Aside from being affordably priced, the best small business payroll software calculates employee wages and deductions accurately and pays and files payroll taxes automatically. Most offer unlimited pay runs, two-day direct deposits, employee self-service portals, and even access to employee benefits.
To find the ideal payroll system for small businesses, we evaluated 13 solutions and narrowed the list down to our top 10 recommendations:
- Gusto: Best overall small business payroll software
- QuickBooks Payroll: Best for QuickBooks accounting users
- Paychex Flex: Best for solopreneurs and employers needing dedicated payroll support
- Square Payroll: Best for small retailers and restaurants already using or interested in using Square POS
- OnPay: Best for small agricultural companies that need to file Form 943
- Paycor: Best for companies that need an all-in-one HR and payroll software
- Rippling: Best for employers looking for a modular HR, payroll, and IT platform
- ADP Run: Best for rapidly scaling startups needing flexible payroll plans that can be adjusted quickly
- Patriot Payroll: Best for mom-and-pop businesses that want a do-it-yourself (DIY) payroll service
- Homebase Payroll: Best for businesses that employ hourly workers
Best Payroll Systems for Small Business Compared
Starter Monthly Pricing
Calculates and Files Taxes
Unlimited Pay Runs
Standard Direct Deposit Timelines
Health Benefit Options
Files New Hire State Reports
Part of Larger Product Suite for Growing Businesses
$39 + $6/employee
$45 + $4/employee
$39 + $5/employee
$35 + $5/employee
4-day; Instantly with Square payments
$36 + $4/employee
2- or 4-day, depends on risk assessment
$99 + $5/employee
$30 + $4/employee
$35 + $5/employee
2-day for qualified companies
Still not sure you’ve found the right fit? Check out our top payroll solution picks by industry and use case.
Gusto: Best Overall Small Business Payroll Software
Gusto ranked high among its competitors for its full-service payroll, benefits options, and HR support at an affordable price. It enables small businesses to operate with the structure and amenities that some larger companies offer. In addition to running payroll on autopilot, plus offering direct deposit and pay card options, it sends out an onboarding email notice to each new hire so they can complete the required paperwork before coming into the office. A range of benefits is available, and if you’re in one of the 39 states where it offers insurance, you can offer national health insurance plans to your employees.
Scoring 4.66 out of 5 in our evaluation, Gusto earned perfect scores in pricing, reporting, and popularity among users. However, the limited coverage of its health insurance and having to subscribe to one of its higher tiers to access HR tools—such as time tracking and online paid time off (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. And you can even set payroll to run on autopilot.
- Automated tax payment and year-end report filing: Gusto automatically withholds, pays, and files taxes on federal, state, and local levels. It handles year-end tax reporting (W-2s and 1099s) for free, unlike ADP Run, which charges a fee for this service.
- Employee benefits: Gusto provides employee benefits in all 50 states but its health insurance is available only in 39 (as of this writing). While some small business payroll providers are cheaper (Rippling is $18 per employee monthly, for example), they don’t offer some of the employee perks that Gusto does such as 529 college savings accounts, health reimbursement plans, and Gusto Wallet—a free financial management app that even has time tracking tools.
In case your employees have emergency expenses and need early access to their salary, they can easily get the funds through the Gusto Cashout feature of the Gusto Wallet. Aside from Square Payroll and Homebase Payroll, none of the other providers on our list offer an in-house solution.
- 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. However, if you require fast processing timelines, QuickBooks Payroll’s starter Core plan comes with next-day direct deposits (same-day for higher tiers). Square Payroll also offers instant payouts through its Square Payments solution.
- Efficient time tracking and workforce management tools: Aside from monitoring your employees’ and contractors’ time through its system or via the Gusto Wallet, Gusto offers project tracking and workforce costing tools. 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 you require reasonably priced full-service payroll with PTO and time tracking tools, consider either OnPay or Homebase Payroll (note that Homebase’s payroll services cover only 43 states as of this writing).
