If payroll software simply isn’t in your budget, Payroll4Free offers all the services you’ll need to ensure your employees are paid on time and that you stay compliant with tax laws. While this free option won’t offer access to features like mobile payroll management and multiple employee rate management, it could be a great solution for a new startup or established small business not looking to exceed 25 employees. For business owners that want extra features and sleek interfaces, or have more than 25 employees, check out our list of alternatives.
How Payroll4Free works
Payroll4Free handles most of the setup process for you, though you will have to manually input your employees’ W-4 information. You’ll also need to establish each employee’s salary or hourly rate, as well as their current vacation time. Then, you'll set up direct deposits for each employee using your own bank (unless you opt to pay $15 per month to use Payroll4Free’s bank).
Once set up, you can integrate or export your time-clocking software data directly into Payroll4Free to make calculating paychecks quick and easy. If you are using direct deposit, your employees’ paychecks will automatically go into their bank accounts every pay period, with the necessary taxes being withheld. It is then your responsibility to report and deposit these taxes (unless you pay $15 per month for Payroll4Free to handle this). Vacation hours will be calculated as they’re taken.
If you run into any issues, Payroll4Free offers customer service support via phone or email.
No or low cost: Even if you decide to pay $15 per month to have Payroll4Free handle your taxes, it’s still an extremely affordable solution.
Easy to use: While the interface looks a bit outdated, this free software is simple to set up and use, making it ideal for companies that do not want to spend a lot of time dealing with payroll software.
Provides all essential payroll functions: You won’t get any bells or whistles with this payroll software, but you will get a solid payroll management system that does everything you need to keep your business operating smoothly.
Integrates with popular accounting software: Many small businesses use QuickBooks or other accounting platforms and Payroll4Free allows you to import data quickly with these programs.
Software only manages up to 25 employees: Although Payroll4Free can handle additional employees, you’ll pay a monthly fee for additional employees, which can make this platform less than ideal for medium to large businesses.
Limited to Windows: Payroll4Free works best on PCs, but can be used on Macs — only if they’re running Windows.
Ads: You will have ads running on your payroll software from time to time. These ads are what allow the service to remain free.
No mobile application: One of the drawbacks of this free payroll service is the lack of a mobile app to help you manage your payroll while on-the-go.
Payroll4Free has a basic free plan with a few optional upgrades. The free plan allows you to manage your payroll for no charge as long as you have 25 or fewer employees. You can use Payroll4Free if you have more than 25 employees, but you will incur a monthly payment processing fee of $35 for each group of 25 employees after the first 25.
If you would like Payroll4Free to deposit and handle your company’s payroll taxes automatically, you’ll be charged $15 per month for this service. In addition, if you choose to use Payroll4Free’s bank to handle direct deposit payroll transfers, Payroll4Free will charge you $15 per month. If you opt into both services, you’ll be charged $30 per month.
Choice of direct deposit or paper checks (you must use your own bank for the free version).
Ability to pay full-time, part-time and contract employees.
Access to automatic federal, state and local tax calculations and paperwork (you must make your own deposits and file all required forms for the free version).
Online employee portals for easy access to paystubs and W-2s.
Vacation tracking ability.
Reporting options (earnings, benefits, payroll journal reports, etc.).
Integration with accounting, bank and time clock software.
Customer service support.
If you’re feeling like Payroll4Free sounds too good to be true, you’re not alone. Based on Payroll4Free reviews from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), however, this service really does live up to its promises.
Better Business Bureau: 4 out of 5 stars; rated A+.
Capterra: 2.9 out of 5 stars.
G2 Crowd: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Note that Capterra and G2 Crowd's ratings are based on a small handful of reviews. The same goes for BBB's 4-star review. The only negative BBB review discusses the long intake process, which other users have noted but found tolerable. Reviewers on Capterra mentioned that the learning curve was challenging.
With all of this information in mind, you may still be unsure if Payroll4Free is right for you — or you may just want to compare it to some other options on the market. Here are some alternatives to consider:
Gusto: Ideal for small businesses looking to automate payroll processing with reliable software for an affordable cost. You’ll receive all basic payroll functionality — direct deposit, PTO tracking, employee portals, tax withholdings and deposits, etc. — as well as options to purchase employee management and HR resources. Other optional add-ons include flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts and commuter benefits. Gusto also has a handy mobile app to manage your payroll services. Monthly plans start at $39 per month, plus an additional $6 per month per employee.
ADP: Top option for small businesses looking for robust features and a payroll service that can scale with their company. This well-known payroll processing option offers four separate payroll plans with two specifically designed around small businesses. Each plan offers different tiers, so you can customize the exact service that best fits your business needs. On the downside, you’ll need to reach out to ADP online or via the phone to find out pricing, since all plans offer fully customized pricing.
PrimePay: Great for small businesses that need in-depth reporting and HR administrative tools built into their payroll service price. This payroll service offers the complete tools you’ll need to manage your payroll, as well as new hire reporting and onboarding options, tax filing and reporting services, HR resources and new applicant tracking data (for additional fees). Pricing varies depending on the option you choose, but starts at $42 per pay period. There is also a per-check fee.
Paychex: Good choice for small businesses looking for mobile app accessibility and flexible, customized payroll plans. In addition to basic payroll services, Paychex also offers time tracking, HR resources, tax filing and administrative tools and payroll reporting. This cloud-based solution has a mobile app to quickly handle your payroll needs on-the-go too. To find out pricing, you’ll need to reach out to Paychex with the options you want and the number of employees your business has.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.