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Best Payroll Services for 2021

By Chad Brooks,
Business News Daily Staff
| Updated
Mar 31, 2021

Business News Daily conducted extensive research to find the best payroll service providers for small businesses in 2021, including solutions for sole proprietors and household employers.
Best for Larger Businesses
Payment method flexibility
Three pricing tiers
Exceptional onboarding reports
Best for Small Businesses
No software installations
Employee portal
Flexible service plans
Best for Ease of Use
User-friendly software
Advanced features
Optional PEO service
Best for Very Small Businesses
User-friendly web platform
One plan for all users
Exceptional customer service
Best for Complex Businesses
Scalable platform
Payroll tax service
Mobile payroll processing
Business News Daily conducted extensive research to find the best payroll service providers for small businesses in 2021, including solutions for sole proprietors and household employers.

The Best Payroll Providers

  • Payroll processing is necessary to ensure employees and independent contractors are paid what they are owed on time.
  • Online payroll software can improve a company's payroll processing, automate payroll tax preparation, and generate useful reports that offer decision-making support for employers.
  • As your business grows, your online payroll processing needs may evolve, eventually requiring a broader HR software suite to manage your organization.
  • This best-picks page is for small business owners who want to improve their ability to process payroll for employees and 1099 contractors.

Payroll is arguably the largest expense for businesses, and managing it can be a daunting task. The process can be time-consuming, and errors can result in both unhappy employees and fines. To ease the burden, many small businesses are turning to online payroll services. These services handle all of a business's payroll processing and related tax filings and payments. 

With so many to choose from in 2021, finding the service that suits your needs can be tough, so we researched more than 70 of the top payroll companies to help you find the best fit for your business. If you are interested in learning more about payroll services, you can check out our guide to choosing a payroll service.

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Our Reviews

Paychex: Best for Larger Businesses

Employees can be paid by direct deposit, paper checks and pay cards.
Paper checks can be printed or mailed. Paychex includes a host of HR-related services.
Paychex doesn't provide pricing online for its Select and Enterprise service packages.
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Paychex is a full-featured payroll service that manages payroll processing and tax obligations. The company offers a flexible payroll schedule, with weekly, biweekly, semimonthly and monthly options. Paychex can also manage all types of employees, including part-time W-2 workers, 1099 contractors and freelancers.

Paychex also offers multiple payment methods, including direct deposit, paper checks and prepaid debit cards. Every payment method your business uses with Paychex can be branded, keeping your company top of mind for any suppliers or other parties you pay.

Paychex is a cloud-hosted system, so it's accessible online. You can also use the Paychex mobile application to manage your payroll on any iOS or Android device. Using Paychex is as easy as entering your payroll information (such as salaries, hours worked and pay rates) and submitting the payroll for processing. Paychex also offers employee self-service, allowing your workers to log in to the system and see their own pay stubs and year-end tax documents.

Paychex offers multiple pricing plans that are suitable for businesses of various sizes and needs. Pricing for each plan is based on your specific needs.

  • Go: The Go plan is the most basic, lowest-cost plan Paychex offers. It includes payroll processing and payroll tax preparation services, as well as time and attendance tracking and new-hire onboarding reports.
  • Flex Select: The Flex Select plan expands on the offerings of the Go plan by adding access to a dedicated payroll specialist to advise your business. It also includes pre-employment screening, onboarding support, wage garnishment services, labor compliance poster kits, and the option to pay employees with paper checks.
  • Flex Enterprise: Flex Enterprise adds custom analytics, custom reports and HR administration tools to the package. It is designed for larger organizations with sprawling HR departments, offering the most granular control over every aspect of your business's HR administration. This gives large companies the ability to manage recruiting, hiring, onboarding, compensation, benefits, and offboarding all through Paychex's HR platform.

March 2020:

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Intuit QuickBooks Payroll: Best for Small Businesses

QuickBooks Payroll has numerous service plans in a range of prices.
This solution fully integrates with QuickBooks' accounting software.
Not all service plans include an error-free tax guarantee.
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Intuit QuickBooks Payroll provides small businesses with scalable payroll services that easily integrate with QuickBooks. The service collects and reports all payroll taxes and offers a variety of helpful tools. It is available in several plans with a range of services and prices.

Among the companies we reviewed, QuickBooks Payroll provides some of the most flexible payroll plan options. The services are broken down into Online Payroll and Desktop Payroll, each of which can have QuickBooks' accounting software added into it. This gives you the opportunity to get more services in one plan.

While some plans focus solely on payroll processing, others include a variety of human resources services, which are valuable for small businesses that don't have the luxury of an in-house HR team. Each plan includes a 30-day free trial.

These are the Online Payroll pricing tiers:

  • Core: This is the lowest-cost plan at $45 per month, plus $4 per employee. It includes health benefits, workers' compensation management, next-day direct deposit and automatic payroll options.
  • Premium: The Premium plan costs $75 per month, plus $8 per employee. It includes same-day direct deposit, access to an HR support center, mobile time tracking and expert setup review.

  • Elite: The Elite plan costs $125 per month, plus $10 per employee. It includes customized setup, project tracking, and a tax penalty protection of up to $25,000. Elite plan subscribers also receive a dedicated HR specialist who can offer guidance as needed.

These are the Desktop Payroll pricing plans:

  • Basic: The Basic plan is for payroll processing only. It includes direct deposit, printable paychecks, support for W-2 and 1099 employees, and live customer support. It costs $29 per month, plus $2 for each employee.
  • Enhanced: The Enhanced plan includes state and federal payroll tax preparation, but the responsibility for making payments on time remains yours. This plan also includes a printable version of all year-end tax forms for employees. It costs $45 per month, plus $2 per employee.
  • Assisted Payroll: The Assisted plan calculates, files and pays payroll taxes for you. It also provides a tax guarantee that your payroll taxes will be paid on time and accurately. The company will set up all your employee information in its system and handle the preparation and payment of all payroll taxes. The company will also cover any costs of fines or penalties associated with delays or errors. This plan costs $109 per month, plus $2 per employee.

Because of these flexible payroll options for small businesses, we chose QuickBooks Payroll as the best payroll service for small businesses.