- Professional HR and tax experts on support: Gusto helps you avoid expensive compliance mistakes through its team of HR and tax experts that you can reach out to for help whenever you need them—provided you get its Concierge option.
- Limited health insurance coverage: While Gusto has Gusto Cashout, a Gusto Wallet app with time tracking functionalities, and other benefits offerings, its health insurance options are limited to 39 states. If you want health benefits that are available across the US, consider any of the providers in this guide except Patriot Payroll and Homebase Payroll.
- Doesn’t provide a dedicated payroll specialist: Gusto may provide access to HR Pros if you get its premium plan, but it doesn’t have dedicated payroll specialists who can help you navigate through the complexities of paying employees. This is where Paychex shines since it assigns a payroll expert to each of its clients—although you have to sign up for its higher tiers to get this service.
QuickBooks Payroll: Best Payroll Solution for QuickBooks Accounting Software Users
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). Like 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. QuickBooks Payroll also has fast direct deposits—its standard timeline is next-day but has same-day options if you get one of its higher tiers.
In our evaluation, QuickBooks Payroll earned a 4.62 out of 5 with perfect scores in ease of use, pricing, and reporting capabilities. While all of its per criteria ratings are 4 and above, it scored the lowest in HR features (4.13 out of 5), mainly because it doesn’t file new hire state reports (it only generates them) and you have to get its premium plan if you want time tracking and expert advice from a personal HR adviser. 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 Features
- 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 enter the local tax rates yourself.
- 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 of the 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 to resolve 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.
- Payroll and tax filing while on the go: With QuickBooks Payroll apps (for iOS and Android), you can process payroll, pay taxes, and e-file tax forms in all 50 states. Square Payroll, ADP Run, and Paychex may let you run employee payroll on its mobile apps, but they don’t have the tax e-filing feature that QuickBooks Payroll offers.
QuickBooks Payroll’s Drawbacks
- Lacks mobile apps for employee self-service: While QuickBooks Payroll has a workforce portal where employees can check PTO balances, access pay slips, and view tax forms, its self-service tool doesn’t have a mobile app version. We recommend either Square Payroll, ADP Run, Homebase Payroll, and Paycor since these providers offer mobile apps for employee self-service. Gusto’s financial management app, Gusto Wallet, also lets you view pay stubs and W-2s but doesn’t show PTO details.
- Tax penalty protection can be costly: Compared to the other providers in this guide, QuickBooks Payroll offers more robust tax penalty protection for its clients that includes representing your business before the IRS to help address tax issues. However, coverage for its tax penalty protection is expensive since you have to sign up for its highest tier, Elite, which costs $125 per month plus $10 per employee monthly.
Paychex Flex: Best for Solopreneurs & Employers Needing Dedicated Payroll Support
Paychex has a Paychex Solo package that includes payroll, startup/incorporation services, and access to retirement plan options, making it a suitable solution for one-person businesses. Paychex also has numerous tiers that are flexible and cater to companies of different sizes. And unlike Homebase Payroll, which offers payroll only in 43 states, and Gusto, which provides health insurance only in 39 states, it lets you process payroll and provide health insurance in all US states.
Paychex Flex earned a 4.39 out of 5 in our evaluation. It scored the highest in HR features and reporting capabilities, as well as in our expert review criteria in which we assess whether its ease of use, pricing, and HR/payroll tools are ideal for small to midsize businesses (SMBs). However, Paychex doesn’t have transparent pricing for all of its plans. It also charges extra for payroll tax administration and W-2/1099 filings—services that most of the providers in this guide include without extra charges.
Paychex Flex Features
- Flexible plan options: 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 type of plan. Paychex offers flexible HR and payroll packages that target businesses of all sizes. And if you ever go through a growth period in which you need an HR expert but aren’t ready to hire, Paychex has a professional employer organization (PEO) service to help you manage essential day-to-day HR processes.
- Workers’ compensation and benefits management: Paychex handles workers’ compensation, and, unlike Gusto, offers health insurance in all 50 states. It also has retirement plans and garnishment payment services that include remitting the garnished wages to the appropriate agencies.
