Find the best business loan rates (2021)

Payroll Services for Small Business

By Mike McLeod Reviewed By Mike Lucas
By Mike McLeod
By Mike McLeod Reviewed By Mike Lucas

Whether you have hundreds, dozens or just a handful of employees, manually managing payroll can be an arduous task. Make a mistake with your employees’ hours, time off or benefits and you can face an angry employee or, even worse, stiff IRS tax penalties. The average rate of payroll errors with timecards is between 1% and 8%, according to the American Payroll Association. It also reports that about 40% of businesses net more than $800 in penalties due to payroll errors.

Using online payroll services can reduce that error risk and save time you’d spend on this administrative function.

Here are the best payroll services for small businesses to give you the right mix of affordability, convenience and performance to help you plan and expand your business

  • 10 Best Online Payroll Services for Small Business

    • Gusto
    • Paychex Payroll
    • OnPay
    • Paycor
    • Intuit QuickBooks Payroll
    • ADP Payroll Services
    • Square Payroll
    • PrimePay
    • Wagepoint
    • Justworks

    How we chose the best payroll services for a small business:

    We evaluated online payroll services according to pricing, customer’ and critics’ reviews and the features aligned with a small business’s needs.

Gusto Logo

Gusto: Best Overall

Gusto consistently ranks among the top payroll companies for small business. It earned a spot on PCMag’s Editors’ Choice list in 2020 as well as a place on Business.com’s list of Best Online Payroll Services of 2021. 

Gusto earns praise for its user-friendliness, from its guided setup to an easily navigable system to its payroll options. 

When it comes to payroll pricing plans, businesses have 4 options. The contractor’s package costs $6 for every contract worker you pay and doesn’t charge a monthly fee. For your other employees, the core package gives you access to their full-service, cloud-based payroll platform for $39 per month and a $6 per-employee fee.  

This package lets you facilitate direct deposits, health benefit deductions, workers’ compensation and paid-time-off policies. Their “complete” package offers more HR solutions for time tracking, time-off requests and onboarding. It will cost you $12 per employee on top of the $39 monthly fee.

For no additional fees, it also automatically files federal, state and local payroll taxes when you run payroll.

One of the main benefits of Gusto is that it allows employees to access their own information through the cloud. This ease of accessibility makes Gusto one of the best online payroll services for a small business.

Cost

  • Core: $39 per month, $6 per employee per month
  • Complete: $39 per month, $12 per employee per month
  • Concierge: $149 per month, $12 per employee per month
  • Contractors: $6 per worker; no monthly fee

Pros

  • Employees can access their own information

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer compliance reporting

Paychex Payroll: The Premium Solution

Another big name in the automated payroll services industry, Paychex, has a solution for businesses of every size. With its online and mobile-friendly Paychex Flex plan, you and your employees can access information from anywhere.

Like ADP, Paychex will give you a quote based on the needs of your business. They are, however, a pricier option than other online payroll services for small business listed here. Some businesses can expect to pay upward of a few hundred dollars per employee per year.

Paychex offers automatic tax deductions as well as some HR features for small businesses.

Employees can also complete onboarding documents and access their payroll online or from the app. Custom analytics give you an even better look at all things payroll and HR, and Paychex offers 24/7 customer assistance.

Costs

  • Custom quotes upon request

Pros

  • Comprehensive payroll and HR technology
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Automatic tax deductions
  • Employee access from the app or online

Cons

  • More expensive option among the best payroll software companies

OnPay: Best for Upfront Pricing

OnPay promises to give you a turnkey payroll solution with no hidden fees or upcharges. They also allow you to run payroll as many times as you need without penalty, which some competitors cap or even tack on service fees.

Their transparent pricing also gives you cost-security. For only $36 per month and $4 per employee, you and your employees will have access to a full suite of payroll and HR features.

They offer optimization for specialized industries, including the ability to include tips in wages for restaurant employees. Employees can access their pay stubs and other documents any time online.

OnPay also integrates with other payroll services, including QuickBooks’ online and desktop versions. You can also access OnPay through its mobile site, although it is missing some of the functionality you get through its online site, according to other reviewers.

As an owner, you can quickly run payroll for employees across all state lines and be assured all taxes are accounted for.

This mix of transparency, affordability and features make OnPay one of the best payroll service companies for small businesses on any budget.

Costs

  • $36 per month and $4 per person paid per month

Pros

  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Transparent pricing
  • Integrates with other payroll software
  • Optimization for specialized industries

Cons

  • Mobile site doesn’t have full functionality

Paycor: Best for Growing Teams

The payroll and tax service offered by Paycor is one of the best online payroll services for small business, with a competitive price. 

