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Gusto Payroll Software Review

Jamie Johnson
Jamie Johnson
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Updated Nov 30, 2022
  • Gusto can handle only your payroll requirements, or it can meet all of your payroll- and HR-related tasks, depending on your needs.
  • The software allows you to run payroll in just a few simple steps.
  • Gusto’s base fee starts at $40 per month.
  • This review is for small business owners who are considering using Gusto as their online payroll service provider.

Gusto provides full-service payroll software for small businesses and startups that is easy to navigate and use. You can run automated or manual payroll anywhere in the U.S., and pay employees as well as independent contractors. From a payroll perspective alone, Gusto is worthy of consideration. But the fact that the vendor offers benefits administration and additional HR services to make this a well-rounded product with undeniable appeal. 

Gusto Payroll Software logo

Gusto Payroll Software

The Verdict

Gusto is our choice for the best payroll service with added HR tools because it offers service plans that include a number of human resources services, such as access to an HR professional who can provide advice on all HR-related issues.

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Gusto Editor’s Score: 94/100

Pricing

90

Features

100

Usability

90

Employee self-service

90

Customer service

100

Editor’s note: Looking for the right payroll software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Why Gusto Is Best for Added HR Services

Gusto high-tier plans

When you invest in one of Gusto’s higher-tier plans, you’ll access HR experts and extensive tools and resources, including for job posting.
Source: Gusto

After extensive research, we picked Gusto as the best online payroll software with added HR services because the system stands out for its ability to serve dual roles – it can handle your payroll and payroll tax responsibilities and it can also fulfill your HR needs. 

For example, Gusto can ensure employees are paid in a timely manner; manage tax payments to meet local, state and federal laws; administer benefits; onboard new hires; and even track PTO. In other words, you get a full HR solution for virtually every part of the employee experience all in this one platform. We also love that if you only want to use Gusto to process payroll, that’s an option too, and the vendor excels at that task.

With Gusto’s Premium package, business owners can also enjoy access to HR professionals who can walk you through all types of situations. This is a huge perk for small businesses that lack dedicated HR teams. The software is also easy to use, and Gusto has excellent customer service to boot. 

Did you know?Did you know?: Gusto handles both payroll and HR so well, it also earned a spot on our list of the best HR software. Its payroll abilities are among the top reasons it stands out.

Pros

  • Gusto’s software is easy to use for payroll processing and other HR tasks.
  • The system ensures you’re up to date on local, state and federal tax filings.
  • The platform makes it easy to find, hire and onboard new employees. 

Cons

  • You can’t pay employees outside of the U.S. through Gusto.
  • The vendor’s higher-tier plans can be expensive. 
  • The software doesn’t come with a dedicated mobile app.

Usability

Gusto dashboard

Running payroll is simple with Gusto’s user-friendly dashboard.
Source: Gusto

One of the benefits of partnering with Gusto for payroll processing and HR services is how easy the software is to use. The dashboard is very straightforward and it’s fairly intuitive to navigate, even for beginners. 

When you log into the Gusto platform, you’ll see a to-do list with important updates and activities. To run payroll, you enter the number of hours each employee worked, vacation or sick days they took, bonuses or commissions they earned and expense reimbursements. You then submit the payroll and receive confirmation it’s being processed. Payroll doesn’t get much simpler than that.

You can use Gusto to pay employees and contractors via direct deposit, prepaid debit cards or paper checks. To add employees or contractors to the system, all you need are their names, email addresses and pay rates. Employees can add this information on their own using the self-onboarding feature.

All team members – full-time, part-time and contract workers – can log into the system to review their digital paystubs and get their year-end tax forms. These lifetime accounts give employees access to their personal information even if they move on to new employers. 

Gusto Features

Because Gusto understands how closely payroll tasks and human resources responsibilities are linked, you’ll find features covering virtually all aspects of HR.

Full-service payroll

Pay your employees and contractors as many times as you want each month.

Manage payroll taxes 

The platform takes care of your local, state and federal tax responsibilities. 

Integrations

The system integrates with dozens of popular third-party apps. 

Added HR services

Gain access to HR experts who can guide you through any people-management situation. 

Benefits management

Provide health insurance, workers’ compensation, 401(k) plans, dental insurance and more to your employees. 

Manage employee onboarding

Create custom checklists for new hires and send and share documents securely.

Full-Service Payroll

As a full-service payroll provider, Gusto offers a wide range of payroll features that small businesses will find valuable. For example, you can run as many payrolls as you want each month for no extra cost. Unlimited payroll gives you the freedom to pay individual employees when you want instead of syncing all your staff on the same schedule. 