- 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. However, if you require options that allow you to pay employees fast, Square Payroll has an Instant Payments feature while QuickBooks Payroll offers next- and same-day direct deposits.
- 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. Live chat features, in-app help options, and how-to guides are also available.
Paychex Flex’s Drawbacks
- Pricing isn’t all transparent: The pricing details of its starter Paychex Flex Essentials plan is readily available on Paychex’s website, but the cost of its other tiers, products, and services are not transparent. While you can contact Paychex to request more information, the process of requesting a quote can be inconvenient for those who want to quickly compare the features and fees between different payroll software.
- Add-on fees for year-end reporting and payroll tax administration: Paychex can calculate, pay, and file payroll taxes for you, including year-end tax reports, but you may be charged additional fees for some of the services. If you don’t want to pay extra, consider the other providers in this list—except ADP Run, QuickBooks Payroll (local tax filings are available only in its highest tier), and Patriot Payroll (1099 tax filings cost extra if you’re under its Basic Payroll option).
Square Payroll: Best for Small Retailers & Restaurant Owners Using Square POS
Square Payroll is the best choice for retailers and restaurants already using Square’s POS system. It enables you to pay both employees and contractors and import online timecards from the Square POS and other third-party 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 or Paychex, and file quarterly and annual taxes, plus sign up for pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation insurance.
In our evaluation, Square Payroll earned an overall rating of 4.28 out of 5 with a perfect score in reporting and high marks in nearly all of our criteria. It lost points in ease of use and popularity among users. While it is easy to use, it doesn’t have a customizable interface. It also didn’t meet our sub-criteria of having more than 1,000 average user reviews online. Plus, several users complained of having experienced difficulties contacting its support team.
Square Payroll Features
- Low-cost contractor-only plan: Square Payroll has the lowest contractor-only plan among all the providers in this list. Priced at only $5 per contractor monthly, it comes with all the features of its “pay employees and contractors” plan including unlimited pay runs. Similar to Gusto’s contractor-only option, Square Payroll will only charge you for contractors that you paid for the month.
- 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 commissions 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. You can even use its On-Demand Pay tool to allow eligible employees to get a portion of their earned salary before the pay period is over.
- Online tax filing and reporting: Square Payroll will automatically file your quarterly and annual taxes 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, Paychex, and ADP, which charge fees for some of its 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.
- Employee benefits: Square Payroll will provide your employees access to health insurance, pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation plans, and even retirement packages that will automatically sync with your payroll.
Square Payroll’s Drawbacks
- Basic HR features: Square Payroll lacks the HR tools to help you track applicants, manage training, and maintain an employee information database online. If you require these for your business, we recommend either Paychex, Paycor, Rippling, or ADP Run since all offer a wide range of HR solutions.
- Four-day direct deposits: Unless you have a Square Payments account that lets you pay employees the next day and even instantly, Square Payroll’s standard direct deposit timeline is four days. QuickBooks Payroll would be a good choice for those who require fast payouts and don’t use Square Payments since its starter Core plan comes with next-day direct deposits.
OnPay: Best for Agricultural Companies
OnPay makes it easy for agricultural companies to pay employees and file taxes. It files Form 943 and even processes payments and taxes for workers on H-2A visas. In addition to unlimited pay runs, it supports multiple pay rates and payroll schedules. OnPay can also handle the payroll needs of businesses in other industries (like healthcare and restaurant industries)—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.
In our evaluation, OnPay earned a 4.23 out of 5. Similar to Square Payroll, it scored high ratings in almost all criteria except for ease of use and popularity among users. While OnPay may provide payroll services for different business types, its interface isn’t customizable and the number of third-party software that it integrates with is limited. Plus, a few reviewers who left feedback are unhappy with 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.
- Unlimited payroll runs: Like Gusto, Square Payroll, and a couple of the other payroll systems for small businesses on our list, OnPay lets you run payroll for both employees and contractors as many times as you need and want without having to pay extra. You can also generate year-end W-2s and 1099s without paying a per-employee rate (Paychex and ADP Run charge extra). And, for those with special tax requirements like agricultural businesses, OnPay offers automated tax payments and filings of Form 943.
