Payroll can be a challenge for small business owners who love challenges but are busy running their company. Payroll services and software help businesses understand the payroll process, giving them access to important forms, managing information, taking care of deductions.
That said, it’s not always easy to find the right one. We reviewed eight of the top payroll services for small businesses so you can decide which is right for you.
From online software to HR outsourcing companies and professional employer organizations (PEOs), each has their own strengths, but we found that newer online payroll software companies work best overall for small businesses, so you’ll find them higher up our list.
Top payroll services for small businesses in 2020
|Payroll Service||Why You Should Try/Affordability|
|1. Gusto||Affordable, with a strong range of features that can help with other areas of HR. Easy to use, with great support.|
|2. Paycor||Good for small businesses due to its scalability, affordability, and user-friendly interface.|
|3. QuickBooks Payroll||Slightly more expensive but with great tools and integration with Intuit Quickbooks, Intuit offers excellent software and extended payroll service.|
|4. Patriot Software||Another budget-friendly option that does the job. Good features, but not as extensive as some other payroll services.|
|5. Paychex||A great range of familiar features, but at a higher price. Good if you already knew Paychex software.|
|6. ADP Run||Market leading payroll service at a price. Worth it if you’re already using ADPs other services or want an established name.|
|7. Justworks||For small businesses looking for HR and benefits along with payroll. Cheaper standalone payroll services are available, however.|
|8. TriNet||A valuable set of HR solutions, including access to group benefits as well as payroll, but more expensive.|
How we ranked payroll services
We ranked our payroll services on the following four criteria:
- Features – The better the range and quality of the features offered by payroll services, the better the grade they received.
- Price – Small businesses want the right payroll service at the right price. Payroll services combining the best prices with an effective payroll service scored higher..
- Customer Support/Accessibility – Convenience is a big part of why small businesses use payroll services. The best payroll services are easy to use and get help with, online or offline.
- User Experience – The better the experience, less painful running a small business becomes. Our highest rated payroll services offered great user experiences.
Gusto is a great option for small businesses who need simple and effective online software to help manage their payroll. The features are divided into different packages that suit different needs, the prices are affordable, customer support is readily available, and the quality of the user experience is very high.
Gusto lets you choose between three packages with different combinations of features.
- Gusto Core
- Gusto Complete
- Gusto Concierge
Each option gives you access to different features. However, all of Gusto’s plans include the following:
- Fast payroll runs (below 10 minutes)
- Automatically run payroll, if you prefer
- Employee self-service
- Access to group health insurance at competitive rates
- Management retirement savings online, including 401k
- Pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation
Gusto Complete and Gusto Concierge include extra tools for handling general HR requirements like time tracker tools, access to HR professionals, an e-sign document feature, and access to a library of templates and HR forms.
How much does Gusto cost?
As of 2019, Gusto is offering a 1-month free trial for each of these plans. Check Gusto’s websites for the latest prices, packages, and promotions. Here are the prices for Gusto’s different packages:
|Package||Monthly base cost||Cost per employee||Annual cost for business of ten|
Does Gusto have good customer support?
Gusto’s telephone and email office hours are between 8 am and 5 pm PST. However, If you would prefer a dedicated support team, you’ll need the Gusto Concierge package.
Gusto’s website has a chat feature connecting you to a sales rep if you want to discuss features, pricing, or have any other questions about Gusto.
Is Gusto right for small businesses?
The features and prices make Gusto good value for money compared to many other payroll services. Many small businesses will probably find Gusto Core more than enough, although if you have other HR needs one of the higher packages might be a better fit.
See the full review of Gusto here.
Paycor is similar to Gusto, offering good online payroll software and other features at prices that scale with the needs of your small business.
