The Best Payroll Software for Small Business Needs: Compared for 2024

The best payroll for small businesses is Gusto, thanks to its intuitive interface and transparent pricing. However, with hundreds of payroll systems available, finding which will work best for your small businesses isn’t easy.

To help you decide, our team of software experts has pulled together a list of the best payroll software for small businesses, including the cheapest, most feature-rich, and most flexible payroll services – so you can find the best payroll tool for your small business.

Best Payroll Software For Small Businesses 2024

The Best Small Business Payroll Solutions Reviewed

Let’s dive into the details for each provider on our list.

1. Gusto — Overall the Best Payroll for Small Businesses

Gusto-payroll

Cheapest Plan

Free Version

Benefits Management

Contractor Payments

Tax Filing

$40/month + $6/user/month

Gusto is the best payroll for small businesses overall, thanks to its user-friendly payroll and HR platform designed specifically for small businesses. It offers essential payroll features along with benefits administration and compliance assistance in an intuitive interface. The software stands out with its simplicity and transparent pricing, making it a solid option for startups and small businesses.

It integrates with close to 200 third-party business solutions, that’s more than OnPay and Deel, making Gusto a popular choice for businesses already using some of the best project management tools or similar platforms.

Compared to QuickBooks and Deel, Gusto provides more robust HR functionalities and better customer support. However, while reading through first-hand user experiences, we noticed its time-tracking and earnings features don’t work for eCommerce platforms. For example, if you integrate Gusto with Shopify, you’ll need another third-party service for time-tracking and earnings summarizing.

Learn more in our Gusto review.

Pricing

Gusto has four transparent, well-priced plans you can switch between as your business needs and preferences change. Although its cheapest payroll plan is ideal for small businesses that don’t depend on time tracking, its more expensive plans add HR and remote work functionality.

  • Simple – $40/month + $6/month per employee
  • Plus – $80/month + $12/month per employee
  • Premium – Custom pricing
  • Contractor – $35/month + $6/month per contractor (currently $0 for your first 6 months)

prosPros

  • Excellent employee financial wellness tools
  • Modern, well-designed interface
  • Customizable employee surveys
  • Great scalability for growing businesses

consCons 

  • No time tracking in its cheapest plan

2. OnPay — Best Budget-Friendly Payroll Option

small business payroll

Cheapest Plan

Free Version

Benefits Management

Contractor Payments

Tax Filing

$40/month + $6/user/month

30-Day Free Trial

OnPay is the best budget-friendly payroll solution, offering straightforward essential payroll features at an affordable price point. It excels in its simplicity and transparent pricing, making it easy for businesses to get started with payroll processing. We found the platform to be great for beginners, as it’s easy to master and doesn’t charge you for employees who aren’t paid in a given month, leaving room for mistakes on your part. However, OnPay lacks some advanced HR functionalities found in larger providers like ADP and Paychex.

OnPay is the cheapest payroll software for small business owners if you’re in the market for a full-service payroll solution. That means you can rely on OnPay to handle tax and payroll, including complex tasks like deducing garnishments or unemployment insurance withholding.

Compared to Rippling and QuickBooks, OnPay offers a more streamlined payroll experience but may not be suitable for businesses requiring in-depth HR management capabilities or advanced reporting features.

Learn more in our OnPay review.

Pricing

OnPay has a single, transparent pricing plan that costs $40/month. In addition, you’ll be paying $6/month for each employee, up to 1,000 employees. This makes it an excellent pick for growing businesses seeking a solution that combines efficiency and affordability.

prosPros

  • Transparent pricing
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • User-friendly platform
  • PTO calendar and reminders
  • Pay-as-you-go policies

consCons 

  • Fewer integrations than most of its competition

3. Rippling — Best All-in-One Solution

best payroll software for small business

Cheapest Plan

Free Version

Benefits Management

Contractor Payments

Tax Filing

$35 + $8/user/month

Rippling is an ideal choice for small businesses wanting an all-in-one solution. The system is a comprehensive HR and payroll solution, integrating payroll with standard HR functions seamlessly. Ripplings’ standout feature is its all-in-one platform, allowing businesses to manage payroll, benefits, employee onboarding, and IT management efficiently.

What sets Rippling apart from its competitors like Paychex is the modern interface and automation capabilities, streamlining processes for small businesses. The software additionally offers compliance in over 100 countries and is a great option for multi-state employment as it handles new hire reporting, state-specific tax forms, and year-end W2s.