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Rippling: Best for Ease of Use

Rippling syncs data from more than 400 applications to automate payroll and accounting functions.
Rippling offers a user-friendly interface that requires minimal training.
There is no free trial available, meaning you will have to pay to try it out.
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Rippling's online payroll software has a user-friendly interface that requires little to no training for new users. Payroll processing is so simple that it can be run in 90 seconds – a testament to the many different sources from which Rippling pulls data. It works with more than 400 applications to improve your payroll processing, payroll tax preparation and accounting.

Neatly organized on the dashboard are key metrics, like time worked by employee, paid time off and total labor expenses. You can manage direct deposits directly in Rippling, or you can use paper checks – whichever method your employees prefer. Rippling automatically deducts tax withholdings according to an employee's filing status.

Plans start at $8 per user per month, but custom quotes are available for businesses with unique needs. Rippling requires all payroll customers to be on its employee management platform, which includes other HR tools that cover areas like onboarding, benefits administration, promotions, offboarding, time and attendance, and device management capabilities.

Rippling automatically compiles the necessary data for payroll tax preparation. The system automatically identifies applicable local, state, and federal forms, pulling in relevant data to fill much of them out automatically. You can then file and remit payments directly through Rippling. If your business operates across national borders, Rippling offers international payment support.

You can also use Rippling to track employee paid time off and create a PTO policy for its accrual and use. In Rippling, a PTO request automatically generates when payroll is run, requiring no additional action from the approving manager.

Reporting is critical in payroll software, and Rippling delivers on this as well. With easily understandable visualizations like donut charts and bar graphs, the software allows you to customize your reports and review virtually any metric you choose. Rippling's data-reporting ability is particularly powerful because it integrates with so many other software platforms.

For companies that want an even closer partner, Rippling offers a PEO service in addition to its employee management platform.


OnPay: Best for Very Small Businesses

OnPay has one simple cost structure for all users.
OnPay's customer service was among the best we encountered during our research.
OnPay doesn't have a dedicated mobile app.
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OnPay's online payroll services allow small businesses to run an unlimited number of payrolls each month and pay employees by direct deposit or paper check. The online system is user-friendly and manages paid time off (PTO).

When you own a very small business, time is especially precious; running your own payroll would take you away from your business, and a large and complex payroll platform could work against your business's needs. OnPay meets very small businesses at the right level with an easy-to-use solution that emphasizes simplicity without sacrificing value.

OnPay customer service reps are available to help you every step of the way. You can enjoy an intuitive platform that breaks payroll down into a few easy steps. It's simple and straightforward to add employees, set statuses, and run payroll.

One of the best features OnPay offers is the ability to run payroll an unlimited number of times. This is especially useful for businesses that pay employees on a weekly basis, or pay freelancers frequently for various small projects.

OnPay includes a useful payroll tax and benefit deduction withholding system. OnPay also offers payroll tax preparation, tracking up-to-date forms and information from local, state, and federal governments. The company will cover the cost of any fines that are due to errors in your filings or payments.

OnPay offers one pricing plan for businesses of all sizes. The base fee is $36 per month, plus $4 per employee per month. Independent contractors or freelancers count as employees under this model, so you will be charged for any applicable 1099 payments you make.

OnPay also charges a fee for mailing year-end tax forms. It can prepare downloadable W-2s and 1099s for free, but if you want OnPay to send hard copies directly to your employees, you'll pay $5 per recipient plus shipping costs.

February 2021: OnPay has upgraded its reporting capabilities, allowing users to create custom expense reports. The reporting tool offers the ability to add up to 50 data points to key reports, reorder columns to emphasize important data, and save multiple views for different company stakeholders. Businesses that have taken advantage of coronavirus-relief programs can also use OnPay's reporting features to account for their expenses.

Read Review

ADP: Best for Complex Businesses

ADP offers multiple service plans to meet your needs.
ADP is the payroll software industry's market share leader.
ADP charges on a per-payroll basis, which could really add up if you have different pay schedules for various employee types.
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ADP is a scalable platform that has all the tools necessary for a complex business, such as one that operates in a highly regulated industry or across state or even national borders. ADP works for many industries and verticals, making it a great tool for businesses with complicated or wide-ranging needs.

This company offers specified payroll platforms for small, midsize and large businesses. Its Run platform is designed for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, while its Workforce Now platform is for businesses with 50 to 999 employees. Organizations with more than 1,000 employees have various options, including the Enterprise platform.

ADP offers four pricing plans for customers:

  • Essential: This plan includes an employee self-service portal, direct deposit payment, prepaid debit cards and paper checks. It also offers onboarding and payroll reports, other new-hire onboarding tools, and a small business marketing toolkit.
  • Enhanced: This plan includes everything in the Essential plan, plus state unemployment insurance management and the option to have ADP sign and stuff paper checks for you. You also have the option to run background checks on new hires and to post new job openings on ZipRecruiter.
  • Complete: The Complete plan includes an employee handbook wizard, job posting and applicant tracking, five background checks per year, HR forms and documents, and HR training and toolkits. Your business will be assigned a team of HR experts who can offer guidance on HR-related issues and answer your questions.
  • HR Pro: The HR Pro plan includes HR helpdesk support, more employee handbook support, employer or employee training, and sexual harassment prevention training. Legal assistance from Upnetic is also included.

The breadth of ADP's services alone makes it a standout payroll provider. Payroll processing is especially flexible with ADP; you can manage it on your desktop or mobile device (iOS or Android) as well as over the phone. ADP automates payroll tasks such as calculating an employee's paycheck based on their wages and time off, saving you time and reducing the likelihood of human error.

ADP's payroll software can easily integrate with its other services, like its time and attendance software. If you're interested in a full suite of business solutions, ADP gives you several different packages to choose from.

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Gusto Payroll Software: Best for Added HR Services

Gusto has payroll-only plans, as well as plans with full HR services.
Gusto does not require a long-term contract.
The company has a poor rating with the Better Business Bureau.
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Gusto handles all payroll and payroll tax responsibilities for both W-2 employees and 1099 freelancers and contractors. The cloud-based system is easy to use and offers a variety of valuable features, including direct deposit, an autopilot tool, new-hire reporting and detailed payroll reports.

