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Updated Apr 11, 2024

Gusto HR Software Review

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Kaylyn McKenna, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

Table of Contents

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Editors Score:9.7/10
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.
Plus Sign Pros
  • Gusto can be used to pay both employees and independent contractors, eliminating the need to use multiple platforms to process payments.
  • With the new Gusto Global EOR service, businesses can hire, onboard, pay and manage international employees in the same platform as United States-based workers. Gusto offers unlimited payroll runs per month for all plan levels.
  • Gusto’s onboarding process is easy and efficient for new customers.
Minus Sign Cons
  • Employers with staff members in multiple states will need to pay for either the mid-tier Plus service plan or the higher Premium package.
  • Gusto Global’s EOR service is currently available internationally only in Canada, but the company has plans to expand.
  • Does not support payroll processing for employees living abroad.
Gusto company logo
Editor's Rating9.7/10

Gusto is an easy-to-use, all-in-one HR platform that helps small businesses handle payroll, employee benefits, hiring, onboarding, time and attendance and compliance. With expansive payroll processing tools that provide a more seamless experience for employers and their teams, Gusto is our pick as the best HR software for payroll. Designed to be an intuitive solution for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Gusto will file all of your local, state and federal tax forms automatically on your company’s behalf, offering the ability to file, sign, fax and store all of your documents electronically within your Gusto dashboard. 

Gusto 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. Gusto has expanded internationally with Gusto Global, an employer of record (EOR) service powered by Remote that allows businesses to hire, pay and provide benefits for full-time employees in Canada and India. In addition, Gusto’s contractor product supports payroll for contractors in 120-plus countries.

Gusto HR Software Editor's Rating:

9.7 / 10

Features
9.8/10
Pricing
9.5/10
User interface
10/10
Integrations
10/10
Customer service
9/10

Why Gusto Is Best for Payroll

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 calculates the employer’s share of payroll taxes automatically 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 like these features as managing different payroll dedications, meal 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 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 streamlines it and takes the hassle out of running payroll.

Gusto time tracking features

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

Usability

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 like how easy it is to see everything going on with your team at a glance.

Gusto home dashboard

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 a few clicks or through the AutoPilot feature, which lets you pay one day before your payroll deadlines automatically. 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.

Gusto payroll

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.

Gusto payroll review

You can do a final payroll review to ensure everything is accurate before running payroll with one click.  Credit: Gusto

Did You Know?Did you know
Hiring international employees can expand access to a broader talent pool, help businesses save money, ramp up diversity in hiring and provide cultural touchpoints for expansion, according to Entrepreneur.

Gusto Features

Full-service payroll

Automatic and easy direct deposit payments, deductions, tax filings and more

Employee benefits

An easy way to build the right benefits package for your team without any administration fees

Onboarding

Simple checklists and reliable reminders to set your new hire up for success

Taxes and compliance

Assistance with changing tax laws and regular filings

Talent management 

Performance evaluation and feedback tools designed to improve the talent management process

HR expert support

Certified HR pros and a dedicated support team for day-to-day questions and expert advice

Reporting tools

Customizable report capability for detailed analytics

Full-service Payroll

Gusto shines brightest with its time-saving payroll features. It calculates and files your payroll taxes automatically with the appropriate government agencies in all 50 states each time you run payroll for employees. Payroll in all 50 states is available via Gusto’s Plus and Premium plans while Gusto’s Simple plan is designed for single-state payroll. Gusto Global supports payroll (among other features) for full-time employees in Canada and India, and Gusto’s contractor product provides payroll services for contractors in 120+ countries in the same payroll platform, as well.

Gusto onboarding demo

A demo shows the onboarding process for a Canada-based employee using Gusto Global, during which administrators can choose locally compliant benefits. Credit: Gusto

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. With the Time Kiosk feature, workers have a centralized location they can use to clock in and out of work, with the data synching seamlessly to Gusto’s payroll function. A new payroll spreadsheet feature will allow clients another option to run payroll easily and quickly and will also allow for easy viewing of key data like regular hours, overtime hours, bonuses, paid time off, sick hours, deductions and more in a simple column and row format. An easy upload feature simplifies the process of adding employee data from existing spreadsheet files. All functions are easy to manage from your smartphone or tablet as well. 