- Multiple employee payment options: With OnPay, employees can get their wages through direct deposits, debit cards, and paychecks. Your staff can also see their pay stubs online through OnPay’s self-service portal.
- 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 39 states (as of this writing), OnPay’s health plans are available in all US states. Your employees are also granted access to dental, vision, disability, and retirement plans. Further, OnPay can easily generate employee census data reports that you can use when requesting insurance quotes from carriers and benefits providers.
- Lack of weekend phone support: If you urgently need payroll assistance from OnPay’s support team on a weekend, you won’t be able to contact them via phone. It only offers email support on Saturdays and Sundays. ADP Run and Paychex are great choices if you require 24/7 support. Paychex even offers a dedicated payroll specialist, although this service is available only in its higher tiers.
- Limited integration options: OnPay integrates with only a handful of third-party software, such as QuickBooks, Xero, QuickBooks Time, Deputy, Humanity, When I Work, Mineral, and PosterElite. For those who need robust integrations, we recommend Rippling as it connects with more than 400 apps.
Paycor: Best for Businesses Needing an All-in-One HR Payroll System
For businesses looking for a cloud-based platform that comes with all of the essential tools to manage the entire employee lifecycle, Paycor is a good option. It offers a robust suite of solutions for handling basic to the most complex payroll and HR tasks. It has recruiting, onboarding, time and attendance, benefits, learning, and employee information management tools in addition to payroll and automated tax services. However, Paycor isn’t the most affordable payroll system for small businesses as its starter Basic plan costs $99 plus $5 per employee monthly—pricier than big-name payroll and HR providers like ADP and Paychex.
Scoring 4.16 out of 5 in our evaluation, Paycor received high marks in nearly all of our criteria with perfect scores in reporting, HR features, and popularity among users. However, its expensive pricing and limited interface customizability prevented it from ranking higher on our list. Several users said that not being able to fully customize some of its features (like creating special vacation accrual rules) is one of the things they like least about Paycor. Others commented that while it offers solid payroll and HR tools, its support team isn’t always responsive and can be difficult to reach at times.
- Time and attendance: Paycor enables you to collect and monitor employee work hours, helping manage attendance and labor costs through automated and accurate processes. Its system is much more robust than Gusto’s simple time tracking tool. Employees can clock in and out, and you can use it to schedule shifts.
- All-in-one HR platform: Paycor offers an all-in-one platform that combines its payroll software with onboarding, time tracking, scheduling, performance management, and recruiting tools. You won’t get these robust HR features with traditional small business payroll software like Gusto, OnPay, Patriot Payroll, and Homebase Payroll.
- Customizable pay grids: Paycor’s payroll solution is flexible, allowing you to create intuitive workflows and build an online pay grid to fit your unique pay processing needs. You can select the pay data columns you want, remove those you don’t need, and choose whether you want the system to display the applicable hours or amount (or both) for each data type. You can even create a customized pay stub.
- Accurate payroll and tax filing: Aside from calculating employee payments and deductions, Paycor handles your quarterly tax payments and filings, including year-end reports. It also automatically pays and files your taxes at the federal and state levels on time. You can pay employees via direct deposits and manual checks. Paycor even offers check stuffing services.
- Expensive: Out of all the small business payroll software we reviewed, Paycor has the priciest plans. Its starter Basic plan costs $99 plus $5 per employee monthly, which is more expensive than Paychex’s starter tier ($39 plus $5 per employee monthly) that already comes with garnishment payment services. With Paycor, you have to subscribe to its premium plans to get this.
- HR tools are available only in higher tiers: While Paycor’s small business payroll plans include access to basic HR tools (like PTO tracking and onboarding), these are available only in the premium tiers. We recommend Homebase Payroll if you want a payroll package that includes new hire onboarding, time tracking, and scheduling tools in a basic subscription tier.