Paycor’s payroll software offers small businesses the following features:
- Smart streaming
- Employee support
- Tax compliance assistance
- Process optimization
- General ledger integration
- Human Resources on demand (an HR database plus over-the-phone help)
- Detailed reporting and analytics
- Paycor mobile app
- Direct deposit
- Paycard integrations
- 401k integration
- Wage garnishment support for payments and notice review
- e-Child support compliance assistance with automation
- Tax compliance assistance
Paycor’s software is also easily customizable, with different widgets you can combine in different ways to help see the data you need at a glance.
How much does Paycor cost?
Paycor prefers you to get a custom quote directly, but the following prices are accurate for most small businesses:
- Base cost per pay cycle: $49
- Cost per employee after the first 10: $3 per payroll cycle
- The estimated annual cost for a small business of 10 employees: $1,176 (assuming two pay cycles per month).
This is slightly cheaper than Gusto Core, itself an affordable online payroll service.
Does Paycor have good customer support?
Paycor asks that employees of client businesses contact their own in-business payroll or HR administrator. Compared to other payroll services who make themselves available to client employees, that’s not ideal.
However, employers can contact them by phone or email, and employees have access to a useful FAQ page for common issues.
Is Paycor right for small businesses?
Overall, Paycor is an affordable option that small businesses can use to manage their payroll effectively. While their user support could be improved, it’s still good enough and the software itself is excellent. Any small business owner interested in Gusto should also take a look at Paycor for comparison.
See the full review Paycor here.
Note: Unlike QB Live, QuickBooks Payroll IS a separate, standalone product. It integrates with other QuickBooks software, but it doesn’t require the user to also be a QuickBooks user.
QuickBooks Payroll is an online payroll processing service designed for small businesses. It offers full-service payroll features, making it easy for businesses to pay employees, collect payroll taxes, prepare tax forms, and more. The service offers payroll tax compliance in all 50 states, automatic collection of payroll taxes, fast direct deposit/check payments to employees, benefit management, PTO tracking, and much more.
QuickBooks Payroll is only a payroll service – it’s not really a full online accounting platform. That said, the service does integrate with QuickBooks Payroll Online, a very popular online accounting system. QuickBooks Payroll is a standalone product, so you can use it whether you use QuickBooks or other accounting software.
Value for money
- Ease of Use: 4/5
- Services Offered: 2/5
- Pricing: 4/5
- Overall: 3.3/5
Who it’s best for
- QuickBooks Payroll is best for companies looking to outsource their payroll in an affordable manner. It offers simple online tools to streamline and automate payroll procedures, freeing up more time to focus on the core aspects of your business.
- QuickBooks payroll is not a full accounting software – it handles payroll only. For a full set of features, it’s recommended to pair QuickBooks Payroll with QuickBooks Online or another compatible accounting service.
Ease of use and versatility
- QuickBooks Payroll is user-friendly and intuitive. It’s a cloud service that can be accessed through web browsers, the QB Payroll mobile app, and select QuickBooks applications.
- Initial setup can take time, but features like Auto Payroll can partially automate the payroll process, saving you a lot of time over the long run.
- Supports payroll for salary and hourly employees, and can also help with managing contractors and issuing 1099s.
- Full-service payroll
- Fast and accurate calculation, collection, and payment of payroll taxes
- Compatible with regulations in all 50 states
- Auto payroll feature makes repeat, predictable pay rolls simple and fast
- Access to employee benefits, such as health insurance
- Tracking of vacation and paid time off
QuickBooks Payroll pricing scales with the size of your business, and the features needed. There are currently three plans:
- Core – $45/mo + $4 per employee (full-service payroll with basic features)
- Premium – $75/mo + $8 per employee (full-service payroll with HR features, expert setup, and same-day direct deposit)
- Elite – $125/mo + $10 per employee (full-service payroll with premium support, tax penalty protection, and personal HR advisor)
There re two promotional sign-up offers currently available. You can opt to get your first 30 days free, or get 50% off for the first 3 months.
