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Intuit: The Best Online Payroll Service for Small Business Overall

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend Intuit Payroll as our 2017 pick for the best online payroll service for small businesses. We chose Intuit from the dozens of online payroll services we considered. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of online payroll services on our best picks page.

Intuit Payroll offers a variety of service plans that handle some, or all, payroll and payroll tax responsibilities. Intuit costs between $20 and $99 per month, plus $2 for each employee. Here is a detailed breakdown of why it's our best pick.

Part of Intuit's appeal is that its payroll services are available in three different plans, at three different price points. This gives businesses on varying budgets the ability to use this service. Many of the other payroll systems we looked into had only one plan at one price.

These are the three plans:

Basic

  • Overview: The basic plan only runs payroll and does not handle any payroll tax obligations.
  • Cost: $20 base fee for the first six months, plus $2 per employee. After six months, the base fee increases to $25 per month. If you pay for a year in advance, the base fee drops to $18.75 per month.
  • 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. No tax services are included.

Enhanced

  • Overview: This plan handles all payroll and some tax responsibilities.
  • Cost: $31.20 base fee for the first six months, plus $2 for each employee. After six months, the base fee increases to $39 per month. If you pay for a year in advance, the base fee drops to $29.25 per month.
  • Features and tax services: It includes everything in the basic package, plus calculates all federal and state payroll taxes. You are responsible for making all tax payments. The service also automatically fills in all the federal and most state payroll-tax forms for you and 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

  • Overview: It handles all payroll and payroll tax responsibilities.
  • Cost: $79 base fee for the first six months, plus $2 per employee. After the first six months, the base fee increases to $99 per month. There is no annual billing discount.
  • Features and tax services: This 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 pay all the resulting payroll tax penalties that you incur. Intuit 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.

A detailed breakdown of how the plans compare to one another is available on the Intuit website.

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 every week, biweekly or monthly, all for the same price. Some of the other services we examined based their pricing on the number of payrolls you run each month.

The only other cost is for businesses with employees working in multiple states. There is an added $12 monthly charge per state. Intuit offers a 30-day free trial period for all of its pricing plans.

Editor’s Note: Looking for information on payroll systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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Another option Intuit offers is a combo package of its payroll services and QuickBooks Online accounting software. Combining QuickBooks Online with the Enhanced payroll package costs between $20 and $32 per month for the first six months, plus $5 per employee. After six months, the price increases to between $40 and $65 depending on the version of QuickBooks Online you choose. QuickBooks Online was our choice for the best accounting software for small businesses.

Combining QuickBooks Online and the Full Service payroll package costs between $47 and $59 per month for the first six months, plus $5 per employee. After six months, the base fee price increases to between $95 and $120 per month.

We are impressed with how open Intuit is with its pricing. All of the costs are clearly outlined on the company's website. A number of the other payroll solutions we analyzed were more secretive about their pricing and make you contact their sales departments for a quote. In addition, some other services we spoke to initially quoted one price, but as we asked about additional services, the price quickly escalated.

Intuit Payroll 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 at the top of the home page. 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.

The Intuit "To Do" page highlights all of the tasks that need to be completed.

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 in 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 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 rates saved.

To help ensure all the hours are correct, the service 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. This is a tool not all of the other services we analyzed offer.

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.

The last step is to click the "submit to Intuit" link. The service confirms that it received the information and processes the payroll. Employees who have direct deposit are paid in two business days. Employers also have the option of printing out checks from their offices. You can learn more about using the system by watching one of several training videos Intuit offers on its website.

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. Full Service users can email or fax their employee rosters and information to Intuit, and one of its payroll specialists will enter in the details.

Employees also have access to the online system. They can log in to view their pay stubs, pay history and paid time off accruals.

The system is also accessible via the Inuit 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 use the app to review their pay stub information.

Another appealing aspect of Intuit Payroll is its integration with QuickBooks Online. While most services offer accounting software integration, Intuit's service works in tandem with QuickBooks Online by automatically syncing the two. Every time you run 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 server in regular intervals and automatically downloads those files into your QuickBooks accounting software. There is no need to manually enter any of the information. The system does it all for you.

Intuit Payroll users can also download a variety of helpful reports, including payroll summaries, payroll details, employee details, tax payments, tax and wage summaries, tax liability, workers' compensation, total cost, and contractor payment details.

Intuit provides businesses with a variety of labor and wage reports that offer added insight into their operation.

For such a large company, we were pleased with the customer service Intuit provided. To gauge what customers can expect from the support team, we called the company numerous times, posing as a business owner interested in payroll services.

Each time we contacted Intuit, a representative immediately answered our call. With some of the other larger payroll services we investigated, we had to wait on hold for lengthy periods before someone was available to speak with us.

The Intuit representatives 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 pleased that the representatives never tried to pressure us into signing 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 of the 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, we were frustrated that the live chat representative wasn't as helpful as we wanted.

You can reach Intuit representatives by phone, email and live chat between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (PST) Monday through Friday. The Intuit website is also filled with a lot of valuable resources, including 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.

One potential downside is that Intuit doesn't offer some of the additional services that other payroll providers do, such as human resources guidance, employee retirement plans and health care benefits. If you want a payroll service that can also handle those tasks, Intuit is not for you. The only extra services it offers are workers' compensation plans, a time-tracking feature and a 1099 e-file service.

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 need support over the weekend. In addition, the live chat tool wasn't as responsive as we had hoped. Some of the other services we looked into provided much better live chat help.

Another potential negative is the large number of complaints filed against Intuit with the Better Business Bureau. As of March 2017, Intuit had more than 1,000 unresolved complaints. The company resolved more than 600 complaints over the past three years. While the large number of complaints is concerning, it is important to note that Intuit is one of the largest payroll and accounting software providers and the number of complaints might be because it has more customers total than most services. In addition, it is unknown how many of these complaints are specific to Intuit's payroll service. The complaints listed on the BBB website are in regards to all of Intuit's products and services. Despite the complaints, the BBB still rates Intuit as an A+ organization.

Small Businesses Overall
Intuit Payroll
Read Review
  • Base Fee
    $20-$99 per month
  • Per Employee Cost
    $2 per employee
  • Tax Guarantee
    Full Service Only
  • Customer Service
    Phone, Email, Live Chat
Very Small Businesses
OnPay
Read Review
  • Base Fee
    $36 per month
  • Per Employee Cost
    $4
  • Tax Guarantee
    Yes
  • Customer Service
    Phone, Email and Live Chat
Sole Proprietor or S Corp.
Gusto
Read Review
  • Base Fee
    $39 per month
  • Per Employee Cost
    $6
  • Tax Guarantee
    No
  • Customer Service
    Phone, Email and Live Chat
Household Employer
SurePayroll
Read Review
  • Base Fee
    $49.99 per month
  • Per Employee Cost
    One included, $4 for all others
  • Tax Guarantee
    Yes
  • Customer Service
    Phone and Email

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

Editor’s Note: Looking for information on payroll systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

 

Test Intuit Payroll with a free 30-days trial

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based 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.