It has 2 pricing plan tiers, one for small businesses (1-39 employees) and mid-market (40-1,000+ employees).  The small business tier is subdivided into 3 plans. The Basic plan, starting at $99 per month, gives employers tax filing and online payroll services as well as check-stuffing. It also offers wage garnishment and child support self-service, but only PDF reporting. If you want additional features such as new hire onboarding or handling PTO requests, you’ll have to upgrade to the Essential plan, starting at $149 per month. The Complete plan, starting at $199 per month, includes even more features, including integrations with 401(k) and general ledger providers and support from HR professionals.

The online dashboard makes it easy to add and subtract features that your business uses. As you grow and need more HR and compliance help, simply add these features on to give you a full array of payroll and HR solutions. 

For all of Paycor’s advantages, there’s a big drawback: sub-par customer service. While most of the payroll processing companies on this list offer a dedicated account manager for your small business, many users have found you’ll likely get a new representative every time you call Paycor. 

Costs

  • Small Business Basic: Starts at $99 per month
  • Small Business Essential: Starts at $149 per month
  • Small Business Complete: Starts at $199 per month
  • Mid-Market Basic: Custom quotes upon request

Pros

  • Full-service payroll options across plans
  • Easy-to-use online dashboard

Cons

  • Customer service
  • Multiple user complaints about mobile app functionality

A person works with their time sheet from a tablet screen.

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll: Best for a QuickBooks House

A more established name in the business management sphere is Intuit QuickBooks Payroll. This program also ranks among the best payroll software for small business, with Business News Daily giving it a top spot for 2021.  

As with the QuickBooks accounting software, users can choose between the desktop and online payroll services versions.  Like the QuickBooks accounting online version, its online payroll services are cloud-based and can be accessed from any device. The desktop version has 2 pricing plan options, while the online version has 3.

All versions cover payroll basics, including direct deposit, tax and paycheck calculation and will even generate bonus checks.

If you need help with payroll taxes, W-2s and want the no tax penalty guarantee, you’ll have to choose the highest tier plans for both online and desktop versions.

  • Small business tip: Intuit regularly offers discounts on their monthly fee for a limited time. Make sure to check in and save upwards of 50% off for your first 3 months.

Intuit does offer other payroll and HR features if you need them, albeit at an upcharge. Their focus is on payroll, and it shows, making it a good option for those who don’t need other features.

If you’re already using QuickBooks or considering it, Intuit’s payroll solution also offers seamless integration that could make it more appealing.

Online Costs

  • Core: $45 per month and $4 per employee per month
  • Premium: $75 per month and $8 per employee per month
  • Elite: $125 per month and $10 per employee per month

Desktop Costs

  • Enhanced Payroll: $50 per month and $2 per employee per month
  • Assisted Payroll: $109 per month and $2 per employee per paycheck

Pros

  • Integrates with existing QuickBooks software
  • All pricing levels include unlimited payroll runs, automated taxes and forms and garnishment and deductions management
  • Tracks employee benefits, PTO, retirement plans and workers’ compensation 

Cons

  • Only the most expensive plans come with a no tax penalty guarantee

ADP Payroll Services: Best for Complex Needs

Like Intuit, ADP Payroll Services is a trusted name among payroll processing companies.  

ADP doesn’t have set prices publicly available; instead, it takes your business into account and comes up with a suitable plan with its own price point. How much you pay depends on how many employees you have, what features you’re looking for and more. Like Paycor, ADP splits its pricing plans according to staff size. Some packages are for businesses with 49 or fewer employees, while other plans are geared toward companies that employ 50 to more than 1,000 people.

However, the prices do run higher than many on our list, with some quotes running more than $100 per month even with a small staff.

What you give up in affordability, however, you gain in features. You can include the full array of payroll, HR, hiring and benefits solutions and access to dedicated representatives to assist you with any problems.

Costs

  • Custom price quotes upon request

Pros

  • Comprehensive payroll services across several plans

Cons

  • One of the more expensive payroll services
  • Several Trustpilot complaints about poor customer service

Square Appointments logo

Square Payroll: Best for Your Budget 

Although the company made its name as a payment processor, Square Payroll boasts a full-service solution at a basic price.

For a low base cost of $29 per month, plus $5 per person paid (employees or contractors),you get much more than a simple payroll service.

Features include unlimited payroll runs, management of benefits, workers’ comp, 401(k) plans, tax filings and more. 

These add-ons aren’t typical for this price point, making Square Payroll a worthy option for the best payroll services for your small business.

If your business exclusively works with contractors, Square Payroll charges $5 per person per month and forgoes the monthly fee.

For retail businesses already using Square as a point-of-sale solution, this could be the right choice.