All QuickBooks Payroll customers will have access to a dedicated Payroll support team. QuickBooks Support is available via online chat, email, and phone call. The Elite plan has premium customer support, with quicker access to highly trained payroll support experts.
See the full review QuickBooks Payroll here.
Patriot Software (sometimes just called Patriot) is an easy to use online payroll service that helps small businesses manage their payroll quickly, understand the process, and get accurate results.
Patriot Software features
Despite being one of the budget-friendly options, Patriot still includes a respectable amount of features. However, while the higher-priced version adds increased functionality for handling payroll tax, you get everything you need to run payroll with their Basic Payroll package. These features are:
- Payroll setup
- Payroll support
- Paycheck printing
- Direct deposit
- Run unlimited payrolls at any time
- Flexible pay schedules
- Printable W-2s
Optional add-ons include time and attendance tracking for a base cost of $5 per month, plus $1 per employee and HR software at a base cost of $4 per month, also with $1 for each employee.
The user interface is straightforward and easy to use. It’s not quite as customizable as that of Paycor, but it’s good enough.
How much does Patriot Software cost?
Patriot takes a transparent approach to pricing, with the exact calculations you’ll need to know your final cost easily available on their website..
Patriot provides an online drag-and-drop tool you can use to calculate your monthly price based on your employee count for both of their packages.
Compared to other payroll services, Patriot is affordable. This is partly because you are charged monthly, rather than by pay cycle. This means that companies paying their employees every two weeks (or even weekly) instead of monthly don’t pay more.
Does Patriot Software have good customer support?
Reach Patriot by email, phone, or online chat is easy. There’s even a help center with video tutorials and articles on common topics of interest. Patriot also helps you set up your payroll when you sign on.
Is Patriot Software right for small businesses?
Patriot user-friendly and it gets the job done. If your small business is looking at the budget end of the payroll service market, Patriot might be a good fit.
However, check the available features carefully and compare them to other payroll services for the features you need. If in doubt, call a sales representative for clarification.
With a PEO-style offering and a service catering to larger organizations looking for advanced features, Paychex is one of the most expensive payroll services we reviewed. Small businesses looking for payroll support and HR help should check out their features and prices before signing up.
We look at the features for each of Paychex’ packages in our 2020 Paychex review. Here we focus on the package they recommend for small businesses, Paychex Flex Select.
Paychex Flex Select has the following features:
- Payroll tax administration
- New hire reporting
- Access to the mobile app
- 24/7 phone and chat support
- An employee financial wellness program
- Direct deposit for paying employees
- Extra employee pay options on top of their basic package
- A dedicated payroll specialist as a point of contact
- A labor compliance poster kit
- Paychex learning management system
Small businesses are likely to find these features more than enough to manage their payroll. Paychex ability to provide access to added benefits like wellness packages is also a bonus.
While their online software works well, it’s functional in style and doesn’t impress visually.
How much does Paychex cost?
Getting an estimate on the cost of Paychex for your small business means contacting them for a quote directly. As Paychex tailor offerings and prices to specific companies, trying to work out a final price without talking to them means making a lot of assumptions.
However, Paychex is likely to cost more than standalone online payroll software.
Does Paychex have good customer support?
Paychex has a reputation for offering quality customer support. You can contact them 24/7 by phone or online chat.
Is Paychex right for small businesses?
Paychex offers many great features. However, given the price and the needs of small businesses, it’s hard to recommend Paychex with more affordable payroll services offering similar features.
However, if you’re familiar with Paychex software and have a budget that justifies it, Paychex may make sense for your small business, especially if you want to outsource HR or get access to affordable employee benefits.
See the full review of Paychex here.
ADP Run is a high-end payroll service with a range of features small businesses may find useful. ADP have other products and if you’re already familiar with them you might find their payroll service easy to get started with.