A standout component of this payroll service is its vast array of HR tools and features in some of the higher-priced plans. These features include access to HR professionals who can provide advice and guide you through a litany of HR-related issues.

Gusto offers four service plans, which range from $19 to $149 per month plus $6 to $12 per employee per month.

  • Core: This is the lowest-cost Gusto plan, with a starting base fee of $19 per month, plus $6 per employee. The base fee increases to $39 six months after sign-up. This plan includes payroll processing services, an employee portal, health benefits, workers' compensation administration, and management tools for paid time off (PTO).
  • Complete: The Complete plan costs $39 per month, plus $12 per employee each month. It builds on the Core plan with new-hire offer and onboarding tools, more complete PTO management, and employee directories and surveys.
  • Concierge: The Concierge plan is the top tier of Gusto's offerings, starting at a base fee of $149 per month, plus $12 per employee per month. It builds on the Complete plan by adding HR on-demand services (i.e., HR expert guidance upon request). It also includes a dedicated support team that is assigned solely to your account and knows your business well.
  • Contractor: Gusto also offers a contractor-only plan for employers who only work with independent contractors or freelancers. This plan has no base fee; it simply charges $6 per contractor paid per month. You can pay contractors as often as you like, generate 1099s, and allow freelancers to update their information in the employee portal.

Gusto makes running payroll easy and requires minimal training for users to become proficient with the software. To run payroll, all you need to do is log in, click the "Run Payroll" tab, and provide the requested information. When this is complete, simply click "Submit Payroll" and your employees (or contractors) will be paid. Most of Gusto's functions are similarly easy to navigate.

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Deluxe: Best for Consultative Approach to Payroll

Deluxe offers full-service payroll backed by a dedicated customer service team that can facilitate and optimize your processes.
Deluxe handles all implementation and configuration, removing a burden from your business and ensuring it's done correctly.
Deluxe only offers custom pricing and requires a consultation with a sales representative.

In addition to its online payroll software, Deluxe offers a customer service team to provide support whenever you need it. This team is dedicated to your account, so it will know your business and its needs inside and out, helping you to improve your payroll department and realize new efficiencies.

Pricing is fully custom and depends on the features and services your business requires and the size of your business. Deluxe develops a singular approach for each client, given the consultative nature of its team, so it can be difficult to understand the full scope of services Deluxe offers. To understand exactly how Deluxe can fit into your workflow and budget, you'll need to contact a sales representative for a custom quote.

Deluxe's payroll processing tool is easy to use, allowing you to complete payroll in just three steps. It's also precise, allowing you to adjust pay for fractions of hours worked. You can use it to issue paper checks or direct deposit payments, and generate a series of reports to monitor your labor expenses.

Your dedicated customer service team can offer tax advice or general guidance. These reps not only ensure your payroll tax compliance, but can also offer tips to save time and money on your reporting and filing processes.

Deluxe includes employer and employee portals. The employer portal enables payroll management and custom reporting. The employee portal shows pay stubs and withholdings, time-off requests, and direct deposit information. Employees can use the portal to review and update this information for themselves.

Deluxe interfaces with dozens of third-party software providers, including accounting software and point-of-sale systems. The integration process includes seamless data migration.


Square Payroll: Best for Payroll Tax Preparation

Square is user-friendly and intuitive, requiring minimal training.
Square combines payroll data with applicable tax rules to ensure tax compliance and help you meet filing deadlines.
Square requires you to set up your own third-party software integrations.
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You may know Square as a payment processing platform, but the company also offers an online payroll service. Square Payroll is easy-to-use software with no frills. It has all the features we looked for in a payroll software company, yet it retains the lightweight feel for which its payment processing counterpart is so well known.

You can use Square Payroll to process payroll for W-2 employees and 1099 contractors. It streamlines payroll by automating the preparation of tax forms based on the data that already exists within your system. It also offers a straightforward payroll processing routine, making it easy to ensure all types of employees are paid promptly.

Customer support options include phone, email and live chat. The live chat tool is built directly into the software and allows you to contact payroll specialists who understand how to optimize payroll processes.

Square can integrate with many time and attendance systems as well as point-of-sale software. The system tracks employee hours automatically, and when it comes time to process payroll, you can pay employees using their Square balance, rather than their bank account.

In addition to payroll processing, Square offers management tools that can help you keep your team on task and working together. This is especially important since many companies have shifted to a remote work model in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no contract requirement for Square Payroll. Pricing plans start at $29 per month, plus $5 per employee paid. Alternatively, there is a contractors-only option, which allows you to pay 1099 contractors for $5 per payment with no monthly base fee.


Zenefits: Best Payroll Module in HR Software Suite

Zenefits is a full HR platform that includes online payroll software as one module among many.
Zenefits' payroll system relies on the data collected in other modules of the HR platform to improve payroll processing and tax preparation.
Zenefits is not ideal if all you need is payroll software; it works best as part of the broader HR platform.

Zenefits offers easy-to-use payroll software that enables you to run payroll in four easy steps. Making manual adjustments, such as including bonuses, is also easy when running payroll. Zenefits Payroll offers unlimited payroll processing, wage garnishment support, direct deposits, tips reporting, multiple pay schedules and rate tables, 1099 contractor payments, general ledger reports, and mobile pay stubs.

Zenefits Payroll seamlessly integrates with other Zenefits HR modules, including Time and Scheduling, Benefits, and HR. Zenefits Payroll works best in this environment, because these integrations expand its functionality and it leans heavily on the data in other modules to run payroll.

For example, the connection between Zenefits Payroll and HR enables easy changes to benefits and salaries, while an integration with Time and Scheduling allows it to tabulate paid time off automatically when running payroll.

Zenefits Payroll is an add-on to this larger HR software suite, which has three pricing plans:

  • Essentials: This is a low-cost plan that offers the core features of online payroll, starting at $10 per employee per month (at the time of this writing, a 20% discount is in effect, dropping the per-employee price to $8). The Essentials plan includes Core HR, Time and Scheduling, third-party integrations, and access to the mobile app.

