Every year more and more premium payroll services are popping up on the market. As a small business owner, however, it can be a real challenge finding the best service provider for handling a small, tight-knit payroll. The last thing that any business owner needs is to make a mistake when handling hiring processes and be stuck with fines and fees as a result.

That’s where automated payroll services come into play. Their advanced algorithms and intuitive apps make it easy to hire employees while remaining 100 percent compliant with regulations.

The best small business payroll service providers need to be judged according to what matters most to business owners: fees, fines, customer service, intuitive features, and ease of use. These are the factors that we considered when we reviewed today’s leading payroll companies and their services, which you can find below.

Why You Should Outsource Your Payroll

On the fence about payroll software? You shouldn’t be. Today, there are many benefits that payroll services offer to business owners that make paying your employees a stress-free experience, such as:

  • HR services (e.g., paperwork onboarding)
  • Year-end W-2s for contractors and employees
  • Automated payroll tax and benefit deductions
  • Customized reports
  • Direct deposit

These are the perks of choosing even a basic payroll service provider. Once your business scales and you hire more employees, you can upgrade to even more advanced solutions that offer more extensive tax assistance and onboarding benefits.

The Most Popular Payroll Services for Small Businesses

Hiring and paying employees doesn’t have to be a hassle. Thankfully, there are several excellent software solutions available to entrepreneurs and business owners who want to grow their business without having to manually do all the legwork.

Although automated payroll services represent a small upfront investment, they are well worth the cost in time saved. Plus, unpaid payroll taxes can result in high fees that add up quickly. With the services listed below, you never have to worry about making innocent payroll mistakes—instead, they safely handle the process from end-to-end for you.


Automatic Data Processing (ADP) ranks among the most well-known names in the payroll services industry. In the United States alone, ADP is trusted to pay over 24 million employees or, in other words, roughly 17 percent of the entire US workforce.

ADP specializes in a few key human resource department systems, including time tracking, employee benefits, and recruiting. Therefore, ADP should be thought of more as a full-suite cloud HR software vendor than a mere payroll service. It should come as no surprise, then, that ADP is an attractive asset for both small businesses and large corporations alike.

Although ADP’s Essential Payroll services are priced slightly higher than competitors, at about $284 per month, it’s worth every penny for the peace of mind. The downside to ADP services is that the user interface (UI) may not be intuitive as some competitor’s—there is a learning curve, to be sure. However, their 2-month free trial for small businesses usually provides ample time for new entrepreneurs to become adjusted with the UI.


The small business payroll package offered by Paychex, dubbed “Paychex Flex”, is an all-in-one payroll processing service with a minimalistic UI. In other words, it’s the perfect piece of software for a small business owner. Here are some of our favorite Paychex Flex features:

  • Two-click payment processing
  • Free mobile app (synchs with desktop)
  • 24/7 professional tech support
  • Employee access to online payroll
  • Weekly reporting and analytics

For added peace of mind, business owners can enjoy around-the-clock dedicated support as Paychex Flex subscribers. This entitles all subscribers to a dedicated payroll specialist as a single point of contact if any problems arise. For entrepreneurs who want a safe bet, Paychex is about as safe as it gets.

Intuit Full Service

Hiring the best employees is hard enough. Paying them shouldn’t make matters even more difficult. Fortunately, Intuit Full Service uses the power of QuickBooks to manage your business’s payroll with a 100 percent Penalty-Free Guarantee, meaning they’ll eat the tax penalties and fees in the unlikely event that they occur.

A specially-designed payroll service for small business owners, Intuit Full Service handles both your company’s accounting and payroll needs if you order one of their several combo packages offered through QuickBooks Online.

We recommend taking advantage of Intuit’s 30-day free trial to get a feel for the interface. If you feel like it’s a right fit for you, you can expect to pay a monthly flat rate starting at $24 with an additional $4 tacked on for every employee.


In recent years, Gusto has earned its title as one of the best small business payroll companies. Led by a clean, user-friendly UI and affordable pricing scheme, Gusto is one of the best solutions on the market if you want a newcomer to the scene that does it all.

Gusto’s proprietary cloud payroll and human resources system include workers’ compensation and 401(k) processing. Plus, Gusto offers all the other perks you might expect from a premium service, including time-tracking and basic accounting software. At a rate of $39 monthly with an additional $6 per employee, you get a lot of value at a middle-of-the-road price with Gusto.


Although one of the lesser-known small business payroll services, Paycor covers all your bases so you won’t ever have to worry about penalties or fees. Paycor is a low-risk HR and payroll solution that specializes in ACA compliance by auto-generating required IRS forms like 1095-C and 1094-C.

Building on nearly 30 years of payroll expertise, Paycor is one of the leading payroll companies for small businesses that want no-nonsense reporting and analytics that drive powerful insights. A typical Paycor report includes total labor costs, 401(k) enrollment data, employee birthdays, and other actionable data in a convenient dashboard interface.

The standard Paycor rate starts at $11 for a single employee monthly, reaching as high as $355 for a team of 300 employees.

Only Need the Basics? Try These

Payroll services for small businesses usually don’t need to include frills or ancillary cloud solutions that you don’t need.

Instead, the best small business payroll solutions need to be trusted to handle the basics. After all, automating your payroll is about streamlining the management of your small business—not about making it even more complicated.

Here are a few of our favorite entry-level payroll solutions that zero-in on the necessities. Namely, paying your employees on time while remaining compliant with your business’s legal obligations.

Big Fish Payroll

Since 2004, Big Fish Payroll has been trusted to provide human resource management and payroll tools to American startups. Featuring time-tracking and weekly payroll reports, Big Fish also allows your employees to view and edit their information, which saves you the hassle of having to do it all yourself.


As far as no-stress payroll solutions go, Wagepoint is one of the best in the business.  Trusted by leading fintech companies like Wealthsimple and Fresh, Wagepoint makes a strong case for being the best payroll service for small business owners that want the basics: direct deposit, tax automation, contractor payments, online pay stubs, and wage detail reports.


PrimePay’s signature three-step solution ranks among the best online payroll services for small businesses that want an intuitive, minimalistic system. Starting at only $40 monthly, PrimePay offers a hands-off payroll and time clock system that’s handled by a Client Success Representative.

Square Payroll

If you’re in the market for a cheap payroll service that does it all, you would be hard-pressed to find a better solution than Square Payroll. Known for their widespread presence in retail outlets around the world, Square has quickly gained a foothold in the payroll services sector for its clean interface and ability to take care of everything from health insurance and 401(k) plans to workers’ comp and pre-tax benefits.

Honorable Mentions

There are several companies that unfortunately weren’t listed above that still make payroll for small business owners a breeze. For that reason, we give an honorable mention to the noteworthy payroll companies listed below:

  • Wave
  • SurePayroll
  • Emplloy
  • JetPay
  • Kelly Payroll

Finding the Payroll Service for You

Finding the best payroll for small business owners doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The truth is, you have multiple options available to you—the key is to focus on how much you’re willing to pay for a monthly payroll service and also consider what services you need.

For businesses that need basic payroll services without management tools for human resources and employee benefits, then minimalist solutions like Square Payroll or Wagepoint might be for you.

Larger companies, however, might be better suited with an all-in-one service like ADP or Paycore. In this sense, pinpointing the best small business payroll comes down to looking critically at what your business needs the most.

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