Compared to ADP, Rippling provides a more user-friendly experience and a broader range of integrated HR functionalities. However, its pricing is custom only and can therefore become too pricey for some smaller businesses.

Learn more in our Rippling review.

Pricing

Rippling doesn’t offer a fixed set of pricing plans, as it provides a custom plan for each business based on its needs and preferences. That means you’ll have to contact its sales team for a quote that fits your requirements. However, it has a minimum $35 + $8/user/month fee, making it an affordable payroll service.

prosPros

  • Excellent customization
  • Device management for remote teams
  • Flexible payroll processing software
  • Numerous third-party integrations
  • Automated tax information filling

consCons 

  • No free plan or trial

4. QuickBooks — Best for Integrated Payroll

payroll systems

Cheapest Plan

Free Version

Benefits Management

Contractor Payments

Tax Filing

$75/month + $6/user/month

30-Day Free Trial

QuickBooks provides a versatile online payroll solution for small businesses, integrating payroll seamlessly with accounting and HR functions. It offers a comprehensive suite of tools for managing finances, including payroll processing, expense tracking, and reporting.

While testing its interface, we noticed you need to make just one successful payroll run to be eligible for its auto payroll feature, which lets you set up scheduled payrolls.

QuickBooks stands out for its integration capabilities and ease of use, making it suitable for businesses looking for an all-in-one financial management solution. However, compared to ADP and Gusto, QuickBooks may lack some HR-specific features and dedicated support for compliance, which could be a drawback for businesses with complex HR needs. It also requires you to add each function to your plan, unlike Rippling where you get all functionality on the same plan.

Learn more in our QuickBooks review.

Pricing

When you opt for QuickBooks Payroll you can choose from the below subscription plans. Please note, the below pricing is if you select to try it free for 30 days.

  • Payroll Core + Simple Start – $75/month + $6/month per employee
  • Payroll Core + Essentials – $105/month + $6/month per employee
  • Payroll Premium + Plus – $170/month + $8/month per employee

You also have the option to ‘buy now’ and save 50% for your first 3 months.

Although we’re impressed with its intuitive interface and the speed and accuracy of its payroll service, QuickBooks offers fewer features than most of its competition on its cheapest plan. That’s because most of its advanced features, including time and project tracking and HR features, are reserved for its more expensive plans. That said, it’s one of the only leading payroll services to offer a lengthy free trial, allowing you to try its services risk-free.

prosPros

  • Next-day and same-day direct deposit
  • Tax penalty protection with its most expensive plan
  • Well-designed, customizable reports
  • Available in all 50 states

consCons 

  • More expensive than most of its competition

5. Deel — Best for International Teams

Deel HR

Cheapest Plan

Free Version

Benefits Management

Contractor Payments

Tax Filing

Custom

Deel specializes in global payroll management software, catering to businesses with remote teams and international contractors. You get compliant payroll processing, international payroll payments, and tax compliance support, making it a top choice for businesses operating globally.

It’s the focus on remote work management that sets Deel apart from competitors like Gusto and OnPay. While it doesn’t offer a free plan or trial for its payroll features, adding HR features to your payroll plan is free. This makes it an excellent pick for small companies looking to improve their leave management, employee data records, and documentation storage. Compared to Rippling, Deel offers specialized features for managing remote and international payroll but may not be as suitable for businesses with primarily domestic operations.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that you will have to find another solution for more in-depth accounting needs as well as time tracking and PTO management.

Learn more in our Deel review.

Pricing

While Deel publicly displays its pricing for its other business solutions, the company doesn’t disclose its payroll pricing. To get an accurate quote you need to contact their sales team directly. However, we found in our research that the set-up fee can be as steep as $1,000.

prosPros

  • Excellent add-ons
  • Beginner-friendly interface
  • Helpful payroll templates
  • Ideal for immigration and visa-sponsoring
  • Secure data storage

consCons 

  • Can get expensive as your business grows

6. Paychex — Best for Flexibility and Simplicity

best hr and payroll software for small business

Cheapest Plan

Free Version

Benefits Management

Contractor Payments

Tax Filing

$39/month + $5/user/month

Requires add-ons

Paychex is our top choice for businesses that want flexible payroll and an HR solution tailored for small to medium-sized businesses. The platform offers a range of services from basic payroll processing to advanced HR functionalities, with dedicated support for compliance issues.

