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Today's trends for tomorrow's business
Best Payroll Software for Small Business

Best Payroll Software Programs for Small Business

Tom Gerencer
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Savvy small business managers know payroll isn’t something to take risks with, but getting it right can be as simple as choosing the best software.
We’ve taken a look at some of the best payroll software for small businesses on the web to help you find payroll software that fits your needs. We made our selections following a rigorous data-sifting analysis which we will lay out below.
At the top of the list by far is Patriot Payroll, dominating our rankings with an average score of 9.7 across over 8,000 reviews from delighted customers and online reviewers. Its SMB fans love it for its easy user interface and lightning-fast customer response times.
But there are plenty of other great options, too. Read on to find the one that’s perfect for your SMB payroll needs.

How we found the best payroll software for small business

Person Being Handed a Paycheck
We did a deep dive into the data, scouring tens of thousands of customer and pro reviews on the web, from trusted review sites like TrustPilot, G2, Software Advice, and more. We took a weighted average of all those scores, building an overall picture of the aggregated ratings.
For example, the Gusto Payroll app received 603 8.6-star reviews, 10 8.8 star reviews, 2,821 9-star reviews, and 2,925 9.4-star reviews. That equates to an overall weighted average of 9 stars for 6,359 ratings, landing Gusto at #3 on our list. Square Payroll scored slightly higher, but with just one-fifth of the total reviews, it took a lower slot.
A rating from a professional reviewer counted for 10 regular customer reviews. Finally, we compared features and prices, then gave each a test drive and adjusted our rankings based on our own experience. The result? Our data-driven list of the 10 best payroll services for small business on the shelf.

1. Patriot Payroll

Patriot Payroll tops our research-backed list of online payroll services for four simple reasons: it’s easy, it’s inexpensive, it’s flexible, and it works. They’ll set you up for free, with unlimited payrolls at no added cost.
There’s a free employee payroll, free direct deposit, simple payroll and tax calculations, and dozens of other features. Pay full-time employees and independent contractors alike. For the incredibly low price, it’s almost impossible to beat Patriot Payroll. Full disclosure - we take no money from Patriot Payroll we are just really impressed.
Pros
  • Easy
  • Free worker’s comp integration
  • Customizable
  • Integrates with QuickBooks
  • Free tax filings
  • Excellent support
Cons
  • Payments occur more slowly than some other options
  • Additional fees for some features
Verdict
  • Score: 9.7 from 8,412 reviews
  • Price: Plans start at $10/mo + $1/mo per employee

2. OnPay Payroll

Coming in at a close second but a bit less popular, OnPay shines with unlimited monthly tax runs and how well it handles all tax filings and payments. This full-service payroll solution is fast, easy to use, and does the job, which is exactly what most small businesses need in a payroll software option.
The price is on the high end, but the 30-day free trial and no startup fees help with the initial sting. On the whole, this is a user-friendly app that feels simple but packs in lots of features.
Pros
  • QuickBooks Integration
  • Fast payroll processing and quick web interface
  • Excellent customer service
  • Unlimited payrolls
Cons
  • Some features missing on mobile
  • The site is a bit ungainly and can hide needles in haystacks
Verdict
  • Score: 9.7 from 1,098 reviews
  • Price: $36/mo + $4/mo per employee

3. Gusto Payroll

Like previous payroll solutions on our list, Gusto Payroll software shines with automated tax filings and payments. It also adds new-hire reporting, free forms, and flexible payroll features like a debit card, direct deposits, and garnishments.
Users love the easy interface and massive time savings. You may not feel as positive about their customer service, though. When problems pop up (which, let’s be honest, they will), the waiting time for help reportedly takes a toll.
Pros
  • Smooth user experience
  • Seamless automation
  • Customizable reporting
  • Excellent mobile access
Cons
  • Less than stellar customer service
  • Some processes are slow
Verdict
  • Score: 9.1 from 6,359 reviews
  • Price: Plans start at $29/mo + $5/mo per employee (special contractor-only pricing is $5/mo per contractor)

4. Square Payroll

Millions of happy customers love the Square payments processing system, so it only makes sense that the company launched a payroll app. Like most payroll providers in our list, it offers unlimited payroll runs, tax forms, filings, payments, and an online employee portal.
The user interface and reports are a breeze to use. Setup can be a chore, however, as it requires you to create lots of extensive employee records in a several-step process.
Pros
  • Low price
  • Solid online help system
Cons
  • Missing some important features for small business
  • Good user experience but has occasional glitches
  • Setup tool is oversimplified
Verdict
  • Score: 9.2 from 1,580 reviews
  • Price: Plans start at $29/mo and $5/mo per employee

