Gusto’s strong focus on easy-to-use payroll services and benefits for small businesses and their employees makes it stand out in a crowd of all-in-one HR software platforms, earning our best pick for payroll.
Gusto is an easy-to-use, all-in-one human resources (HR) platform that helps small businesses handle payroll, employee benefits, hiring, onboarding, time and attendance, and compliance. While the platform offers a comprehensive suite of tools for business owners and HR managers, its payroll system is especially great for small businesses. Gusto will automatically file all of your local, state and federal tax forms on your company’s behalf, offering the ability to electronically file, sign, fax and store all of your documents within your Gusto dashboard. It also makes it easy for employees to get the most out of their paychecks, with free financial tools and paperless pay through Gusto Wallet and debit cards.
9.6 / 10
While payroll processing is a staple feature among most HR software services, Gusto stands out among the competition for its comprehensive payroll tools and useful automations. Gusto can calculate payroll taxes and deductions for employees based on differing federal, state and local laws. Gusto also automatically calculates the employer’s share of payroll taxes and files them with the appropriate government agencies. Gusto can also help businesses manage breaks and hour requirements to stay in compliance with various states’ laws. We really like these features, as managing different payroll dedications, lunch or break requirements, and payroll tax filings can be a common barrier for small businesses that are interested in hiring out-of-state employees.
Gusto also gives customers more flexibility than many competitors. Gusto customers can run unlimited payroll cycles throughout the month and set the pay schedule that works best for their team. Some HR software vendors have set pay dates and cannot accommodate off-cycle payments or less common pay schedules such as weekly payments. Off-cycle payments are also helpful for bonuses, reimbursements and providing immediate corrections to errors. Sometimes HR or a manager may forget to input a promised bonus or to adjust an employee’s pay rate after they receive a raise. With unlimited off cycle payments, employers can correct these oversights promptly instead of waiting for the next payroll cycle. This provides a better employee experience.
In addition, we found its payroll features to be very user-friendly, and Gusto customers seem to agree based on the customer reviews that we examined. Payroll processing can be a complex process, but Gusto really streamlines it and takes the hassle out of running payroll.
Gusto’s time tracking and payroll features work together seamlessly to help ensure that all employees are following their applicable state laws and being paid at the correct rates. Credit: Gusto
We found the overall user experience with Gusto to be straightforward and intuitive from the employee and administrator dashboards. The home dashboard provides a convenient to-do list for admins, with reminders for all time-sensitive tasks and requests that require approval. This is also where you’ll find a personalized list of compliance, finance, taxes, hiring and other recommendations based on your company’s industry, location and size. Personal touches, such as the “celebrations” widget, help you remember to acknowledge employees’ milestones or send a digital birthday card signed by everyone on that employee’s team. We really like how easy it is to see everything going on with your team at a glance.
Gusto’s home dashboard makes it easy to view tasks and company information at a glance, including time-off requests and celebrations. Credit: Gusto
You can run payroll for employees with direct deposit in just a few clicks or through the AutoPilot feature, which lets you pay automatically one day before your payroll deadlines. We tested the payroll system multiple times using the live demo, which comes preloaded with 12 salaried employees, and found it to be very fast from start to finish, with no significant wait times between steps.
Running payroll is easy in Gusto, which displays a list of your employees and allows you to monitor their hours worked, overtime, bonuses and other pay. Credit: Gusto
The entire process of running payroll takes only a few minutes, even if you thoroughly check your team’s hours worked and time off. You can initiate bonus payroll, off-cycle payroll, non-Gusto payroll or dismissal payroll, and you can also adjust or cancel a recent payroll easily and quickly. Each irregular payroll option has easy-to-follow navigation, with simple buttons to guide you through the process and account for any deductions or contributions.
You can do a final payroll review to ensure everything is accurate before running payroll with one click. Credit: Gusto
Automatic and easy direct deposit payments, deductions, tax filings and more
An easy way to build the right benefits package for your team without any administration fees
Simple checklists and reliable reminders to set your new hire up for success
Taxes and compliance
Assistance with changing tax laws and regular filings
Performance evaluation and feedback tools designed to improve the talent management process
Certified HR pros and a dedicated support team for day-to-day questions and expert advice
Gusto shines brightest with its time-saving payroll features. It automatically calculates and files your payroll taxes with the appropriate government agencies in all 50 states each time you run payroll for employees. The convenient AutoPilot option lets you set payroll to run automatically. The system can support hourly and salaried employees, as well as paying an employee different rates depending on the work they performed in a particular period. All functions are easy to manage from your smartphone or tablet as well.
