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Intuit: The Best Online Payroll Service for Small Business Overall

After conducting extensive research and analysis of online payroll services, we recommend Intuit Payroll as the best online payroll service for small businesses.

Intuit is a full-service payroll platform that offers all of the tools and features small businesses need to run their payrolls. Here is a breakdown of why it's our best pick.

Intuit Payroll is extremely affordable and includes no hidden costs. It is offered at three different levels: basic, enhanced and full service.

The basic plan focuses solely on payroll. It offers only the ability to run payroll, and doesn't handle any of your payroll tax needs. This package is $20 a month for the first six months, plus $2 per employee per month. After the first six months, the price increases to $25 per month. Included in this package is the ability to print instant paychecks for W-2 employees, free direct deposit and free live support.

In addition to everything the basic package includes, the enhanced package also provides you with your payroll tax forms already filled out and completed. However, with this plan, your taxes aren't filed or paid for you; you still have to do that on your own. This package is $31.20 per month for the first six months, plus $2 per employee. After the first six months, the price increases to $39 per month. Also included in the enhanced plan are email reminders for taxes and forms and the ability to print W-2 forms for your employees.

The most in-depth plan is Intuit Full Service Payroll, which runs your payroll, handles all your payroll tax responsibilities, provides your year-end W-2 forms and has someone set up the system for you. This package is $79 a month for the first six months, plus $2 per employee per month. After six months, the price increases to $99 a month.

Editor’s Note: Looking for a payroll service for your business? If you’re looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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The only added cost is for businesses with employees working in different states. There is an added $12 per-month charge per state. Other than that, there are no hidden fees or charges, which is an appealing aspect of this service. Some other services we spoke to initially quoted one price, but as we asked about additional services, the price quickly escalated.

Being able to choose a plan that fits you best is a nice bonus. The vast majority of the services we reviewed didn't offer this option. It's also helpful that Intuit has all its pricing information directly on its website. Many of the other services we examined weren't as transparent with their costs.

Intuit offers a free 30-day trial period for all three of its pricing plans. This lets you get familiar with the system and run a couple payrolls to make sure you are comfortable with the service. If you don't like how it operates, you can cancel at no cost.

This payroll platform is very user-friendly. Since the service is cloud-based, you can log in to the system to run and review your payroll from anywhere with an Internet connection or via Intuit's mobile app.

With the basic and enhanced plans, you have to manually enter each employee into the system. However, this is a very quick and simple process. After filling in some initial information on your employees, such as if they will be paid via direct deposit or printed check, you then continue by entering your employees' personal details. This includes their addresses, birthdays, contact info, when they were hired, whether they are paid by hour or by salary, how much they are paid per hour or per pay period, and how often they are paid. Next, you fill out each employee's tax-related information, such as withholding status and allowances and how much money should be deducted from the employee's checks for benefits. You also have the ability to set how much vacation and sick time the employees can earn each pay period.

For the full-service package, you have the option of entering employee information manually, or having an Intuit payroll specialist do it for you. You can email or fax your employee roster and information to Intuit, and one of their payroll specialists will enter in the details.

Once employees are entered into the system, running payroll consists of the same three-step process for all three plans. You start by clicking the Enter Payday Info link and selecting the employees you want to pay. For hourly employees, you enter the number of regular, bonus, overtime and vacation hours they worked in that pay period. Salaried employees already have their pay rate saved, so applicable paid time off is all that needs to be added. To ensure you're doing this correctly, the service features an error-detection system. If you enter a number that is significantly different from previous pay periods, the system alerts you that there may be a problem. This is a tool not all of the other services we analyzed offered.

The second step is to review the payroll info. You can see each employee's payroll details, as well as your total costs. During this stage, you can also compare your current payroll with the previous one to make sure everything lines up.

Before submitting your payroll, Intuit provides an overview of your exact costs, which employees are being paid and by what method.

If it's all correct, the last step is to click the Submit to Intuit link. The service confirms that it received your information, and processes your payroll. If your employees have direct deposit, they will be paid in two business days. You can also print paychecks from your office for employees who don't have direct deposit.

Another useful feature is that employees have access to the system. They can set up their own accounts in order to view pay stubs, pay histories and paid-time-off balances.

One aspect of Intuit that small businesses will appreciate is that there is no limit to the number of payroll runs you can complete. This gives you the option of paying employees every week, biweekly or monthly, all for the same price. Some of the other services we examined had pricing structures based on the number of payrolls run each month.

