Best Payroll Software Services of 2021

Compare five different payroll software options for small businesses.

Steve NicastroApr 29, 2021
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Payroll software can make your life as a small-business owner easier.

Payroll software allows you to onboard employees online and pay your workers via direct deposit instead of by check. Some software services automatically calculate state and federal taxes while also handling your tax filings and payments. The investment can easily be worth the cost.

We have rounded up some of the best payroll software solutions for small-business owners. We excluded basic plans that require manual filing of taxes and other tasks and instead looked at full-service plans with features that can take some of the load off, so you can focus on other aspects of running your business.

Gusto: Best overall payroll software


on Gusto's site.

  • Pros: Employee self-onboarding, automatic tax payments, integrates with existing accounting software (including QuickBooks), free trial.

  • Cons: Expensive for businesses with more than 10 employees.

Gusto, formerly ZenPayroll, offers a complete array of features for payroll automation. One of the most useful and time-saving features is employee self-onboarding. New hires can log in to Gusto and enter their personal information, including bank information for direct deposit. New hires also are reported automatically to the government, and pay stubs are emailed directly to employees.

All of your business’s local, state and federal taxes are filed automatically, and Gusto offers free direct deposit. Also among Gusto’s offerings: the ability to administer health insurance and pretax employee benefits, such as 401(k) plans. Finally, the software can integrate with your existing accounting software, such as QuickBooks, FreshBooks or Xero.

Gusto serves businesses with one to 100 employees and offers a free one-month trial.

QuickBooks: Best for larger businesses


on QuickBooks' site.

  • Pros: Payroll setup handled by experts, integrates with QuickBooks accounting software, automatic filing and payment of payroll taxes under full-service option.

  • Cons: Costly if you have 10 or fewer employees.

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll is good choice for large businesses that prefer a full-service option or those that need help setting up payroll. The company will have a team walk you through setup, tax filing and tax payments. It’s a good fit for businesses that already use QuickBooks accounting software, because it integrates with your existing platform.

The full-service payroll plan takes care of tax payments and guarantees mistake-free paychecks and payroll taxes.

On the downside, QuickBooks Payroll is more expensive than other options if you have 10 or fewer employees. The service, however, becomes more affordable as you add more employees.

The company offers a free 30-day trial, so you can make sure you're comfortable using the platform before making a commitment.

OnPay: Best low-cost option for small businesses


on OnPay's site.

  • Pros: Affordable, cloud-based platform lets you manage payroll from any device.

  • Cons: Extra cost for direct deposit, printed and mailed W-2 forms.

OnPay is a payroll software option for businesses with up to 10 employees. Features include automatic payroll deductions and payroll tax payments, and guaranteed accurate and timely tax filings and payments. OnPay is a cloud-based platform, meaning you can manage your payroll from your laptop, desktop, smartphone or any location with an internet connection. The company offers support via phone, email or live chat.

On the downside, if you plan on paying your employees via direct deposit, the cost is not included in the base price. OnPay also charges for printed and mailed W-2 forms at the end of the year.

Patriot Software: Best low-cost option for larger businesses

  • Pros: Affordable, with free setup and support, as well as a free trial.

  • Cons: Additional cost to pay contractors and vendors.

Patriot Software is an affordable payroll option for small businesses with up to 100 employees. The full-service option includes free setup and phone support; the ability to print checks or use direct deposit; automatic tax filing; guaranteed on-time payments of federal, state and local taxes; and filing of W-2 and W-3 forms.

Patriot Software also offers a 30-day free trial and free setup and support.

On the downside, separate software is required to pay contractors or vendors.

SurePayroll: Best payroll software for quick integration

  • Pros: Fast online enrollment should take only 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

  • Cons: Extra cost for processing company filings, W-2s and 1099 forms. No free trial.

SurePayroll is an online payroll option that works well for small businesses that have fewer than 10 employees. The company offers automatic filing and payments of federal, state and local taxes, and online enrollment takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. You’ll be able to process your payroll within five business days, according to the company.

The price of SurePayroll depends on how frequently you pay your employees, and the company offers free quotes.

On the downside, although the company can process your year-end company filings, W-2s and 1099 forms for contractors, these will cost you an additional fee. SurePayroll also does not offer a free trial; however, the company says it will reimburse six months of your payroll fees and give you $100 if you aren't satisfied with the service.

 Payroll software

Plans start at $39 per month (base) and $6 per person per month.

Plans start at $59 per month (base) and $4 per person per month.

Plans start at $36 per month (base) and $4 per person per month.

Plans start at $20 per month (base) and $6 per person per month.

Providers may offer lower promotional pricing.