times to make the switch:

  • The start of the year, when the pay cycle starts over

  • The end of a quarter, when your previous payroll service wraps up the quarterly reports.

What the Experts Say

As part of our series on small businesses, CreditDonkey asked an industry expert to answer readers' most pressing questions. Here's what she said:

THE BOTTOM LINE

Finding new payroll services can be tricky. But with the right amount of research and planning, your small business will find the best payroll fit.

Start by asking for recommendations from similar small businesses. They'll likely be honest in their assessment and offer helpful insight.

And remember: If the payroll system doesn't work out, you can always switch to another provider and start again.

References

  1. ^ Gusto Pricing, Retrieved 12/09/2020
  2. ^ Intuit Quickbooks Payroll Services Pricing, Retrived 12/09/2020
  3. ^ Square Payroll Pricing, Retrieved 12/09/2020
  4. ^ ADP Small Business Payroll Pricing, Retrieved 12/08/2020
  5. ^ Compare Paychex Payroll Packages, Retrieved 12/08/2020
  6. ^ OnPay Pricing and Payroll Costs, Retrieved 12/08/2020
  7. ^ Rippling Pricing, Retrieved 12/10/2020
  8. ^ SurePayroll Pricing & Plans, Retrieved 12/09/2020

Write to Samantha Tatro at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts. And remember that you can listen to CreditDonkey Radio any time.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

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How many employees do you have on payroll?
58% Less than 5
5% 5 to 10
11% 11 to 25
11% 26 to 50
16% More than 50
Source: CreditDonkey. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
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