  • Growth: Zenefits' Growth plan starts at $18 per employee per month (discounted to $14 at the time of this writing). It includes compensation and performance management tools on top of the Essentials plan's features. This plan is a good choice for businesses that anticipate continued growth in the near future.

  • Zen: The Zen plan starts at $27 per employee per month (discounted to $21 at the time of this writing). It includes a well-being module, employee engagement surveys, and a "people hub," which allows employees and managers to join a social media-style collaborative digital environment.

Zenefits Payroll can be added on to any of these plans for an additional $6 per employee per month. Unfortunately, the payroll module cannot be purchased on its own.  When paired with Zenefits' larger HR platform, however, the payroll module is a very useful tool for growing businesses.


Paycor: Best for Employee Self-Service

Paycor offers a self-service portal where employees can confirm their information and check their compensation.
Paycor streamlines payroll tax preparation and ensures employers meet target deadlines.
Paycor charges a flat monthly rate instead of a per-employee fee, so businesses with very small teams might pay more for it than they would for other software.

Paycor offers very easy-to-use online payroll software that has an employee self-service portal for reviewing compensation data and updating personal or financial information. Employees can also use the portal to request paid time off, monitor their payments, review their benefits, and access their pay stubs.

Paycor offers three pricing plans, each with a flat monthly rate. This is somewhat unusual in the online payroll software industry, where most companies charge a monthly base rate plus a monthly per-employee fee. Paycor's model might prove cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses, but it could save midsize and large businesses some money as they continue to expand.

  • Basic: The Basic plan is $99 per month. It includes payroll processing, payroll tax filing, PDF reports, access to the Paycor mobile app, and employee self-service for wage garnishment and child support information.

  • Essential: The Essential plan is $149 per month. It expands on the Basic plan with PTO requests and manager approvals, new-hire onboarding and tax filing, and compliance checklists and templates.

  • Complete: The Complete plan is $199 per month. It adds advanced analytics and data benchmarking, integrations with 401(k) providers, and dedicated account manager support.

Of course, prices may go up if you choose add-on services or HR features beyond the payroll module.


Costs to Implement Payroll Services

Small business payroll services typically have a monthly or per-payroll cost structure. With monthly plans, you pay a base fee and a per-employee fee. Base fees are usually $30 to $150 per month, and per-employee fees range from $2 to $15 per month.

With a monthly fee structure, you can run payroll as often as you like for one flat fee. With a per-payroll fee structure, companies charge anywhere from $10 to $100 per payroll run, plus per-employee fees of $2 to $15 per month. In addition, some payroll companies charge extra for year-end tax service and initial setup fees.

Most online payroll services offer free trials of one to two months, giving you the chance to try out the software for at least a couple of payroll runs to see if it meets your needs.

Key takeawayKey takeaway: Most online payroll services charge a base monthly fee of $30 to $150 per month, plus per-employee fees of $2 to $15 per month.

How Do Payroll Services Work?

Payroll services handle all of your payroll processing and payroll tax needs. An online payroll service calculates how much each employee should be paid based on their pay rate and required deductions.

Most employees have a choice to be paid by direct deposit, paper check or prepaid debit card. It is important to note that the money the payroll service uses to pay the employees comes out of the employer's bank account. Typically, the money is withdrawn from the business's account on selected days before the final payments are made to employees.

The other critical task payroll services handle is ensuring a business's adherence to payroll tax requirements. Payroll services withhold the proper amounts from each employee's paycheck and determine how much payroll tax the employer is responsible for. The payroll service also fills out and files the necessary paperwork and makes the payroll tax payments directly to the proper federal, state and local agencies.

Payroll services can also handle other tasks, such as filing new-hire reports with the state, managing PTO and overseeing benefits administration.

Key takeawayKey takeaway: Payroll services handle all payroll calculations, payments and tax requirements for a business.

Payroll Software Features

Payroll services offer a variety of features and tools that streamline payroll processing for small businesses. Here are some of the most valuable features:

  • Unlimited payroll processing. Some payroll services allow you to run payroll as many times as you want each month, giving you the freedom to determine the pay periods that make the most sense for your employees. This flexibility also lets you pay independent contractors whenever they complete a project without paying extra for additional payroll runs.

  • Payment options. Most online payroll services allow you to pay employees by direct deposit, paper checks and prepaid debit cards.

  • Payroll tax. Online payroll services determine how much your business owes in payroll taxes; complete and file the paperwork with the appropriate federal, state, and local tax agencies; and make the required payments.

  • Year-end tax forms. Payroll services prepare all of the necessary year-end tax forms for your workforce, including W-2 and 1099 forms, and provide them to your employees and independent contractors.

  • PTO management. Some payroll services handle some or all of your PTO management. This includes tracking how much paid time off employees earn and use, as well as allowing employees to request time off and managers to approve or deny those requests.

  • Employee self-service. The software has an online portal that employees can access to view their pay stubs and year-end tax forms.

  • New-hire reporting. Many payroll services can complete and file the required paperwork each time you hire a new employee. This paperwork needs to be filed in the state where your business operates.

  • Mobile access. Most payroll services provide either a dedicated mobile app for iOS and Android devices or a mobile-friendly website, ensuring the payroll software is accessible from smartphones and tablets.

  • HR services. In recent years, many payroll services have started offering additional HR services, such as onboarding tools, employee benefits management and HR compliance. Additionally, some payroll services give your business access to a dedicated human resources professional who can help you navigate HR issues.

Key takeawayKey takeaway: Valuable features of the best online payroll services include unlimited payroll processing, the ability to pay employees in multiple ways, assistance with year-end tax forms, PTO management, employee self-service and mobile access.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about payroll software and services.

What is online payroll software?

Online payroll software and online payroll services are essentially the same thing. The payroll software is the cloud-based solution provided by the online payroll service company; in other words, it's the interface you use to run the payroll and add new employees to the system. Most online payroll software is easy to use and allows you to process payroll in minutes. 

What other benefits does payroll software provide? 

