Updated January 24, 2020

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?

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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 prepare required and periodic 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 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.

Gusto: Best Overall

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.

1. Gusto Core
Gusto's most basic plan offers everything a growing and small business may need for payroll. It costs $39 per month as a base rate with an additional $6 a month per employee. It includes several key features:

  • Full-service payroll
  • Employee self-service portal and profiles
  • Health benefits administration
  • Workers' comp administration
  • Support
  • Paid time off policies

2. Gusto Complete
This is Gusto's mid-level plan and offers some added features for payroll. It costs $39 per month as a base rate with an additional $12 a month per employee. It includes several key features:

  • Full-service payroll
  • Employee self-service portal
  • Health benefits administration
  • Workers' comp administration
  • Support
  • Admin permissions
  • Employee onboarding
  • Simple time and attendance tracking
  • PTO policies and time off requests
  • Employee directory and surveys

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 as a base rate with an additional $12 per month per employee. It includes several key features:

  • Full-service payroll
  • Employee self-service profiles
  • Health benefits administration
  • Workers' comp administration
  • Dedicated support
  • Admin permissions
  • Employee onboarding
  • Simple time and attendance tracking
  • PTO policies and time off requests
  • Employee directory and surveys
  • Certified HR pros
  • HR Resource center

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: Most Affordable Pricing

QuickBooks Payroll management is one of the most popular payroll companies for small businesses. It offers 3 plans at different service levels.

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.

1. QuickBooks Payroll Core
The basic package costs $13.50 per month if you pay for the first three months in advance. Each employee costs an additional $4 per month.

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Automated tax and forms for W-2 and 1099
  • Automated tax calculations on paychecks
  • Auto Payroll for salaried employees on direct deposit
  • Next day direct deposit
  • Add bonuses and deductions on paychecks
  • Payroll support via phone and chat
  • Health benefits (at additional cost)

2. QuickBooks Payroll Premium
This the most popular plan. It costs $22.50 per month if you pay for the first three months in advance. 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 $37.50 per month if you pay for the first three months in advance. 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.

Square Payroll: Best for Paying 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. If you have less workers in a month, you'll be charged less.

It's also especially great if you hire contractors. The cost is only $5 per contractor with no subscription fee.

    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. For a company of 25 employees, that costs about $45 per payroll.

It offers several flexible payroll features, including:

  • 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
  • Tax reporting
  • ACA Compliance
  • W-2/W-3 printing
  • Additional payroll tax services

PayUSA is great for smaller companies but what if you have over 1,000 employees? Learn how to take payroll and HR off your hands below.

ADP: Best for Large Businesses

One of the largest payroll companies, ADP services large and small businesses—more than 600,000 companies in all. Despite their size, they have thousands of positive reviews.

ADP has four different options for small businesses of up to 50 employees, two of which include HR and payroll.

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

Plans:

  1. 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. 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
    • Signature check
    • Prepaid card for paying employees
    • Poster compliance
    • State unemployment insurance (SUI)
    • Garnishment payment services

  3. Complete Payroll & HR Plus
    ADP's Payroll & HR plus blends payroll and human resources into one monthly package. It includes advanced payroll features and HR tasks.

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

    • Access to ZipRecruiter: Post jobs to over 100 of the web's leading job boards
    • Employee handbook Wizard: Create an employee handbook based on federal law
    • HR Help Desk: Phone and email support from a team of HR professionals
    • New-hire onboarding
    • Background checks
    • Job Description Wizard: Create job descriptions using information from ADP database
    • HR forms and documents
    • HR training and toolkits to help complete HR tasks like hiring and termination correctly
    • HR compliance and database alerts: Get emails when HR laws change that may affect your company
    • Access to ADP's document vault, for secure and searchable storage of employee and company documents
    • 24/7 access to track and monitor employee information, such as performance and advanced reporting
    • Alerts and notifications across payroll and HR

  4. 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:

    • Enhanced employee handbook support (ADP helps you create a comprehensive employee handbook)
    • Enhanced HR support from a team of business advisors
    • An employee discount program for nationally recognized brands
    • Work-life employee assistance programs, like counseling sessions and legal help
    • Trainings on sexual harassment, workplace harassment, etc.

ADP does not provide blank quotes for their packages. For a personalized quote, call them at (855)-230-6728.

Paychex: Best for Midsize Businesses

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

Each plan has these same basic benefits:

  • Payroll tax administration: federal, state, and local taxes will be calculated, paid, and filed
  • New hire reporting to remain in compliance with state regulations
  • Access to the Paychex mobile app
  • 24/7 phone and chat support
  • Access to an employee financial wellness plan, including tools and education
  • Direct deposits for all employees, or a pay card

Plans:

  1. Express Payroll
    Paychex's most basic option works best for small and emerging businesses with less than 49 employees. It also offers no added benefits beyond the basic features.

    However, for a small business with just a few employees, Express Payroll may be exactly what you need to make payroll simple.

  2. Paychex Flex Select
    Paychex Flex Select is most popular for businesses with less than 49 employees.

    Includes the above features, plus:

    • Dedicated payroll specialist
    • Labor compliance poster kit
    • Additional employee pay options, including check signing and paper checks
    • Paychex learning management system, with online courses designed to help employees

  3. Paychex Flex Pro
    Includes the above features, plus:

    • Garnishment pay service that helps automatically deduct and remit garnished wages
    • General ledger service or the ability to link to select accounting software, like Sage and QuickBooks, with your payroll data
    • Workers' compensation reports that include wages subject to workers' comp insurance
    • State unemployment insurance service
    • Analytics and reporting stored in one large database with custom parameters to deliver new reports
    • Onboarding essentials for new employees, including direct deposit and payroll tax forms
    • Employee screening essentials, like background checks

  4. Paychex Flex Enterprise
    The largest and most expansive Paychex plan works best for enterprise businesses.

    Includes the above features, plus:

    • Custom analytics and reporting
    • Paychex Flex HR administration, including managing employee training and storing compliance documents

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: Best for Small Businesses

OnPay is a basic payroll and tax filing service with a transparent fee structure. 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.

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 self-onboarding
  • Paid time off management
  • Access to HR documents and resources
  • Ability to cancel pay runs and make corrections
  • All payroll and tax filings guaranteed

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.

Already have a Bank of America business checking account? It might be easier just to integrate your payroll services with them. Here's how that works.

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.

Sage: Best Customer Satisfaction

Sage is a cloud-based payroll service with some of the highest customer retention rates in the United States.

The biggest perk? Sage offers integration services with Office365 and other major accounting programs.

Sage has nearly a dozen plans for small businesses tailored to their needs. It offers these key payroll services:

  • Local, state, and federal tax filings
  • Direct deposit
  • Sage handles government notices
  • For support, talk with an American Payroll Association (FPC) certified expert.

Sage's full-service payroll program with all the features handles:

  • Direct deposit with paper check options, online pay stubs, and more
  • Access to a dedicated representative
  • Paid time off and sick time tracking with built-in reports
  • Tax fillings in all states
  • Integration with your accounting software

Don't have corporate gigs? There are still easy ways to keep Uncle Sam happy. Find out how to pay atypical workers.

SurePayroll: Best for Small Niche Businesses

SurePayroll is unique in that it provides payroll solutions for niche businesses like nannies, caretakers, church, farm, 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.

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
  • Pay and file taxes automatically
  • 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

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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.

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.

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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