Gusto offers over 3,500 small-group health insurance options, with hundreds of carriers and expert support customized for your team and budget. This includes optional plans for dental, vision, retirement, HSAs and FSAs; commuter benefits; and workers’ compensation. Other helpful employee tools, like a paycheck splitter and the Gusto Wallet app, can make financial health a reality for your team.
Gusto can help employees enroll in health plans from popular insurance providers, including Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross. Credit: Gusto
Another great time-saving feature is Gusto’s extensive and customizable onboarding tools. You can send tailored offer letters, get all of your necessary forms signed and stored online, and check off a custom list of tasks to get your new hires into your system and up to speed with your company so they can hit the ground running on their first day of work. Gusto also makes it easy to create or remove software accounts for new hires in Google Workspace, Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Asana, Box and GitHub.
Gusto makes it easy to keep track of onboarding paperwork with a user-friendly onboarding task list. Credit: Gusto
The automatic calculations will lead to fewer mistakes and help you stay up to date with tax laws. Gusto will keep your team on track with I-9s, W-2s and 1099s that are signed and stored online. The simple time-tracking tools will help you comply with regulations if you have hourly employees who need to track lunches, breaks and overtime.
Gusto can also help with state tax registration in all 50 states. This is a useful tool for small businesses that hire remotely, as registering in a new state and filling out all of the paperwork can seem complicated when you’re doing it on your own. With Gusto, the process is easy and straightforward. Employers just need to answer some questions about their business, and then Gusto will submit the registration to the state for you. Gusto even prefills the details that it has on file to make the process even more efficient.
Gusto’s HR software includes a tax filing service, which means Gusto will automatically file all local, state and federal tax forms on your company’s behalf.
Gusto includes an easy setup wizard to help guide employers through the process of registering in a new state. Credit: Gusto
Gusto can help managers facilitate ongoing feedback as well as more formal performance evaluations. Within the Gusto platform, managers can complete a manager review or request that employees write a self-assessment. Managers can also select peers to provide feedback on co-workers for a full 360-degree feedback experience. Organizations can customize the templated questions included in each review type. In addition, Gusto integrates with several popular performance management software tools, including Culture Amp, Lattice and 15Five, for employers who prefer to stick with their existing performance review software.
Managers can choose from a variety of performance evaluation types in the Gusto platform, including self-assessments, simple manager reviews and peer feedback. Then, they can track the review progress of all of their direct reports on one user-friendly dashboard. Credit: Gusto
This feature of the top-tier plan gives you dedicated access to experts with an average of 10 years of experience in state and federal employment law compliance and HR best practices. With this service, you can get help creating an employee handbook, advising employees on benefits, reviving your existing policies and more – everything short of legal or tax advice. This is especially helpful for new or growing companies that don’t have a full-time HR specialist on staff.
Gusto is best known for its payroll platform, but the software can also be used to outsource a wide range of HR tasks including employee onboarding. Gusto supports every step of hiring with seamless job postings and personalized offer letters through to the new-hire onboarding and training process. The HRO service also supports benefits administration, payroll, compliance, and more. While many HR tasks can be automated with Gusto’s online platform, the HRO service includes access to a team of HR experts to help your business navigate common HR challenges.
Gusto is one of the few HROs to offer clear, transparent pricing options. These are the available packages and pricing tiers:
On top of the company’s intuitive platform, businesses can get advice from Gusto’s team of HR experts. Certified HR professionals are available by phone or email to walk employers through HR questions and complex processes. On top of hands-on support from Gusto’s team of experts, customers can also access templates built by the expert team. Available templates include job descriptions, offer letters, labor law policies and performance evaluations. There is also an employee handbook builder created by the expert team.
Gusto offers an intuitive and highly customizable employee onboarding experience. Businesses can build unique onboarding checklists to guide employees through the required steps, including completing new-hire paperwork, receiving welcome emails, enrolling in direct deposit, and more. Gusto also offers a software provisioning feature that allows hiring managers to quickly set up accounts for new hires in Google Workspace, Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Asana and more.