There are several big benefits of using comprehensive online payroll software. One major plus is its efficiency. You don't have to hire someone to handle all of your payroll needs, because pretty much anyone can use the software. In most cases, all you need to do when running payroll each pay period is to enter the hours each employee worked and any bonuses or commissions they earned. The software does the rest for you: It calculates the pay amounts, withholds the proper deductions, and automatically deposits the money into each employee's bank account. 

Another benefit is that the payroll company takes care of the tax filings and payments for you. Most offer a tax guarantee, so if the payroll service makes a mistake when filing or paying your taxes, it will fix the problem and pay any fines you incur. 

What type of payroll service is right for my small business? 

When you're choosing an online payroll service for your small business, there are several factors to consider. First and foremost, make sure it can handle all of your payroll and payroll tax needs. Can you run payroll as often as you like? Will the service make the deductions you need? Does it give your employees self-service access? 

Also consider whether the payroll solution is easy to use. The online interface should be simple to understand, and it should allow you to run payroll in a matter of minutes. 

Depending on your business's needs, you may benefit from a payroll company that offers additional services, such as a time and attendance system or HR solutions. 

What is unique about comprehensive payroll companies? 

Comprehensive payroll companies do much more than prepare your business's payroll; they also handle your payroll tax needs, manage your employees' paid time off, report your new hires to the proper agencies, and offer workers' compensation insurance. Many comprehensive payroll solutions also offer HR management, benefits administration, time and attendance services, and 401(k) and college savings programs. 

Why are payroll services important for small businesses? 

Many small businesses don't have a dedicated HR team that knows the ins and outs of payroll, so they rely on payroll companies to manage those responsibilities for them. They depend on these services to ensure that their employees are paid properly each month and that their payroll taxes are filed and paid appropriately. 

Online payroll services give small businesses the peace of mind that, with just a few clicks, their employees will get the money they are owed and the proper payroll taxes will be withheld. This way, you don't have to worry about whether you filed the tax documents correctly and are paying the right amounts. In fact, online payroll services are so confident in handling these tasks that most services offer an error-free guarantee.

What's involved in implementing payroll software?

It doesn't take a lot to get payroll software up and running. Once you prove your business is legitimate, you can connect your business's bank account to the payroll service. Next, you enter your employees' information. In addition to the basics – including their names, addresses and Social Security numbers – you must input their pay rates and withholding information. Employees who want to be paid by direct deposit can enter their banking information in the system's online portal.

With that information, you can set your pay schedule and start processing payroll. Although it's easy to enter the details yourself, some payroll services handle it for you. Some charge an additional fee for this, while others include this service in their base fees.

Do payroll service providers offer mobile applications?

Yes, most payroll providers offer mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. Most of these apps allow administrators to run payroll, review past payroll runs and pay payroll taxes. Additionally, employees can use the mobile apps to review their pay stubs, pay history and PTO accruals.

How long does payroll take to process?

This varies by payroll provider, but many payroll services complete the process within two days. This means that payroll administrators need to submit the final payroll numbers two days before payday.

Are there any free payroll software solutions?

There are several free payroll software solutions, including Payroll4Free.comWave Payroll and eSmart Paycheck. However, before choosing a free program, make sure it meets your company's basic needs. A free program is great for a business that's just starting out; it can help you manage tax calculations, wage garnishments, and Social Security and benefits deductions. However, when using a free service, you may have to sacrifice a few features, like customer service or security tools. 

Should you use a payroll service or hire an accountant?

You should hire an accountant if you need help managing the collection and reporting aspects of payroll processing. Accountants can analyze your payroll and provide valuable guidance for your business.

However, hiring an accountant can be expensive. The average hourly fee for an accountant is $33.89 per hour, and certified public accountants charge an average of $160 to $275 per hour. Payroll services, by comparison, usually cost about $29 to $150 per month, with an additional fee of $2 to $12 per employee per month.

How can you save money on payroll?

To save money on payroll, consider outsourcing your payroll tasks. When managing it yourself, you may not do it correctly or on time – and mistakes or late processing can result in hefty penalties and fines. You may also consider looking for a free payroll service. However, most free payroll services don't offer all of the features and tools paid offerings do.

Using a time and attendance system is also a way to save money on your payroll, because it helps ensure you aren't paying employees for time they didn't work. When using a paper timesheet, employees can easily add a few minutes that they didn't actually work. Paying employees for those few minutes might not seem like a big deal, but if this becomes a habit, the costs can really add up. A digital time and attendance system forces your team to input exact times, which keeps you from overpaying your staff. 

What are unpaid payroll tax penalties?

Unpaid payroll tax penalties apply when an employer fails to pay the Internal Revenue Service the proper amount of payroll tax funds they owe. Failure to complete Form 941 or to provide proper documentation, like W-2s or 1099s, is another problem. To avoid fines, you also need to make sure your deposits are on time.

What is an example of a payroll tax?

An example of payroll tax is the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. This is a mandatory payroll deduction that employers pay to the IRS to cover Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare for employees.

What do you do with unclaimed paychecks?

If you are in possession of unclaimed paychecks, this does not mean you get to keep them. According to escheat laws, unclaimed paychecks become abandoned property and must be signed over to the appropriate state's treasury agency after a certain amount of time. This means that, if someone who works for you never claims their paycheck, you need to return it to the state where that person last worked. When submitting these documents to the appropriate agency, be sure to disclose all of the attempts you made to contact the employee about their check.

What is a pay period?

A pay period is the recurring length of time during which an employee's wages are calculated for payment. Pay periods can be weekly, biweekly, semimonthly or monthly. Learn about the pros and cons of each schedule and issues to keep in mind so you can choose the best schedule for your business.

What is the difference between payroll and salary?

Payroll is the system a company uses to record wages (and salaries), pay employees and track payments (and the payroll taxes you've paid). A salary, on the other hand, is a fixed, consistent payment, usually listed as an annual figure, that you give to specific employees. Learn whether it's best to pay your employees a salary or an hourly wage.