Paychex offers personalized customer service and comprehensive HR features, making it suitable for businesses that want to add more functionality as they scale rather than opting for everything at once.

The subscription-based plans offer excellent payroll management features, and the service is compatible with numerous third-party solutions and add-ons. The platform excels at handling complex, unlimited payroll processes, including calculating wages, withholding taxes, and processing direct deposits and checks, while still acting as a simple payroll software for small businesses.

Compared to Gusto and OnPay, Paychex offers more extensive HR management capabilities but comes with higher costs and a steeper learning curve for users.

Learn more in our Paychex review.

Pricing

Paychex offers three subscription-based plans for its payroll services for small business owners. Its cheapest payroll service lets you access most of its payroll features, while the more expensive plans add functionality with HR features.

While its most expensive plan, Pro, includes some add-ons, Paychex still charges additional fees for retirement services and time-tracking, among others.

  • Essentials – $39/month + $5/month per employee
  • Select – Custom
  • Pro – Custom

prosPros

  • Excellent 24/7 customer support
  • Affordable
  • Simplifies hiring and onboarding
  • Includes numerous HR features
  • In-depth analytics

consCons 

  •  Additional fees for many features

7. ADP — Best for Hands-off Tax Filing

payroll for small business

Cheapest Plan

Free Version

Benefits Management

Contractor Payments

Tax Filing

Custom

ADP is a well-established payroll provider known for its scalability and comprehensive HR solutions offering a hands-off solution to business owners. It caters to businesses of all sizes, offering customizable payroll services along with HR management features.

ADP stands out for its extensive support network and compliance expertise, making it a reliable choice for businesses with complex HR needs. We found ADP’s full-service payroll system reducing our admin hours to a minimum, which means you can focus on your business processes instead. It’ll calculate and pay taxes automatically, send you quarterly and annual reports, handle IRS inquiries in your stead, and much more.

Compared to Paychex and QuickBooks, ADP offers a wider choice of HR services overall, but its pricing structure is less transparent, and through our research, we found that some users find its interface less intuitive.

Learn more in our ADP review.

Pricing

ADP doesn’t publicly disclose its payroll pricing since it considers your business’s needs and requirements before providing a quote. However, it has four plans you can choose from, including an essential payroll plan and plans with background checks for new employees, added HR features, and HR support.

prosPros

  • Great for business growth
  • Well-designed and intuitive mobile apps
  • Seamless integration with accounting tools, including QuickBooks
  • Reliable 24/7 customer support
  • Comprehensive HR features

consCons 

  • Time and attendance tracking available only via an add-on

Comparing the Best Payroll Companies for Small Business Needs

To provide an at-a-glance comparison of the payroll providers on our list and their offers and features, we’ve created a comprehensive master table so you can compare each payroll product side by side.

Payroll System Best For Cheapest Plan Free Version Benefits Management Contractor Payments Tax Filing
Gusto Best overall $40/month + $6/user/month
OnPay Budget-friendly $40/month + $6/user/month 30-Day Free Trial
Rippling All-in-one solution $35 + $8/user/month
QuickBooks Integrated payroll $75/month + $6/user/month 30-Day Free Trial
Deel International teams Custom
Paychex Flexible pricing $39/month + $5/user/month Requires add-ons
ADP Hands-off tax filing Custom

Conclusion – What is the Best Payroll Software for Small Business Needs?

Gusto is our top choice for small businesses seeking the best payroll services for their unique needs. It offers seamless automation and comprehensive features. Gusto simplifies payroll processing with easy setup, automatic tax calculations, and direct deposit capabilities. With its intuitive platform and dedicated customer support, Gusto ensures efficiency and compliance, allowing small businesses to focus on scaling their business, rather than administrative tasks.

There are many options for free payroll software for small businesses, like HR.my or Payroll4Free. While the free options often cover fundamental features such as payroll, time tracking, and PTO, they often lack the standout features you’d find with a paid plan (like tax filing, customer support, and detailed reporting). Paid software solutions are typically easier to use and more reliable, they guarantee payroll accuracy, and allow you to automate the bulk of repetitive tasks. They are also, generally, far more secure to use.

If you’re not sure whether to choose a paid or free solution, one option is to test a paid alternative using a free trial. This way you have the opportunity to see for yourself if the solution is easy to use, and overall how it works with your business demands. Upgrading from a free plan is always easy. You can even sign up for free trials with different payroll providers and compare them first-hand.