Gusto allows you to pay employees and contractors via direct deposit, printed check or prepaid debit card, which is on par with competitors. One particularly nice aspect of the system is the autopilot setting, which runs your payroll automatically each pay period without requiring any special input. As we found in our review of Paychex, some of Gusto’s rivals have recurring payroll capabilities too.

Managing Payroll Taxes

In addition to handling payroll processing, Gusto takes care of all your payroll tax responsibilities. The vendor automatically calculates and pays your local, state and federal payroll taxes. At the end of the year, the service generates and sends all your employees and contractors their W-2 and 1099 forms.

Integrations

Gusto integrates with dozens of popular third-party products, like QuickBooks, Xero, Clover and Expensify. These integrations make it easier to gather data and gain insights into your business, which leads to better decision-making in the future. It also streamlines operations by connecting the various types of business software you use to run your company. [For a product with hundreds of integrations, see our Rippling review.]

Added HR Services

If you need additional HR support beyond payroll processing, Gusto can meet your needs. The software’s HR resource center includes custom employee handbooks, job description templates, HR policy templates and proactive compliance updates. You’ll also have access to organizational charts, onboarding tools and employee surveys. You could typically find assets like these in top HR software, but Gusto offers an all-in-one solution.

A huge bonus with the Premium plan is the ability to connect with certified HR professionals who can guide you through all sorts of people-management situations. If you’re not ready to hire an in-house HR person, this investment is a worthwhile alternative.

Benefits Management

Gusto insurance dashboard

Gusto allows you to offer employees health insurance from providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Healthcare.
Source: Gusto

To complement its added HR services, Gusto makes it possible to offer a benefits package to your team. You can provide employees with health insurance, workers’ compensation and a 401(k) plan, plus dental and vision policies. These benefits are attractive to workers, and a comprehensive benefits package can help you retain team members.

We appreciate that Gusto even partners with Gradvisor to offer 529 college savings plans that integrate with the payroll service. The contributions automatically sync with the system. Employers have the option to give company contributions, which can also draw talent to your business.

Employee Onboarding

Gusto onboarding screen

Gusto makes employee onboarding easy with its streamlined format.
Source: Gusto

Gusto has a number of helpful tools for employee onboarding. For example, you can create custom checklists for new hires and share documents securely for them to sign. All of these forms can be stored safely in your Gusto account.

Impressively, Gusto can even assist you with the recruitment process, guiding you through the process of creating job posts and tracking applicants. You can also use the platform to create custom offer letters. The software integrates with applicant tracking systems, and thanks to its other integrations, you can use Gusto to get new employees set up with Slack, Zoom and other accounts they may need on the job.

TipTip: If you don’t currently use highly rated time and attendance software, consider Gusto’s time-tracking features. Employees can use the platform to clock in and out, and then you can approve those timecards for payroll processing. Gusto can also track PTO and even monitor the time spent on specific projects.

Gusto Cost

All four of Gusto’s plans include its payroll and tax services and allow you to pay W-2 employees, 1099 contractors and freelancers. However, the plans vary in the added HR services they include. 

The three main plans each have a monthly base fee and a monthly per-employee fee. Here’s how they break down.

  • Simple: This plan costs $40 a month, plus $6 per person per month. It includes full-service payroll, employee self-service, workers’ compensation administration, four-day direct deposit and paid-time-off (PTO) policies.
  • Plus: This plan costs $80 a month, plus $12 per person per month. It has all of the features of the Simple plan, plus onboarding services, accounting and time-tracking integration, the ability to run payroll on autopilot, two-day direct deposit, and health insurance administration. [Need next-day or same-day direct deposit? Check out our QuickBooks Payroll review.]
  • Premium: This plan requires custom pricing. It offers everything in the Plus plan, plus access to Gusto’s HR professionals, HR compliance assistance, employee relations advising and an HR resource center for help with employee handbooks, job descriptions, HR guides and policy templates.

The fourth and final plan is specifically for contractor-only businesses that don’t have any full-time employees. There is no monthly base fee for this plan; you simply pay $6 per contractor per month. The package includes unlimited contractor payments, contractor self-service options and 1099 forms and filings. 

We love that there are no contracts with Gusto. Regardless of which plan you choose, you pay for the service on a month-to-month basis and can cancel at any time.

TipTip: Want to sign up for the Plus plan and receive guidance from Gusto’s HR specialists? For a fee of $8 per employee per month, you can add on those HR services and receive faster support.

Gusto Setup

Gusto is a cloud-based platform, so there is no software to download or update. You can use it right in your browser, and it’s mobile-friendly, so it’s accessible from any smartphone or tablet.

When you log in for the first time, the homepage walks you through the setup process, which entails entering your company address, adding employees, setting up federal and state taxes, linking and verifying your business bank account, and configuring your payroll schedule.