Our Methodology

To determine which payroll services are best for small businesses and household employers in 2021, we spent dozens of hours researching the top online payroll companies. Here is an explanation of our selection process:

Locating the Best Services

To determine the best payroll services for businesses, we started with a pool of more than 70 online payroll service providers. Following preliminary research of other best-picks lists, we interviewed small business owners to discover new providers to add to our list.

Choosing the Best Services

After conducting some initial research into each payroll service, we settled on 15 to consider as best picks for our business categories: ADP, APS, BenefitMall, Big Fish Payroll Services, Fuse Workforce Management, GetPayroll, Gusto, QuickBooks Payroll, OnPay, Patriot Software, Paychex, Paycor, Paylocity, SurePayroll and Wagepoint.

Researching Each Service

Next, we scrutinized each finalist. We reviewed their offerings, watched tutorials and how-to videos, read user comments, reviewed Better Business Bureau ratings and complaints, and tested out services when demos were available. After narrowing down the list to our final contenders, we contacted each company, posing as business owners, to test their customer support and learn more about their services.

Analyzing Each Service

In all, we looked at cost, tax services, ease of use, customer service, integration options, incentives (e.g., free trials, free months), tax guarantees, mobile accessibility, payroll reports, employee self-service, extra services (e.g., employee retirement plans, workers' compensation), and Better Business Bureau ratings and complaints.

Best Household Employers

We followed a similar methodology to determine the best payroll service for household employers. In addition to SurePayroll and QuickBooks Payroll, which have plans tailored to household employers, we considered five companies that specialize in payroll services for household employees: NannyChex, HomeWork Solutions, Savvy Nanny Payroll Services, GTM Payroll Services and HomePay.

Community Expert Insight

As a part of our research, we reached out to online payroll software users to learn which solutions they find most valuable and what they like about them.

Aalap Shah, founder of 1o8, a consumer-packaged-goods growth agency based in Chicago, said he uses QuickBooks Payroll for his team of nine employees. Having tried other options, Shah said he appreciates the software's seamless integration, ease of use and added options.

"It's easy to set up team members on the platform and provide them a login for them to review their paystubs and such," Shah told Business News Daily. "The functionality and options are endless, including the ability to add in health benefits and workers' comp insurance with a few clicks."

The customer support is also a plus for Shah. "The support is pretty awesome," he said. "Usually, I get a response within five to 10 minutes via chat, and email is within 24 hours."

Rick Hoskins, founder of Filter King, said he is a fan of QuickBooks Payroll because it integrates well with the QuickBooks accounting software and allows him to focus on payroll while his HR staff attends to more pressing needs.

"I pay $85 per month for a very smart, integrated accounting and payroll service," Hoskins said. "Having set this up myself, my HR manager is able to concentrate more of her time on employee wellness and helping employees settle into a life of remote work. This, for me, is my company's top priority right now."

Phil Ash, founder of Pro Paint Corner, said he uses Gusto for his team of five employees. Before using Gusto, Ash spent an exorbitant amount of time on payroll, which didn't leave him enough time for other tasks, like developing marketing strategies.

"I have been in investment and finance for 25 years and can assure you that it is time-consuming to be filing tax reports," Ash said. "Gusto does it for you, and if you are not a finance expert like myself, then it will be an even larger relief."

Having a remote team spread across the country, Tim Milazzo, co-founder and CEO of StackSource, said he appreciates Gusto for taking so many compliance issues off his plate.

"They do all the compliance from state to state, which would be arduous for a national/remote team like us," Milazzo said. "I'll never use anything else."

Alex Thompson, director of Festoon House, said he has used QuickBooks Payroll and Gusto but switched to OnPay because of the cost structure. He likes OnPay because it allows for unlimited pay runs and is easy to use.

"OnPay has an intuitive interface where it's easy to navigate the different areas for verifying information and setting up transactions," Thompson said. "It's also easy to add things such as retirement plans [and] health and dental [benefits]."

Key takeaway: The business leaders we heard from pointed to QuickBooks Payroll, Gusto and OnPay as some of the payroll services they use, in part because of the services' ease of use and the tasks they handle.

What to Expect in 2021

The global necessity to embrace digital solutions will further streamline the 2021 adoption of online payroll services powered by cloud computing. Cloud software eliminates the need for payroll to be handled onsite, and both the rise in digital platforms dedicated to online payroll management and a need to reduce staffing costs have incentivized businesses to outsource the function. The expected growth of the outsourced payroll industry increased by 27% in 2020 alone, and experts predict that rate to increase again in 2021.

Digital payroll platforms also allow the flexibility to account for varying work-from-home schedules and incoming federal changes and guidelines regarding 2021 sick-leave policies. Automated software can also ease the transition for many businesses that will rely more on freelancers as they resume their prior growth trajectories in 2021.

Businesses should also prepare for a postponed tax schedule that is further clouded by the uncertain status of 2020 Paycheck Protection Program loans. Experts predict an inevitable delay to tax season after the IRS announced that it currently holds over 1 million unprocessed tax returns and 3 million pieces of unopened mail, while banks still await answers from the government regarding the payment of those PPP loans. Depending on various global factors such as further stimulus packages, relief funds, and political transitions, the 2021 tax landscape sits in an unpredictable state.

Key takeawayKey takeaway: Expect continued adoption of cloud-based online payroll software, driven largely by businesses looking for cost-saving efficiencies. Additionally, changes to federal paid-leave policies could impact many businesses and require online payroll software vendors to adapt to new rules. Finally, a second postponed tax deadline for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic has altered due dates once again.

Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks
Business News Daily Staff
See Chad Brooks's Profile
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has spent more than 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad 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. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014.