One of the most valuable features Intuit offers is its tax service. For customers with the full-service plan, Intuit automatically calculates payroll taxes, withholds the proper amount from each check, and files payroll taxes with the state and federal government. Intuit guarantees that it will make the filing for each payroll-tax deposit accurately and on time based on the data you supply. If the service makes an error, it will pay all the resulting payroll tax penalties that you incur. The full-service package also takes care of processing and printing your employees' year-end W-2 forms.

With the enhanced package, Intuit calculates all your federal and state payroll taxes for you; it's just up to you to make the payments. The service also automatically fills in the latest federal and most state payroll-tax forms for you and gives you the option of electronically paying these taxes with the click of a button.

There is an added bonus to the full-service plan if you're already using Intuit's accounting software, QuickBooks. While most services offer accounting-software integration, Intuit's service works in tandem with QuickBooks by automatically syncing the two together. Every time you run a payroll, all of your payday info — including check amounts, state and federal taxes, and deductions — is sent to a server in the cloud. QuickBooks checks that sever in regular intervals and automatically downloads those files into your QuickBooks accounting software. There is no need to manually enter any of the information on your own. The system does it all for you without requiring you to click an extra button or pay anything extra.

Another feature that makes Intuit Payroll an attractive choice is its variety of helpful reports, including payroll summaries, payroll details, employee details, tax payments, tax and wage summaries, tax liability, workers' compensation, total cost,

Intuit provides businesses with a variety of payroll reports, including tax and wage summaries, tax liability reports and payroll details reports.

and contractor payment details. All are available for free, which wasn't the case with some of the other services we looked into.

 

The ability to run payroll via mobile devices is also a valuable tool. With Intuit's mobile app, which is available for both Apple and Android devices, you can run payroll, pay taxes and view company payroll history, all from a mobile device.

We were quite pleased with the customer service Intuit provided, which was impressive for a large company. To gauge what customers can expect from the support team, we called the company posing as a new business owner interested in the payroll services. The first positive sign during our initial call last year was that we weren't put on hold as soon as we called. With some of the other larger payroll services we analyzed, we had to wait on hold for lengthy periods of time before someone was available to answer our questions.

The customer service agent we spoke to during that first call was pleasant and seemed eager to make sure our questions were answered to our satisfaction. The agent spent time making sure we understood every aspect of the service. In areas in which we were unclear, such as how the QuickBooks integration worked, the Intuit representative took extra time to explain the answer in greater detail. In addition, the company was one of only a couple we examined that immediately followed up with an email summarizing our call.

To ensure the customer service was still meeting our expectations, we again called posing as a new business owner interested in payroll service. Intuit provided the same high level of service this year as we received a year ago. During our call, which was answered immediately, a pleasant customer service agent patiently listened to our litany of questions and answered each one clearly and thoroughly. We left the call having a very good understanding of how the Intuit payroll platform works, the differences among each of the three service plans and the costs involved. In addition, we were pleased that for the second year in a row, the customer service agent we spoke to didn't use a hard-sell approach. She simply listened to us, answered our questions and encouraged us to call back should we have any further questions or want to get started with the service. This was a change from what we experienced with many of the other payroll providers we contacted.

When you do need help with the service, Intuit offers a wide range of options. The one we liked best, which wasn't offered by all the companies we examined, was a live-chat feature. If you are working on the system and run across a problem, you can click on the live-chat button to reach a customer service representative immediately. In addition to using the live-chat tool, you can reach representatives over the phone between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (PST) Monday through Friday. You can also email Intuit with questions seven days a week.

The service has some potential negatives, depending on what you're looking for. If you want a payroll service that also offers human resources guidance, employee retirement plans and health care benefits, Intuit is not for you, as it doesn't offer those services. The only available extra services offered are workers' compensation plans, a time-tracking feature and the option to purchase labor-law-compliance posters.

Not having customer service available on the weekends could also pose a problem for some businesses. While it's nice that service agents are available 12 hours each day during the week, which is longer than most companies offer, it is of no help if you run into problems when running payroll over the weekend.

We chose Intuit from a pool of the dozens of payroll services we considered. To read our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of payroll services, visit our best-picks page here.

Ready to choose a payroll service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor’s Note: Looking for a payroll service for your business? If you’re looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.