How We Ranked the Best Small Business Payroll Software Services

To ensure the payroll providers on our list fit the needs and requirements of small businesses looking to improve their workforce management, we explored what these services offer and how easy they are to use. From seamless payroll processing to accommodating regulatory requirements, the payroll systems on our list offer unmatched accuracy and speed.

Since there are dozens of payroll systems for small businesses to choose from, we focused on these core factors while deciding which services to include on our list:

  • Deposit Options – Direct deposit and check issuance are two fundamental methods of paying employees, and ensuring your payroll software supports both options can increase your employees’ satisfaction. It’s wise to ensure your payroll systems match your employees’ preferences before deciding.
  • Pricing – This crucial consideration goes beyond just the cost of the software itself when evaluating payroll software services. While creating our list, we assessed the overall value provided to small businesses, including the payroll system’s features and functionality.
  • Scalability – Future-proofing a business’s payroll system should be your goal if you own a fast-growing small business. That minimizes the need for frequent software replacements and data migration and ensures your business can grow without compromising performance, efficiency, or accuracy.
  • Security – As with any software that connects to your bank and manages your finances, considering the security of payroll systems is crucial. Each payroll provider on our list utilizes encryption protocols to protect data during transmission and storage, ensuring no unauthorized parties can access it. In addition, some payroll providers offer two-factor authentication and role-based permissions making them reliable payroll software to use.

Why Your Small Business Should Use Payroll Processing Software

Integrating a payroll service into your small business can transform your operations and improve efficiency, accurate recordkeeping, and compliance.

Automated calculations, streamlined tax management, and error reduction are just some of the benefits payroll systems offer, and they can help you focus on your business by reducing admin.

AccuracyTax ComplianceIntegrationReportingMobile Accessibility

Unlike manual payroll calculations, the best processing software for small businesses  isn’t susceptible to human error, which can result in overpayments, underpayments, and compliance issues. Payroll solutions can simplify complex calculations, such as tax withholding and deductions, in minutes.

In addition, payroll software stays up-to-date with ever-changing tax and legal regulations that apply to different industries. That means you can rest easy knowing your payroll software calculates employee taxes accurately, preventing potential penalties and fines for non-compliance.

Some payroll companies will also warn you about inconsistencies, such as conflicting or missing data, alerting you to potential issues stemming from manual data entry.

Leveraging payroll software for tax compliance can help your small business mitigate the complexity of tax management and ensure you meet all your tax obligations accurately and on time. It can generate and file necessary tax forms, including W2s and 1099s, reducing the risk of costly errors in tax reporting and saving you time.

The best payroll system for small business owners can also help reconcile payroll tax deposits and provide records for audits. In addition, it gives you peace of mind knowing that it can calculate the correct amount for each employee’s paycheck based on their preferences and tax rates.

Considering integration capabilities is crucial when comparing the best payroll companies for small business owners.

Since payroll closely connects with other aspects of your business, such as accounting, human resources, and time tracking, finding a solution that seamlessly shares data with your other business solutions can help with time management.

For example, integrating your payroll software with the best accounting software for small business ensures tax calculations and filings are synchronized, minimizing compliance risks and inconsistencies.

The best payroll services for small business owners offer comprehensive reporting features that can provide actionable insights. For example, you’ll get valuable visibility into your labor costs, payroll performance, tax liabilities, and other metrics.

Depending on your payroll software, you’ll have a variety of customizable reports to tailor to your business’s needs. For example, you can track employee attendance, benefits utilization, overtime trends, and more. This provides a detailed view of your staffing and costs, allowing you to make better business decisions.

Opting for a mobile-compatible payroll solution lets you access and manage various payroll-related tasks while on the go. This allows you and your team managers to stay connected to your workforce, even when away from the office.

In addition, real-time access to payroll data ensures you can approve a payroll run anywhere, make last-minute adjustments, and address issues.

One significant advantage of having a payroll solution with mobile accessibility is the ability to access employee self-service portals. This feature, typically found in full-service payroll systems, helps your employees view their pay stubs, benefit information, and tax forms via the provider’s mobile app or website.

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Sofia Rebuck
Editor

Sofia Rebuck is an Editor at Techopedia with over five years experience researching and writing about tech and software products, working across the North American and European markets. She has honed her expertise in B2B and B2C tech categories such as project management, CRM software and HR tools, to deliver highly valuable insights to readers.