Gusto payroll spreadsheet

A payroll spreadsheet feature allows for a quick, easy option to run payroll and for an intuitive employee data layout. Credit: Gusto

Employee Benefits

Gusto offers over 9,000 health insurance plan options, with 30-plus carriers and expert support customized for your team and budget. Gusto also offers optional plans for dental, vision, retirement, health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs); commuter benefits; and workers’ compensation. Businesses that already have an insurance carrier can integrate insurance plan administration into the Gusto platform. Other helpful employee tools, like a paycheck splitter and the Gusto Wallet app, can make financial health a reality for your team. We noted that Gusto only provides health benefits in 37 states and Washington, D.C., excluding Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. If you have an existing health insurance plan, Gusto’s premium plan offers carrier migration so you can manage your existing benefits from their platform as well. If you’re looking for a service with more robust benefits administration features, we recommend checking out our TriNet review.

Gusto healthcare plan enrollment

Gusto can help employees enroll in health plans from popular insurance providers, including Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross. Credit: Gusto

Onboarding

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. While you’re still searching for candidates, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered job description writing tool helps hiring managers streamline the job posting process.

Gusto onboarding

Gusto makes it easy to keep track of onboarding paperwork with a user-friendly onboarding task list. Credit: Gusto

Taxes and Compliance

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 even offers an easy-to-use tool for clients to learn if they’re qualified for a federal research and development tax credit, an AI-powered feature we found innovative and helpful for small businesses that might not otherwise know how to apply for a tax credit. In addition, customers who use Gusto partner Guideline to manage 401(k) plans have access to a 401(k) tax credit service, allowing them to complete their 401(k) tax credit form in minutes.

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 EOR service Gusto Global can also support full-time employees in Canada and India without clients needing to spend the time and money to set up a local business entity and built-in compliance management features ensure clients comply with local tax and employment laws. We liked the peace of mind this provides for small businesses that may be unfamiliar with international regulations, helping them avoid potentially costly mistakes.

Did You Know?Did you know
Gusto’s HR software includes a tax filing service, which means Gusto will file all local, state and federal tax forms automatically on your company’s behalf.

Gusto setup wizard

Gusto includes an easy setup wizard to help guide employers through the process of registering in a new state. Credit: Gusto

Talent Management

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. The performance evaluation feature is available on the Plus and Premium plans. While this is a great feature, if you’re looking for a product with more advanced employee development tools like automated employee surveys, check out our review of BambooHR

Gusto performance evaluation

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

HR Expert Support

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. Access to the service is included with the Premium plan or as an add-on to the Plus plan.

Reporting

Gusto’s reporting tools allow businesses quick and easy access to all the key data they need to help inform their decision-making. Gusto customers on all three plans have access to customizable reports they can run from a centralized location within the Gusto platform. For example, businesses can opt to view total net pay delivered to workers across the lifetime of the business or they can run more detailed reports on net pay specific to each employee for specific time periods. A wide variety of filter options provide for a high degree of customizability, no matter the query. 

Gusto custom reporting

A view of how Gusto administrators can run customizable reports on employee data using a variety of filters and export them into comma-separated values, PDF or Excel formats. Credit: Gusto

Gusto HRO

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 HR outsourcing (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.

Expert HR Services

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. 

Onboarding

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

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 or choose Gusto Global for payroll and more for Canadian employees. Gusto allows businesses to run as many payroll cycles as they’d like with no added charge.

Gusto EOR

Gusto Global, Gusto’s new EOR service powered by Remote, can also handle payroll, benefits and other features for employees based in Canada and India along with U.S.-based workers, without having to toggle to a different service. In addition, Gusto’s contractor product makes it easy to run payroll for contractors in 120-plus countries in a locally compliant manner. We like the flexibility in hiring this provides, especially because many small businesses that are affected by the labor shortage in the U.S. are looking to expand internationally. 

However, because Gusto Global’s EOR service is only currently available in Canada and India, we didn’t find Gusto to be an ideal solution for larger companies that work extensively with full-time international employees or are looking to expand into multiple different countries. If you’re looking for a solution with robust international hiring, onboarding, payroll and payment features, we suggest checking out our Papaya Global professional employer organization review.