Rippling: Best for Businesses Looking for a Modular HR, Payroll & IT Solution
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 employee management platform is a must-purchase, the cost of adding full-service payroll is still reasonable—although not as cost-effective as most of the small business payroll software in this guide (like Gusto and Patriot Payroll). It still made our list because, apart from its efficient online tools, Rippling 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.
- Modular solutions: Rippling has a flexible employee management platform that lets you choose the payroll, HR, and IT features that you need. You can start with its employee management (a must purchase) and full-service payroll tools, and then add more solutions like employee benefits and applicant tracking as you grow your business.
- Payroll Analytics: Rippling automatically pulls your last payroll numbers when you begin processing a new payroll so you can easily compare the two. 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 automatically calculates all employee payments, taxes, and deductions. Payroll tax filings are also automatically done by Rippling. 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 employee 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.
- Flexible PEO: Rippling offers PEO services to businesses that need help managing 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 simply turn Rippling’s PEO services off from your account.
- Can get pricey as you add more features: Its per-module pricing may be optimal for those who only need specific solutions (such as payroll), but if you keep adding more features and growing your workforce, Rippling can get pricey.
- Lacks free phone support: Rippling offers email and chat support, but if you need expert advice from an HR professional, you have to purchase its HR help desk add-on ($100 monthly) that includes phone and email support.
ADP Run: Best for Scaling Startups Needing Flexible Plans
ADP has numerous plan options and products that cater to different-sized businesses. ADP Run is its payroll system for small businesses with up to 49 employees. It comes with all of 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 Gusto or Square Payroll. ADP also makes it easy to transition from one plan to the next if your company scales over time and you need additional HR tools.
In our evaluation, ADP Run earned an overall score of 3.79 out of 5. It was rated highly in ease of use, payroll and HR features, reporting, and popularity among users. However, its setup costs and non-transparent fees contributed to its very low rating in our pricing criteria. Users still appreciate its easy-to-use platform, adding that its payroll solution helps simplify employee pay processes. Others, on the other hand, commented that it can be expensive for small businesses.
ADP Run Features
- Fast and accurate payroll and tax filing: In addition to its solid payroll tools, ADP Run offers automated payroll tax payments and filings. While it also handles year-end reporting (W-2s and 1099s), ADP charges extra for this. Its built-in compliance tools also notify you of payroll errors.
- 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 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 even offers a PEO option, ADP TotalSource, for companies that need to completely outsource their payroll and HR administration.
- 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 even get 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 and Paycor. However, if you need time tracking, pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation, and benefits, these solutions are paid add-ons to ADP Run’s payroll plan.
ADP Run’s Drawbacks
- Pricing isn’t transparent: With ADP, you have to call its sales team to discuss your requirements and request a quote. This can be troublesome for those who want to quickly compare monthly fees between different payroll software, including the features that each provider offers.
- Year-end reporting costs extra: While most of the small business payroll software in this list include W-2 and 1099 reporting, ADP Run charges a fee for this service.
Patriot Payroll: Best for Mom-and-Pop Businesses Wanting a Do-It-Yourself Option
Patriot Payroll offers a flexible option that others on our list don’t: a choice between full-service payroll and a more affordable DIY version that costs only $10 monthly plus $4 per employee, per month, if you file your own taxes. Both plans 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. 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 3.73 out of 5 in our evaluation, Patriot Payroll received perfect marks in reporting, 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 Features
- 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 $10 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. If you want fast direct deposits, consider QuickBooks Payroll (its basic Core plan comes with next-day options) and Square Payroll (its Instant Payments feature lets you pay employees instantly).
- 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 will commit.
Patriot Payroll’s Drawbacks
- Four-day direct deposits: Unlike Gusto, QuickBooks Payroll, and Square Payroll, which offer multiple direct deposit options—such as next- and same-day options and instant payouts—Patriot’s standard timeline is four days even if you get its higher Full Service Payroll tier.
- Limited HR tools: While its HR and time tracking solutions can help you manage employee information and capture actual hours worked, respectively, Patriot Payroll lacks the onboarding and benefits options that most small business payroll software like Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll offer.
