After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend QuickBooks Payroll as our 2019 pick for the best online payroll service for small businesses.
QuickBooks Payroll is ideal for small businesses because of its flexibility and variety. No small business is the same, and when it comes to payroll, there are a host of different needs that providers need to meet. Especially when it comes to budget and company size, several options need to be available. Intuit offers several different service plans at a variety of price points, so small businesses of any size and budget can find a plan to meet their needs.
Services per plan also vary. Intuit's payroll solution can be scaled from its self-service plan all the way up to plans where the company basically runs payroll for you. You can choose plans where you handle paying your payroll taxes or Intuit manages the calculation and payment of those taxes. Prices for the different services range from $29 to $140 per month, plus $2 to $4 per employee.
What also makes QuickBooks Payroll a solid choice for small businesses is its integration with QuickBooks. Many small businesses already use QuickBooks for their accounting software. Intuit allows you to combine its payroll solution and QuickBooks into one seamless program. The result is that both software programs work in lockstep. Data is automatically transferred back and forth between the two programs. This makes running payroll and keeping track of your books an even simpler process. This can be a huge benefit to small business owners that are handling these tasks on their own and don't have the luxury of an on-staff payroll specialist and accountant.
Besides its integration with QuickBooks, other reasons that make QuickBooks Payroll an excellent option for small businesses is that is easy to use, it offers employee self-service options, it provides a range of payroll reports, and it offers a one-month free trial. This trial gives you the chance to test the service for a couple of payroll runs to ensure it fits all your needs. Intuit also provides top-notch customer support.
To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of other online payroll services on our best picks page.
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QuickBooks Payroll Pricing, Service Plans and Features
Part of QuickBooks Payroll's appeal is that its payroll services are available in several different plan types at multiple price points. Several plans combine QuickBooks accounting software and payroll. This range of options gives small businesses of varying needs and budgets the ability to use this service.
For a complete breakdown of QuickBooks Payroll's offering, you can visit the company's Desktop Payroll, Self-Service Payroll and Full-Service Payroll landing pages. Below, you'll find our own full break down of the pricing and features for all of QuickBooks Payroll's plans. Keep in mind that first-time customers are eligible for a 30-day trial on all these plans, so you can give the software a test drive before you commit to a monthly or yearly plan.
QuickBooks Payroll Plans
QuickBooks Payroll plans have an option to be featured with and without QuickBooks accounting software. If you're looking for accounting software and a payroll service, pairing the two could be ideal for your small business. Every time you run payroll, all your payday info – including check amounts, state and federal taxes, and deductions – automatically downloads into your QuickBooks accounting software.
Opting for a plan with accounting software means you'll also have the ability to track income and expenses, maximize tax deductions, run reports, and send estimates. They allow for invoicing the acceptance of payments. QuickBooks Plus also includes the ability to manage bills, track inventory and manage 1099 contractors.
Self Service Payroll:
- Self Service: $35 per month, plus $4 per employee
- Self Service with QuickBooks: $55 per month, plus $4 per employee
- Self-Service Payroll With QuickBooks Plus: $95 per month, plus $4 per employee
- Full Service: $80 per month, plus $4 per employee
- Full-Service Payroll With QuickBooks: $100 per month, plus $4 per employee
- Self-Service Payroll With QuickBooks Plus: $140 per month, plus $4 per employee
QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Plans
In addition to its main plans, QuickBooks payroll also offers desktop plans.
- Overview: This plan only runs payroll and does not handle any payroll tax obligations.
- Cost: $29 per month base fee, plus $2 per employee. The first six months are offered at a 20% discount.
- Features and tax services: This package includes the ability to print instant paychecks for W-2 employees and 1099 workers, direct deposit, and live support.
- Overview: This plan handles all payroll and some tax responsibilities.
- Cost: $45 per month base fee, plus $2 per employee. The first six months are offered at a 20% discount.
- Features and tax services: It includes everything in the Basic package, plus it calculates all federal and state payroll taxes. You are responsible for making all tax payments. Intuit fills in all the federal and most state payroll tax forms for you, and it gives you the option of electronically paying these taxes. Additionally, this plan includes email reminders for taxes and the ability to print W-2 forms for employees.
Full Service Assisted
- Overview: It handles all payroll and payroll tax responsibilities.
- Cost: $109 per month base fee, plus $2 per employee. The first six months are offered at a 20% discount.