Full List of Payroll Services

Square Payroll
Square Payroll is designed specifically for businesses with hourly employees. With this system, hourly employees can clock in and out from the register, and their hours automatically import into the system. They can also set up direct deposit and access their pay stubs online. Square Payroll handles all state and federal payroll tax responsibilities, including all the necessary withholdings, payments, and filings. In addition, Square offers employees and employers access to a full suite of benefits, including health insurance and retirement savings plans. This service is available in all 50 states.
Ace Payroll offers online payroll services that allow employers to choose how their payroll is processed and delivered. Payroll entry can be done via the web, phone or fax, and delivery can be done by mail, courier or print back. The system offers multiple layers of security protection and automatically keeps track of all salary and wage adjustments.
Advantage Payroll Services offers a wide variety of payroll-processing technology, including proprietary software, online payroll management and a centralized data network. In addition to payroll input via PC, phone or fax, the company's Instant Payroll product allows businesses to manage their payroll online. The company offers direct deposit and tax filing services at no additional charge.
Alliance Payroll Services' proprietary online software, AllPay, delivers paperless applicant tracking, onboarding, work opportunity tax credits, employee self-service, human resource management, benefit enrollment and payroll processing in a single database.
AmCheck offers three separate payroll plans. With each plan, AmCheck makes payroll deposits, files and reports all payroll taxes, and offers labor cost reporting. You can also build customized reports. The company's payroll solutions can be synced with almost every accounting software and time and attendance system.

Ascentis Payroll is an online payroll system that allows employers to process payroll in real time. It supports instant payroll processing, which allows employers to evaluate their payroll before creating checks rather than correcting errors after processing. Businesses can run payroll anytime, anywhere, and as many times as they need. All data is secured with AES 256-bit encryption, and Ascentis' security infrastructure includes Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems and firewalls to prevent and protect all security threats. Ascentis assigns each business its own dedicated support representative.

Big Fish Employer Services provides an online payroll service that manages every aspect of outsourced payroll, including calculating tax obligations, producing checks and preparing management reports. The company's payroll service allows direct deposit and employee self-service. Big Fish also offers time and attendance and human resources solutions.
CBIZ Flex-Pay Payroll Services provides checks or direct deposit to employees in all 50 states. With this service, you can call in, fax or email your payroll each period, or you can submit it online. Flex-Pay submits federal tax, federal unemployment tax, state tax and local tax withholdings information and files quarterly reports. The company also offers time and attendance and HR solutions.
Care.com HomePay by Breedlove offers total payroll and tax-filing management. The system calculates the precise withholdings each pay period and summarizes it in a preview email right before payday. You have the option to pay your household employees either with your own checks or via direct deposit. The company keeps track of both your employees' tax withholdings and your accrued employer taxes. Prior to each federal and state tax deadline, the service files all required returns on your behalf with the appropriate tax agencies. HomePay also takes care of all your year-end tax obligations.
Checkmate Payroll provides payroll services and files taxes in accordance with state and local requirements in more than 40 states. The company's system allows businesses to check their payroll information on the go and compare it against the last payroll period to ensure that figures are correct prior to processing. Services include direct deposit, payroll alerts, automated reciprocity tax withholding and year-end tax form processing.
Client Solutions Group's online management system provides the ability to collect and store data that's needed for hourly and salaried payrolls. With the system, businesses can create and review payrolls from any location that has an internet connection, process and preview payroll in real time, and provide employees with secure online access to paychecks and W-2 and 1099 forms.
The Coastal Human Resource Group (CHRG) online payroll service allows you to submit all payroll information via the web. Payments can be made by direct deposit or paper checks that are printed by CHRG and delivered in time for your designated payday. The service handles all payroll tax responsibilities. The company also offers human resources, employee benefits, compliance screening, workers' compensation insurance, PEO, and time and attendance services.
Comprehensive Payroll Company provides a cloud-based workforce management solution for small to mid-sized business and franchise owners. They offer a range of customizable services, including payroll processing and tax filings. Other services include programs for time and attendance, onboard and recruiting, human resources, benefit enrollment, ACA compliance, WOTC processing, 401(k) administration and workers' compensation. Comprehensive Payroll Company customizes its services for each business's exact needs.
DM Payroll Services serves businesses of all sizes. The company's payroll solution features employee self-service, paperless payroll, payroll processing and garnishments, tax filing services, remote check printing, check calculation, and funding notification. DM Payroll Services also offers HR and time and attendance solutions.

Deluxe shines when it comes to supporting your team in processing your company's payroll and complying with federal and state payroll tax laws. Not only do you gain access to Deluxe's online payroll software, but you are assigned a dedicated customer service team who can offer guidance and serve as a liaison between you and the company. Deluxe also offers additional service beyond payroll, including identity theft protection.

Deluxe's payroll processing tool is easy to use; users can complete payroll in three steps. It's also precise, allowing you to adjust pay for fractions of hours worked. It can be used to issue employee checks or direct deposit payments, as well as generate a series of reports to monitor your labor expenses.

You can also work with your dedicated customer service team for tax advice or general guidance. Not only can they help you comply with your payroll tax obligations, they can offer tips to improve your reporting and filing processes to save you time and money.

Deluxe includes employer and employee portals. Employers can run payroll and a variety of reports in their portal, while in the employee portal, workers can look up their paystubs and withholding information, as well as time-off requests and direct deposit information. Employees can also update their information here as well.

Deluxe interfaces with dozens of third-party software providers, including accounting software and point-of-sale (POS) systems. Integration includes seamless data migration as well.