Homebase Payroll: Best for Businesses Employing Hourly Workers
Homebase has added a payroll module to its suite of time tracking and scheduling solutions. Similar to Square Payroll, Homebase Payroll 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 essential scheduling and time tracking tools to help you manage your hourly workforce more efficiently. It even offers job postings, applicant tracking, PTO management, new hire onboarding, and time clock apps.
Homebase Payroll earned an overall score of 3.66 in our evaluation. Its reasonably priced plan with flat pricing and robust HR tools contributed to its high scores (4 and up), while the lack of online Homebase Payroll reviews resulted in it getting a zero rating in our popularity criteria.
Homebase Payroll Features
- Flat pricing: Both Square Payroll and Homebase Payroll offer flat pricing, allowing you to easily plan your payroll software expenses. You also don’t have to worry about having to pay extra fees if you exceed a plan’s user limits or need additional payroll and essential HR solutions. Homebase Payroll has only one plan that includes all the tools you need to hire, onboard, and pay employees.
- Robust payroll plan: Homebase Payroll is the only payroll system for small businesses that we reviewed that’s affordably priced and comes with several HR features. For only $35 plus $5 per employee monthly, you get hiring, onboarding, time tracking, and scheduling tools in addition to full-service payroll and automatic tax filing services. Paycor, 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, ADP Run, and Paycor, Homebase Payroll offers unlimited pay runs so 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 Gusto and 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’s Drawbacks
- Doesn’t offer health insurance and retirement benefits: While it can help you find qualified candidates, onboard new hires, schedule work shifts, track attendance, and pay employees, Homebase Payroll doesn’t provide access to benefits options that you can offer to your workers. If you want robust benefits choices, consider any of the providers in this list except Square Payroll and Patriot Payroll. Gusto also has health insurance plans but it is limited to only 39 states.
- Limited payroll coverage: Given that Homebase’s payroll solution is fairly new (as of this writing), its payroll services only cover 43 states. However, the provider is working on adding new states, so check its website for updates.
How We Chose the Top Payroll Software
We checked and compared the best payroll software for small businesses across industries; most of them offer many of the same basic payroll tools with certain nuances in features, i.e., same-day vs two-day direct deposit or unlimited pay runs vs limited pay runs. Generally, the top payroll software offer 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. Gusto, QuickBooks Payroll, and Patriot Payroll scored highest in this area—although Patriot Payroll is the most affordable among the three.
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. Most of the payroll software we reviewed scored 4 and above here, except Patriot Payroll and Homebase Payroll. Gusto and Square Payroll scored highest because both provide robust payout options that include on-demand pay and a pay card option.
20% of Overall Score
Payroll service and software should be simple to set up, customizable, and have a user-friendly interface. We also looked at whether the provider offers live support and integration options with online tools that most SMBs use. QuickBooks Payroll won in this criteria because of its intuitive interface, how-to guides, and easy payroll setup.
15% of Overall Score
Online onboarding, which means giving employees the option to fill out forms like W-4s electronically, is the top criterion, followed by state new hire reporting and the availability of a self-service portal where employees can view pay stubs, edit information, and access forms. Extra points were also given to providers who offer expert HR support, benefits options, and health insurance plans that cover all US states. ADP Run, Paycor, and Paychex received perfect ratings here because all three offer more comprehensive HR features for businesses as they grow.
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. While Paychex, ADP, and Paycor all have a wide range of HR and payroll solutions to fit different-sized businesses, only Paychex scored 5 out of 5. ADP’s non-transparent pricing and Paycor’s expensive plans prevented the two from getting perfect scores here.
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+ stars is ideal. Also, any software with 1,000+ reviews on any third-party site is preferred. Gusto, ADP, Paycor, and Patriot earned a perfect rating in this criterion.
5% of Overall Score
Preference was given to software with built-in basic payroll reports and customization options. All of the small business payroll software we reviewed received perfect scores here, except for Homebase Payroll since it lacks customizable reports.
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.
We found that Gusto offers all of 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.