- Features and tax services: This is the most comprehensive service. The package runs payroll; completes and files all federal, state, and local forms; and guarantees tax payments are correct and on time. If Intuit makes an error, it will correct the mistake and pay all the resulting payroll tax penalties. Intuit also sets up this package for you by having a company representative enter all employee data and information into the system before you get started. In addition, the Full-Service package takes care of processing and printing employees' year-end W-2 forms.
The only other cost is for businesses with employees working in multiple states. There is an added $12 monthly charge per state.
A benefit of Intuit is that each of its plans allows unlimited payroll runs for no extra charge. This gives businesses the option of paying employees weekly, biweekly or monthly, all for the same price.
Ease of Use
Small business owners will be pleased with how easy it is to use QuickBooks Payroll. It is a cloud-based service that has no software to install or maintain and can be accessed online from anywhere.
The system has an easy-to-use platform that's clearly labeled and simple to navigate. All of the main sections have easy-access tabs found at the top of the homepage. The To Do page highlights tasks that need to be completed and messages you've received, while the Payday tab is where you can create, approve and print paychecks.
There are additional tabs for taxes and forms, which is where you see all payroll-related tax forms and pay your taxes. You also have an employee tab, where you can add details, such as pay rate and schedule for each worker, and a reports tab where you can access detailed payroll and tax data.
Running payroll consists of the same three-step process for all three plans. You start by selecting the employees 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 rates saved.
To help ensure all the hours are correct, Intuit features an error-detection alert. If you enter a number that is significantly different from previous pay periods, the system notifies you that there may be an error.
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 the current payroll with the previous one to make sure everything lines up.
Adding employees into the system is also simple. Intuit walks you through each step of adding in basic details about each employee, such as pay rate, federal and state tax information and withholdings, tax exemptions, and benefit deductions.
On the Full-Service plan, Intuit handles this task for you. You can email or fax your employee roster and information to Intuit, and one of its payroll specialists will enter in the details.
The last step is to click the Submit to Intuit link. The service confirms that it received the information and processes payroll. Employees who have direct deposit are paid in two business days. You also have the option of printing checks from your office.
The system is also accessible via the Intuit mobile app, which is available on iOS and Android devices. With the app, administrators can run payroll, pay taxes and view company payroll history. Employees can log in to the online system on either a web browser or the mobile app to view their paystubs, pay history and PTO accruals.
QuickBooks Payroll users can download a variety of reports, including payroll summaries, payroll details, employee details, tax payments, tax and wage summaries, tax liability, workers' compensation, total cost, and contractor payment details.
For such a large company, we were pleased with the customer service Intuit provided. We contacted the company numerous times by phone and email, posing as a business owner interested in payroll services.
Each time we reached out by phone, a representative immediately answered our call. With some of the other large payroll services we considered, we had to wait on hold for lengthy periods before someone was available to speak with us.
Intuit's reps were extremely friendly and accommodating during all of our calls. They thoroughly answered our questions and left us with a clear understanding of the system and how it works.
We were just as pleased with the support we received via email. Many of the representatives we contacted over the phone followed up with an email. Each time we wrote them back with a question we had, whether it was the same day or weeks later, we always promptly received a thorough response.
The representatives never pressured us to sign up for the service. Instead, they listened to us, answered our questions and encouraged us to call back with any further inquiries. This was a change from what we experienced with many other payroll providers we contacted.
We weren't as impressed with Intuit's live chat support. When we used the tool to ask some basic questions, we were told that to get answers, we needed to speak to a payroll specialist over the phone. While we are confident our questions would have been answered over the phone, live chat wasn't as helpful as we would have liked.
You can reach QuickBooks Payroll representatives by phone, email and live chat between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (PST) Monday through Friday. On the website, you'll find payroll guides and advice, training videos, details on how to set up the system, and a user community that has answers to questions on all the Intuit products.
QuickBooks Payroll doesn't offer all of the additional services that other payroll providers do, such as human resources guidance, employee retirement plans and healthcare benefits. The only extra services it offers are workers' compensation plans, a 1099 e-file service and TSheets, a time and attendance system.
Another potential negative is the large number of complaints filed against Intuit with the Better Business Bureau. As of September 2018, more than 1,300 complaints had been filed against the company. Fewer than 500 of those were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.
While the number of complaints is concerning, it is unknown how many of these complaints are specific to Intuit's payroll service. The complaints listed on the BBB website encompass all of Intuit's products and services. Despite the complaints, the BBB rates Intuit as an A+ organization.
Ready to choose a payroll service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- The Best Payroll Services 2019
- Payroll Service Buyer's Guide
- Best for Sole Proprietors or S-Corps
- Best for Very Small Businesses
- Best for Household Employers