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Gusto and Paychex both offer cloud-based payroll products that have payroll processing, benefits administration services and human resources support. How do they stack up against each other? Gusto is the clear winner when it comes to providing the fundamental features a typical small business needs at an affordable price.
Paychex stands out for taking benefits to the level of a professional employer organization, or PEO, which offers a more comprehensive level of HR and payroll services, while Gusto partners with brokers to offer employee benefits. However, small businesses with just a few employees generally won’t need the amount of HR expertise presented by Paychex PEO.
Core: $39/month plus $6 per person.
Complete: $39/month plus $12 per person.
Concierge: $149/month plus $12 per person.
Go: $39/month plus $5 per person.
Flex Select: Custom quote required.
Flex Enterprise: Custom quote required.
Tax filing and payments
Yes. With each payroll run, taxes are calculated and paid to government agencies at no additional cost.
Yes. Federal, state and local taxes are calculated, filed and paid on your behalf. Extra fees for end-of-year filings.
Ability to manage employee benefits
Good. You can manage medical insurance, health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, 401(k)s and more, with payments automatically deducted from payroll. (Health benefits not available in all states.)
Excellent. For an additional cost, Paychex PEO offers in-house retirement plans, health insurance, health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts and other benefits.
Employee access to portal
Excellent. Employees have lifetime access to their own account to view pay stubs, obtain W-2 forms and change personal information.
Good. Through the portal, employees can view their pay stubs and tax documents and get paid by direct deposit, check or prepaid card.
Good. Offers live customer support by phone, email or chat at all plan levels. Support isn't available on weekends.
Excellent. Support is available by phone, chat or email 24/7 for all plans. Flex Select and Enterprise include a dedicated payroll specialist.
Ease of use
Good. Has a user-friendly interface with simple step-by-step tools, checklists and tutorials.
Good. Payroll setup can be time-consuming. Payroll dashboard is customizable and relatively easy to navigate.
Why Gusto is a better choice
The combination of key features and affordability was the deciding factor in selecting Gusto as the winner. Solid benefits administration and employee access were secondary considerations that also helped to edge Gusto ahead of Paychex.
Key features at an affordable price
The features that most small businesses need are available with the lowest-tier Core plan at Gusto. At a monthly cost of $39 plus $6 per person, you get unlimited payroll runs in all 50 states and can also pay employees working in multiple states. Tax filings, health benefits administration and lifetime employee access to an online portal are also provided at this level. While the lowest-tier Paychex Go plan is priced at $39 per month plus $5 per person, there are additional costs related to payroll tax administration, W-2 and 1099 forms, time tracking and other features.
Gusto pricing is transparent with few extra fees or add-ons. A business can move up to Gusto’s second-tier Complete plan for features like next-day direct deposit, time tracking and more team management tools. The per-person fee increases to $12 a month, but the monthly base price remains $39.
Solid benefits administration
Gusto offers health benefits administration on all three plans at no additional cost. It’s not at the PEO level that Paychex has available, but Gusto has licensed brokers to help you find medical, dental and vision plans within your budget. Your employees can enroll online with advisors ready to assist and answer questions about coverage, prescriptions, etc. Gusto handles payroll deductions automatically, too.
Employee access for life
Even with Gusto's lowest-tier plan, employees have lifetime access to pay stubs and W-2s, as long as there's an email address associated with the account. Plus, a self-onboarding feature allows new employees to enter their own personal information and bank details. W-2 employees can download a free app called Gusto Wallet. It has financial tools to assist them and an emergency cash feature called Gusto Cashout to access money between paydays.
Why you might want Paychex instead
HR and benefits expertise
Paychex has HR professionals who can be assigned to your business when you want the service level offered by a PEO. Services such as payroll processing, time and attendance, employee benefits administration, recruiting and hiring, workers’ compensation and more can be handled by these professionals. They're also available to assist with employee relations, accommodations, terminations and other related issues.
Personalized support for setup and after
If you're looking for personalized help, Paychex may be a better option. You can get dedicated onboarding help and assistance in setting up payroll. This includes a team that will help gather the necessary company information and employee data and then process the first payrolls. You’ll also be assigned a payroll specialist after onboarding. Customer support is available 24/7 by phone, chat or email.
Other payroll products to consider
QuickBooks Payroll is an alternative to think about if you're already using QuickBooks Online. It’s quick and easy to use QuickBooks to run payroll, and the software offers similar features to what’s available with Gusto and Paychex. Starting at $45 per month plus $4 per employee, QuickBooks Payroll could cost less than Gusto depending on the number of employees.
Square Payroll is another affordable option for payroll services. It costs less than Gusto with a lower monthly base fee of $35 and $5 per employee. While it doesn't have as many useful features, Square Payroll does offer the option of adding benefits for additional monthly fees, like Gusto.