Wave Payroll Review: Cost, Features, Alternatives

Wave Payroll is easy to use and files payroll taxes in 14 states, but it has limited features and services.
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Written by Whitney Vandiver
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Edited by Claire Tsosie
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Wave Payroll is a cloud-based software that helps small businesses run payroll and calculate and file payroll taxes. While it offers a reasonably priced option for small businesses, it is lacking in some features compared to competitors and only offers tax filing services in 14 states. Here’s what you need to know.

Deciding factors


Varies. Price depends on the state in which you do business and how many employees you process.

Tax filing and payments

Limited. Wave only offers these services in certain states.

Ability to manage employee benefits

No. You can add deductions for benefits through Wave but will need to purchase and manage benefits separately.

Employee access to portal

Yes. Employees can use self-service accounts to view pay stubs, updated information and access tax forms.

Live support

Yes. Email and live chat are available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time.

Ease of use

Excellent. Customers say it is easy to use.

How Wave Payroll works

Wave Payroll lets businesses manage payroll, employee deductions and taxes all in one platform. Employers can run payroll for employees and contractors, connect their accounts with Wave Accounting and let Wave file their payroll taxes for them in some states. It also provides employees with a portal to access and update their information.

Employee payroll

Businesses can set up and run payroll for employees and independent contractors. The software lets you manage deductions, pay via direct deposit and generate tax forms including W-2s and 1099s.

Tax payments and filing

Wave Payroll will automatically calculate, pay and file state and federal taxes in the following states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Businesses operating in those states in which it doesn’t automatically pay and file payroll taxes can export the necessary forms to file their taxes manually.

Wave Payroll pricing

Wave’s pricing for its Payroll software is based on the services available in your state and how many employees you pay each month.

Businesses in states where tax services are available pay a base fee of $35 per month and an additional $6 per month for every employee or independent contractor.

Businesses in states without tax services pay a cheaper base fee of $20 per month but the same per-employee rate of $6 per month for every employee or independent contractor.


Wave Payroll offers several benefits for small businesses, including:

  • Automatic tax filing in some states. If you do business in one of 14 states, Wave Payroll can file and pay your taxes for you automatically.

  • Employee portal. Employees can access their documents and update their information directly through the portal.

  • Syncing with other Wave applications. All of your records will be automatically synced with other Wave apps, including Wave Accounting.


There are a few downsides to Wave Payroll, including:

  • Limited tax filing. Because Wave doesn’t offer tax services in all states, not all businesses will be able to have Wave filed their payroll taxes automatically.

  • Limited features. Compared to bigger-name competitors, Wave Payroll is lacking in some features. For example, it doesn't allow employers to purchase or manage benefit plans through Wave and doesn't offer tools to help with managing garnishments.

Wave Payroll reviews

Here’s how users rank Wave on some major review websites:

  • G2: 4 stars out of 5.

  • Capterra: 4.2 stars out of 5.

Customers like Wave Payroll’s simple interface and say it’s easy for those without accounting experience to run payroll. They’ve also commented on the automatic generation of tax forms being a handy feature.

Among the few complaints are a step-heavy process to set up certain benefits, a long lead time to run payroll and difficulty running an extra payroll cycle. There are also a few complaints about inadequate customer service to resolve certain issues.

The company Wave Apps has a customer score of 1.54 out of 5 stars with the Better Business Bureau.

Wave Payroll alternatives

Gusto Payroll

Gusto’s payroll software offers small businesses features for managing employee pay and more. Its plans offer a variety of features that let you pick what you need to support your business. Not only does it sync with other Gusto applications, but it also works with third-party applications, including QuickBooks and Xero. It also lets you pay international contractors and automatically files and pays payroll taxes in all 50 states. Plans start at $40 per month with an additional $6 per month for each paid employee.

OnPay Payroll

OnPay Payroll offers features to help small businesses, including paying employees through multiple methods, custom reporting options and free payroll management for multiple-state processing. It also makes state and federal payroll tax payments and files taxes for you and integrates with other software options, including QuickBooks and Xero. The software only has one plan at $40 per month with an additional $6 per month per paid employee.

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