ADP Run features
ADPs different packages each have different combinations of features, but they all offer the following:
- A fast running payroll system
- A simple user interface
- Automatic calculation, deduction, and paying for taxes
- 24/7 access to support from experienced payroll professionals
- Done-for-you annual and quarterly reporting
- Integration of time tracking with payroll
- Easy online access from a mobile device or desktop
The software user interface reasonably attractive, although like Paychex, it as a corporate feel compared to some of their younger competition, like Gusto
How much does ADP run cost?
Prices vary by package and even the features of your small business. ADP will consider your business’ credit rating, risk profile and health benefits history before delivering a custom quote.
However, ADP Essential Payroll is more expensive than Paycor and Gusto, but you will probably get a lower quote than from Paychex, Justworks, and almost certainly TriNet.
Does ADP run have good customer support?
ADP doesn’t have a fantastic reputation for customer service and support, but our reviewers encountered no difficulties when evaluating them in this area. Contact details are easy to find, and it’s easy to get hold of someone.
Is ADP Run right for small businesses?
ADP Run offers great features and is a little more expensive than payroll services like Gusto or Paycor. However, ADP has a solid reputation.
However, we recommend ADP’s payroll service to those small businesses already using ADP’s other HR offerings, and have budgets that can support it.
See the full review of ADP Run here.
Justworks is more than a payroll service, offering your small business full HR support and access to group benefits as a PEO.
Justworks Basic includes the following useful features:
- Payments and payroll management and support
- Compliance assistance
- HR support and consultation
- Reporting tools
- Contractor and vendor management
As we’re interested in payroll services, we’ll stick with Justworks Basic which includes all the payroll features a small business is ever likely to need.
How much does Justworks cost?
Justworks’s pricing structure is very competitive and designed to reflect the size of your small business, even if larger than described in the chart below:
|1-25 Employees||25-99 Employees||100-174 Employees|
|Billed annually||$49 per employee, per month||$44 per employee, per month||$39 per employee, per month|
|Billed monthly||$99 per employee, per month||$89 per employee, per month||$79 per employee, per month|
Does Justworks have good customer support?
Justworks offers 24/7 customer support with their Basic package, with both online chat and phone available between the hours of 9:30 am and 6:30 pm EST available, which Justworks is working on expanding soon to between 8 am and 8 pm EST.
Is Justworks right for small businesses?
If your small business needs human resources support that goes beyond a payroll service, Justworks could make sense, with excellent additional benefits.
However, if you’re just interested in online payroll software, options like Gusto or Paycor may mean better value for money, as extra features come at a premium.
See the full review of Justworks here.
Like Justworks, TriNet is a PEO (professional employer organization) rather than an online payroll software provider. This makes it a little more expensive but brings with it extra features like access to group benefits and other HR support.
TriNet lets you manage payroll entirely online, with access to these core features:
- Online payroll processing
- Direct deposit and debiting
- Paperless payroll administration
- E-pay stubs
- Electronic W-2 preparation and delivery
- Invoice estimates with automatic updates
- Time-off tracking
- Employee self-service
The interface is simple but functional, with key important information easily visible.
As TriNet are a PEO, you get access to a range of other valuable features, including access to affordable group health plans.
How much does TriNet cost?
TriNet gives quotes based on your requirements, so contacting them for a custom quote is a good way to go. Although TriNet’s prices vary based on your location, membership usually costs between $125 and $155 per employee.
Does TriNet Have Good Customer Support?
While you can only reach customer support on weekdays, once you get through TriNet are extremely helpful and will work hard to ensure you get the answers you need.
Is TriNet right for small businesses?
PEOs like TriNet come with access to benefits that some companies find worth the price tag.
However, we only recommend TriNet for small businesses who want to consolidate their various human resources functions, who want to offer employee health plans and other benefits, and have reasonably large budgets.
See the full review of TriNet here.
Our pick for 2020
After considering the needs of small businesses, we decided on Gusto as our best payroll service for small businesses in 2020. The combination of features, value for money, customer service, and user experience along makes Gusto a great option for small businesses looking for payroll services.