5. QuickBooks Payroll

QuickBooks Payroll has the same basic features as our other entries. You can send paper checks, initiate direct deposits, fill and file federal and state tax forms, and generate reports. The payroll calculations are highly accurate, and the interface is very streamlined with automatic tax calculations and a simple editing process for pay rates.
Overall, QuickBooks is a solid choice. There are some handy shortcuts during the employee onboarding process that can make your life easier. The biggest draw here, though, is that it lets you manage all your finances with a single QuickBooks online account.
Pros
  • Smooth process
  • Excellent QuickBooks integration
  • Robust benefits administration
  • Flexible tax handling and payroll setup
Cons
  • Customer service can be slow at times
  • Expensive
  • Mobile app not as full-featured
Verdict
  • Score: 8.9 from 1,916 reviews
  • Price: $37/mo + $8/mo per employee

6. Paychex Flex

Aside from online payroll, Paychex Flex handles tax admin, time tracking, new-hire reporting, worker’s comp, and general ledger reports. Their customer service is entirely U.S.-based, and there’s a full suite of available employee options like multiple pay channels and e-learning.
This is a highly efficient option, and employee access to stubs and W2s smooths the process. It’s scalable, too, so you have plenty of room to grow with this small business payroll service.
Pros
  • Reliable service and support
  • Manage paid time and off time
  • Easy, accommodating interface
Cons
  • Account managers change often, making it hard to get to know them
  • More pricey than other options
  • Learning curve can be steep
Verdict
  • Score: 8.2 from 3,611 reviews
  • Price: Plans start at $39/mo + $5/mo per employee

7. Zenefits Payroll

Sync new hires with payroll automatically at onboarding, track time, make automatic salary changes, and access dozens of flexible features with Zenefits Payroll. It’s a robust, full-featured entry in the payroll system lineup, and it boasts an intuitive dashboard.
Zenefits’ HR integration is smooth as well, so if you change something in one place, you don’t have to do it in multiple other places as well. But be warned that customer service is lacking, and the plans and pricing schemes can be a bit complex.
Pros
  • Excellent training materials
  • User-friendly system
  • Handy mobile app
Cons
  • Lackluster customer service
  • Doesn’t scale up well as your business does
  • Not as customizable as other options
Verdict
  • Score: 8.1 from 1,936 reviews
  • Price: Plans start at $14/mo per employee, but you can get free payroll for one year

8. SurePayroll

For a solid, flexible option, SurePayroll ticks the boxes. Send same-day payments or schedule them at will, and tap into 1099 support, tax filings and payments, and more. SurePayroll also integrates with Time Click, QuickBooks, and Xero for smooth financial automation.
As a nice perk, their customer service is professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. The company has steadily increased the fees over the past few years, however, and that may be a downside for some.
Pros
  • Easy interface
  • Quarterly tax payments
  • Employee self-service
Cons
  • Fees tend to creep higher
  • Recurring payment types lacking
Verdict
  • Score: 8.6 from 886 reviews
  • Price: $29.99/mo + $5/mo per employee

9. Uzio

If you’ve already tried all the best payroll for small business options in our list, but you want something new, try Uzio. This new kid on the payroll block gets high marks, even if it hasn’t fully caught on yet. It’s full-featured and boasts excellent customer service and a streamlined interface.
You’ll easily find what you’re looking for, and the phone app works like a Swiss watch. The real-time tracking and reporting are top-notch, too, though the lack of support for Spanish and other languages may be an issue.
Pros
  • Simple site
  • Good integration of employee data
  • Smooth, quick interface
Cons
  • No time clock info on desktop
  • Could be more customizable
Verdict
  • Score: 9 from 308 reviews
  • Price: $30/mo + $4.50/mo per employee

10. ADP Payroll

ADP Payroll is a business workhorse with an extensive features list and top-notch security. A handy “Field Grabber” feature lets you create reports just by clicking different components. But the customer service department leaves a lot to be desired, so you may want to avoid this option if you’re easily frustrated.
Plus, with no free trial and no exact pricing info (unless you call for a quote), most new customers must run a gauntlet of hard-sell onboarding.
Pros
  • Easy-to-use platform
  • Simple to create quick, useful reports
  • Reasonable prices
Cons
  • Poor customer service
  • Continual sales pitches for upselling
Verdict
  • Score: 7.4 from 2,101 reviews
  • Price: Plans start at $10/mo per employee

Honorable mentions

Last on our list of payroll companies for small business are Wave Payroll and Payroll4Free. These options received solid scores of 8.4 and 7.8 respectively, but the low number of online reviews flags them as less popular.
That narrow client base gives customers less of a sure footing to build trust. Even so, users love Payroll4Free’s zero-dollar option, an attractive perk for budget-minded SMBs.

Summary

Astute small business owners are taking advantage of new, powerful payroll software that zaps payments headaches without creating more. The best payroll services for small business on our list are both easy to use and affordable. But Patriot Payroll leads the pack by a significant margin, with more than 8,000 very satisfied online reviews and a sky-high 97% score.
About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.

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