However, the system has a few drawbacks. The Square Payroll system for small business doesn’t offer as many customizable reporting options as its competitors do. Other complaints include that setting up employee records can be arduous, and the program isn’t as easy to navigate compared to other automated payroll services, according to a PCMag review.

Costs

  • $29 per month plus $5 per person paid per month
  • $5 per contractor paid per month; no other monthly fee

Pros

  • One of the most affordable online payroll services for small business for the available features
  •  Works well for merchants that already use Square for payment processing

Cons

  • Fewer options for customizable reports
  • Program not as easily navigable compared to other payroll services software
  • Some aspects of the setup process can be laborious

PrimePay Logo

PrimePay: The Affordable Fully-Managed Solution

Teaming up with PrimePay for their payroll service offers you a few options. You can use their user-friendly online dashboard yourself or, if you want to leave it up to them, you can have a dedicated client success representative handle it for you.

Their all-inclusive payroll bundle offers essential payroll functions such as tax filing, check creation and W-2 generation, as well as workers’ compensation and time-clock management. PrimePay also allows for advisor access, e.g., your CPA can also utilize the program.

Pricing isn’t publicly available; you can contact PrimePay for a custom quote for what you need in an automated payroll service for your small business.

While there are several pluses to this payroll system for a small business, some reviewers note that it truly is best for only small businesses. If you’re on the way to growing your company, you’ll likely have to switch to another software to handle the number of employees and/or more complex operations.

The ability to be completely hands-off with your payroll makes PrimePay an attractive choice for many small business owners.

Costs

  • Custom quotes available upon request

Pros

  • Bundle offers several functions, including tax filing and W-2 generation
  • Allows advisor access

Cons

  • Isn’t the best fit for larger businesses

A person uses a pen to make manual corrections to payroll. An automated payroll service can help your small business.

Wagepoint Logo

Wagepoint: When Your Needs Are Basic

If cost is your top priority and you just want the basics out of your small business payroll service, Wagepoint might be the best payroll service for your small business.

Costs are calculated on the site and based on the number of employees and their pay periods. For example, using Wagepoint for 5 employees who are paid biweekly would cost $30 per payroll.  This is comparable to even the cheapest options you can find and much lower than some of the larger companies on this list.

To stay at this price point, Wagepoint sticks to the basics. This cloud-based software offers everything you need to calculate and pay taxes, do yearly reporting and provide pay stubs and W-2s, but you won’t have some in-depth features that more expensive options have (e.g., HR functions).

Still, this is an excellent option for those who need a basic payroll service for small businesses. 

Costs

  • Variable

Pros

  • Provides basic payroll functions
  • Best serves small businesses
  • Online review praise its user-friendliness

Cons

  • You’ll have to look into additional software if you want it to perform other HR functions

Justworks Logo

Justworks: When You’re Looking for a PEO

Justworks is a professional employer organization (PEO) that acts as a co-employer.

Partnering with Justworks not only provides a payroll service for your small business but acts as a 24/7 HR employee as well. It includes not only some HR administrative functions and consulting, but you can also access harassment and inclusivity training.

  • What is Co-Employment?

    Co-employment is when your company partners with a PEO or staffing agency to share in the employment and legal responsibilities of employees.
    In these agreements, the PEO is usually in charge of payroll, taxes, compliance, workers’ comp, health, unemployment benefits and the onboarding process. You’ll be in control of the day-to-day management and the recruiting and firing of employees.

For the basic package that doesn’t include access to benefits, pricing starts at $49 per employee for businesses with less than 25 employees.

If you want full access, the “plus” package starts at $99 per employee and slides down as you add employees. This makes Justworks the best PEO payroll service option for small business owners when it comes to value. While getting all of the listed benefits can be good for some businesses, you don’t have a la carte options, so you might pay for some features you won’t frequently use.

Costs

For 25 employees or fewer

  • Basic: $49 monthly per employee
  • Plus: $99 monthly per employee

For 25-99 employees

  • Basic: $44 monthly per employee 
  • Plus: $89 monthly per employee 

For 100-174 employes

  • Basic: $39 monthly per employee
  • Plus: $79 monthly per employee

For 175 or more employees

  • Custom quote available upon request

Pros

  • 24/7 customer service
  • Includes HR services such as employee onboarding, harassment and inclusivity training

Cons

  • You’ll pay for all functions, even if they aren’t particularly relevant to your business.
Mike McLeod Technical SEO Specialist at Fast Capital 360
Mike McLeod is a Content Writer at Fast Capital 360. He has a passion for giving small business owners like you the financial and strategic tools you need to realize the American dream.
  Back to Top