Payroll is one of the most popular services to outsource with Gusto. Businesses can set their payroll to AutoPilot and Gusto will automate payroll processing and payroll tax filing. This time-saving feature can cut down on hours of administrative time and improve payroll compliance. Tax calculations, payments and filings are available in all 50 states. Gusto allows businesses to run as many payroll cycles as they’d like with no added charge.
Unlike some payroll services that offer only one or two plans, Gusto lets businesses choose from four service plans. Each plan includes payroll processing and payroll tax services, but beyond that, the plans differ in the number of HR features and tools they include.
If you receive a referral from an existing Gusto customer, you may be eligible to receive your first month’s payroll free as part of the Refer & Earn program.
You may also incur costs for any added services you elect to include with your Gusto plan. We were impressed with Gusto’s wide range of add-ons, which include the following:
Gusto also offers unique features, such as international contractor payments, state tax registration, and research and development tax credits for various fees.
You don’t need to be a technology wizard to get your Gusto account up and running quickly. For online payroll, you simply add your company’s pertinent information, including your location(s), pay schedule, bank account, federal and state tax information, and signatory. After you add employees and contractors with some basic information, you’ll then request that your workers fill out their tax and banking data. Gusto’s platform essentially walks you through each step, with customer service available should you need it.
Once you complete the setup process, Gusto will help confirm you got everything right and that you’re ready to run your payroll for the next cycle. On average, it takes about two weeks to fully switch over to Gusto. Though some employers and plan types can get up and running even quicker. For example, the contractor-only plan requires significantly less data input, and employers can often get set up in a shorter time frame with this plan.
Gusto provides customer support over phone, email and live chat. Current Gusto subscribers can send an email, start a live chat or schedule a call back when signed in to the platform. We like that Gusto provides an option to schedule a call back, as many competitors do not have that support option. It is a great way to avoid wasting time on hold during the workday.
Gusto also has a support number with representatives available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT, Monday through Friday. This 11-hour support window is great, as many competitors offer support for only eight hours per day, which can be challenging when dealing with different time zones. However, there are some HR software vendors, like the one featured in our Paychex Flex HR software review and Paychex comparison, that offer 24/7 support.
The Gusto Help Center also provides support articles to help customers navigate the platform and provide answers to common questions. There are help articles designed for employers and administrators, employees who need support with self-service functions, contractors, and account partners. The articles are very detailed, but they don’t include screenshots or video tutorials like many competing vendors, including the one featured in our Monday.com HR Software review offer.
One notable shortcoming of Gusto is its inability to process payments for employees living abroad, including those working from U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To make up for this payment gap, it offers payment options in a beta program for international contractors in 34 countries. For international contractors, Gusto will automatically provide the negotiated foreign exchange rate without charging extra. However, companies with numerous international employees would be missing out on many of the time-saving payroll features that make Gusto such an attractive platform.
Companies with employees in multiple states will need to enroll in the Plus or Premium plan to gain access to multistate payroll functionality. This is something to keep in mind as many employers, even small businesses, are hiring out-of-state remote employees now.
We conducted comprehensive research and analyzed dozens of HR systems to identify the top HR software solutions on the market. We reviewed product videos and customer case studies, utilized the Gusto interactive product tour, and attended a demo with Gusto staff members. When looking for the best HR software for payroll specifically, we prioritized features such as onboarding and implementation, payroll processing, benefits administration, usability, integrations, reporting, and customer service.
Yes. If you run your company’s payroll through Gusto, it will create W-2 forms for all employees paid during the year. Gusto will create the forms and send them to all required parties, including your employees.
Yes, businesses can use Gusto to pay contractors. Gusto will also automatically file and send out their 1099s at the end of the year at no additional charge.
Gusto can be used to pay employees in the United States only. However, Gusto can be used to pay contractors in over 120 countries.
Yes, in most states. Gusto supports health benefits in 37 states and the District of Columbia. It does not currently offer health plans in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia or Wyoming.
Gusto’s lowest-priced tier is $40 per month, plus $6 per employee per month. Additional fees may apply for add-ons and higher service tiers.
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