Gusto Costs

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:

  • Contractor: $35 per month, plus $6 per contractor, per month (at the time of this review, Gusto was waiving the $35-per-month charge for the first six months)
  • Simple: $40 per month, plus $6 per employee, per month
  • Plus: $80 per month, plus $12 per employee, per month 
  • Premium: Custom pricing based on client needs

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:

  • Workers’ compensation insurance: Gusto doesn’t charge you administration fees―you pay the premium only. These pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation plans integrate with your payroll.
  • Health insurance: Again, you won’t pay administration fees―only the premium.
  • Broker integration: If you want to keep your current benefits broker, Gusto can integrate them (in most cases) into the system for an additional $6 per eligible employee, per month.
  • 401(k) retirement savings plans: Pricing varies depending on retirement savings plan selection.
  • Life and disability insurance: Employers can offer life, short-term disability or long-term disability insurance with no administration fees. Gusto charges for the premium only.

Tax-advantaged benefits 

Gusto also provides the tax-advantaged employee benefits below. All four come with one $200 annual service charge:

  • HSA: Gusto doesn’t have a minimum if you want to offer an HSA with your other insurance benefits. The cost is $2.50 per participant, per month.
  • FSA: Adding an FSA costs $4 per participant, per month. There is a $20 minimum.
  • Dependent care FSA: If you want to offer a pretax FSA for qualified dependent care expenses, you can add it to your plan for $4 per participant, per month. There is a $20 minimum.
  • Commuter benefits: Commuter benefits are pretax dollars that workers can use to pay for transportation to your workplace. Gusto charges $4 per participant, per month, and there is a $20 minimum.

Gusto also offers unique features, such as international contractor payments, state tax registration and research and development tax credits for various fees. Gusto Global is available for an additional cost, but prospective customers must first purchase one of the service plans.

TipTip
For a limited time, Gusto Global is available at a 10% discount when purchased as an add-on to one of Gusto’s service plans. Reach out to the Gusto sales team to learn more.

Setup

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 locations, 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 can take up to 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. Setup for Gusto Global can take five-10 business days on average.

Customer Service

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 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mountain time Monday through Friday. This 12-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, such as the one featured in our Paychex Flex HR software review and Paychex vs. Gusto comparison, that offers 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.

Drawbacks

One notable shortcoming of Gusto is its inability to process payments for full-time employees living outside of the U.S., Canada and India, 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 a contractor product for international contractors in 120-plus countries. For international contractors, Gusto will provide the negotiated foreign exchange rate automatically 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. Prospective clients should also note that access to Gusto’s team of HR experts is only available via the Premium plan or as an add-on to the Plus plan. In addition, prospective clients interested in the research and development tax credit tool will be charged 15 percent of the identified tax credit, though discounts are available with the Premium plan. Add-on features, except international contractor payments, are not available with the contractor-only plan.

Methodology

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.

Gusto FAQs

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 file and send out their 1099s automatically at the end of the year at no additional charge.
Gusto can be used to pay employees in the U.S., as well as full-time employees in Canada and India via the EOR service Gusto Global. Gusto’s contractor product offers payroll services for contractors in 120-plus countries.
Yes, in most states. Gusto supports health benefits in 37 states and Washington, D.C. 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.

Overall Value

We recommend Gusto for …

  • New and small businesses that do not have a great deal of experience or confidence with payroll, benefits and HR compliance.
  • SMBs that want to save a lot of time onboarding, insuring and paying their employees and contractors.
  • Any business looking for a low-cost, all-in-one HR platform that is easy to use.

We do not recommend Gusto for …

  • Companies with a lot of full-time international employees as Gusto only supports Canadian and Indian EOR employees at this time.
  • Enterprise-level companies with large accounting and HR departments.

Erin Donaghue contributed to this article.

author image
Kaylyn McKenna, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
For more than 10 years, Kaylyn McKenna has studied the ins and outs of the workplace experience. With guidance designed to help both employers and employees, she advises on workplace matters affecting small businesses. This has ranged from providing recommendations on HRO and PEO services to sharing pointers on job interviews and managing increasing workloads. Her expertise has been trusted by JobGet, Business Management Daily and others. McKenna holds a bachelor's degree in business administration. While pursuing her master's in industrial and organizational psychology, she focused on relevant topics like organizational change, high-performance teamwork and customer relations. McKennna has also led webinars on workplace happiness and unconscious bias in the workplace. With her additional interest in e-commerce and finance, McKenna's work has appeared in Forbes, CBS News and Accounting.com.
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Editor's Rating9.7/10
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