If you already have payroll set up with another provider, Gusto can walk you through the process of how and when to switch your data over. If you’re setting up payroll for the first time, Gusto provides an online guide to help you get started.

Gusto Customer Service

Gusto representatives are available for support by phone and email Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET. Whether you sign up for the Simple, Plus or Premium plan determines whether you have access to Basic support over those listed hours, Full support over extended hours, or Priority support for expedited assistance. The Premium package will also pair you with a dedicated customer success manager for personalized help.

To get a feel for the type of customer service Gusto provides, we called and emailed the company numerous times, posing as a new business owner. Though we did have to wait on hold to speak with someone during one of our calls, all our other calls were answered immediately when we reached out. 

During our conversations, the representatives gave clear and detailed answers to all of our questions. At the end of each call, we had a strong understanding of how the system works, the services it provides and how much everything costs. At no time did any of the representatives try to push us to sign up for the service. Some of the other payroll providers we contacted quickly tried to glean all of the specifics about our company and quote us prices. Gusto, however, seemed focused on making sure our needs were met first, which we appreciated.

We were also happy with the prompt response we received when we contacted the company via email. All of our inquiries were returned within a couple of hours and included detailed and helpful answers to our questions.

For self-guided assistance, the vendor also provides  a complete library of resources on its website with tips for both using the payroll system and running a small business.

Gusto Drawbacks

You can’t pay employees outside of the U.S. through Gusto, though the vendor does offer an add-on to compensate international contractors. In this age of remote work when more companies than ever have internationally distributed workforces, it would be helpful if businesses using Gusto weren’t limited to U.S. employees.

It’s surprising Gusto doesn’t have a dedicated mobile app to complement its software. While users can access the platform via their mobile device’s browser, most business software companies these days provide Android and iOS apps. The Gusto Wallet mobile app is primarily intended to help employees learn how to save money, and it comes with limited time-tracking and paycheck features. 

Another potential downside of Gusto is its cost. While the price of its Simple plan is in line with similar packages from other payroll services, Gusto’s higher-tier plans are more expensive. However, it is important to remember that those more expensive packages serve multiple functions for your business, and signing up for the most comprehensive plan is cheaper than hiring a full-time HR professional.

Lastly, we were disappointed to find that Gusto is not an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau, and the company has an F rating. (Paychex, in comparison, has an A+ rating.) Gusto had 147 complaints filed against it in the past three years.

Methodology

To get an understanding of how Gusto works, we attended a 30-minute demo with a vendor representative who walked us through the software and answered our questions. During this demo, we got a sense of how easy the software is to navigate and how its features work.

We also contacted the company and posed as a potential customer to see what their customer service was like. We walked away from this phone conversation very satisfied with our experience. As part of our investigation, we compared Gusto to dozens of other payroll providers. This helped us see where the platform stood out and areas where it could improve. 

During our evaluation of the top payroll services, we looked at each product’s payroll features, usability, pricing, customer support, integrations and implementation. To find the best payroll company for businesses seeking added HR services, we considered what human resources services and assistance were provided, such as recruitment help and benefits administration.

Gusto FAQ

How do you use Gusto?

Use Gusto to run payroll, manage employee benefits and execute other HR services. Gusto makes it possible for companies to pay employees and contractors, and it takes care of your local, state and federal tax responsibilities. 

Does Gusto pay weekly?

Gusto can pay employees weekly if you’d like it to. As the employer, you can set up whatever pay schedule that works for your business, and you’ll be able to run payroll as many times as you want each month with no additional charges. [Read related article: How Frequently Should You Run Payroll?]

How much does Gusto cost?

The cost of Gusto depends on how many people you employ and which plan you select – the lowest plan, for example, starts at $40 per month, plus $6 per employee per month. If you don’t have any full-time employees, you can choose the Contractor package, which costs just $6 per contractor. 

Bottom Line

We recommend Gusto for …

  • Small businesses or startups looking for a full-service payroll provider.
  • Companies in need of additional HR services on top of payroll processing.
  • Business owners who want to offer and manage employee benefits, like health insurance and retirement plans. 

We do not recommend Gusto for …

  • Businesses that need to pay employees outside the U.S.
  • Businesses that want payroll software with a dedicated mobile app. 
Gusto Payroll Software logo

Gusto Payroll Software

The Verdict

Gusto is our choice for the best payroll service with added HR tools because it offers service plans that include a number of human resources services, such as access to an HR professional who can provide advice on all HR-related issues.

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Jamie Johnson
Jamie Johnson
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about finance and business. She has also written for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fox Business and Business Insider. Jamie has written about a variety of B2B topics like finance, business funding options and accounting. She also writes about how businesses can grow through effective social media and email marketing strategies.