Diamond Payroll prepares payroll checks, direct deposits or pay cards for employees; prepares check registers; prepares and submits federal and state payroll taxes; prepares and submits year-end W-2s and W-3 tax forms; and tracks employee vacation hours.
Emplloy gives businesses full control over payroll services. Features include unlimited payroll runs, digital pay stubs and more. The company tries to provide a flexible solution that best fits the needs of each individual client.
GTM Payroll Services offers two different household employer payroll options. The two packages are the same, except that with the EasyPay package, you can pay your employees via direct deposit or printed check. With the other package, EasyTax, you write your own payroll checks each week. Services in both packages are electronic tax filings, the ability to track paid time off, a self-service portal for your employees and year-end tax services.
GetPayroll is an online payroll service that manages all payroll and payroll tax responsibilities for businesses of all sizes. The service offers direct deposit, customized reporting, year-end W-2 and 1099 forms, and a lifetime employee portal that allows workers to log in after they have left the company to access their information. GetPayroll features a flat-rate pricing structure that doesn't include per-employee fees. It also offers Simon, a complete paperless payroll system that runs on mobile devices and is designed for microbusinesses with fewer than 10 employees.
Harpers Payroll Services is a full-service payroll provider that files taxes in all 50 states and offers direct deposit to any ACH-participating financial institution in the country. Services include paperless payroll, workers' compensation, automatic issuing of company checks, mandated tax payment to federal and state agencies, new-hire reporting, electronic wage reporting, and complete quarterly and annual tax filings.
Heartland provides employee payroll services to businesses of all sizes. The company offers payroll processing anytime with instant online access to all payroll data and employee information. Plus, it uses the latest encryption technology to ensure that all business and employee data stays safe.
HighFlyer's HR includes features such as real-time payroll preview, automated tax filing and no-fee direct deposit. These features, as well as a simplistic interface, give the solution value to consumers.
HomeWork Solutions specializes in providing household employers and their tax preparers real solutions for nanny tax compliance. The service is designed for household employers with nannies, caregivers for seniors, housekeepers, maids and other household workers. HomeWork Solutions offers two payroll plans: one that pays employees and files taxes for you, and another that files your taxes but requires you to write your own checks each week. The company also offers background-check services.
Honkamp Krueger & Co PC is a CPA and business consulting firm. Among the services offered are payroll services via the iSolved platform. iSolved is a cloud-based complete payroll solution that is one database and one easy point-of-entry system for payroll processing, human resouces and benefits, and time and attendance.
Integrated Payroll Services is an independent and family-owned payroll company. Its services include online payroll, direct deposit, employee self-service, tax filings and workers' compensation. The company also develops customized reports to fit each client's needs.
JetPay is a payment services provider with solutions for credit card processing, payroll processing and prepaid cards. Its payroll services offer customized payroll and tax-filing solutions. The company also offers comprehensive business services, including human resource management, time and attendance, 401(k) plan administration, and benefits tracking and sign-up
Jumpstart:HR is an all-in-one human resources partner for small businesses that provides up-to-date HR knowledge and strategies, as well as career development tools for both employers and job seekers. Its service packages are divided by company size and include HR consulting services for early-stage startups. Specific services include payroll administration, HR consulting, leadership development and background checks.
Kelly Payroll, a subsidiary of Kelly & Associates Financial Services, integrates online payroll services with benefits information. Through a single point of entry, employers and their employees have access to payroll and benefits information whenever they need it. Kelly's benefits-integration technology automatically updates payroll deductions to coincide with any changes or modifications in the benefits administration system.
Namely is a full-service payroll provider. Its payroll-processing system fully integrates with your HR and benefits information. Namely's payroll services include 24/7 personalized support, automated tax filings, automatic generation of W-2 and 1099 forms, and access to a variety of payroll reports. Namely also offers HR, benefits and talent-management services.
NannyChex specializes in payroll and tax services for household employers. The company's service extends to all types of household employees, including nannies, elder care workers, housekeepers, gardeners and personal chefs. In addition to handling all of your payroll needs, NannyChex takes care of the quarterly and year-end taxes and forms you are required to file as a household employer. When working with NannyChex, you have one point of contact who is familiar with you and your account.
Newtek's online payroll services manage every aspect of your payroll and benefits, including online pay stubs, payment management, 401(k) plan administration and workers' compensation. In addition, the company's team of tax specialists reviews individual payroll accounts and handles all tax payments and reporting needs on the state, local and federal levels. Employees can log in and view pay stubs from any internet-connected computer.
OperationsInc is a consulting service that gives small and midsize businesses flexible options for their outsourced HR departments. Smaller companies can choose an hourly pay-per-use structure, while larger organizations can pay for services on a monthly per-employee basis. OperationsInc's payroll services are designed to serve companies that have an interim emergency need as well as those that need a dedicated resource for day-to-day payroll administration. The company's payroll professionals are able to handle all levels of payroll services, from entering payroll information all the way through to resolving tax issues.
Optimum Employer Solutions offers a web-based payroll system that includes payroll tax filing, direct deposit, garnishment processing, PTO tracking, W-2 preparation, and mailing and payroll reports. There is also a web portal for employees to access pay stubs, W-2s, PTO balances and other personal information.
Patriot Software offers payroll solutions specifically for small businesses. The company's Basic Payroll option allows you to take care of your own payroll tax deposits and filings, while its full-service option handles all federal, state and local payroll taxes on your behalf. With the system, businesses can run payroll 24/7 from any location that has an internet connection. Patriot Software also offers time and attendance and HR solutions.
PayNorthwest offers its payroll customers a flexible, easy-to-use tool to manage and process payroll. It has accrual, tax and reporting engines that make your payroll accurate and complete.
PaySmart offers online payroll services that allow businesses to access their payroll processing tools from anywhere they have an internet connection. Within the system, employers can enter payroll, add new employees and access reports. Employees can access the system via their computers or mobile devices to see pay stubs and other important documents. Paysmart also prepares and files clients' taxes and gives them the option of how their payments are made. In addition to its payroll services, Paysmart offers background checks and time and attendance services.
Paycom's online payroll processing gives employers the ability to access their payroll systems at any time to make changes, run payroll and generate reports. Paycom handles all payroll tax responsibilities and features audit trails and custom logins to protect sensitive employee information. It also offers talent acquisition and management, time and labor management, and HR management services

Paycor is an online payroll software platform that includes an exceptionally user-friendly employee self-service portal, which allows employees to take charge of their time-off requests, monitor their compensation, check their paystubs, manage their benefits, and update their personal or financial information.

Here's a breakdown of the three pricing plans Paycor offers:

  • Basic: Starting at $99 per month, the basic plan includes payroll processing and payroll tax filing. It also includes PDF reports and access to the Paycor mobile app. Additionally, with the Basic plan, employers get assistance with wage garnishment and employee child support obligations.

  • Essential: At $149 per month, the Essential plan includes all the features of the Basic plan, as well as PTO requests and manager approvals, new-hire onboarding and tax filing, and compliance checklists and templates.

  • Complete: For $199 per month, the Complete plan includes all the features in the other plans, as well as advanced analytics and data benchmarking, integrations with 401(k) providers and dedicated account manager support.


Payficiency's online payroll service features automatic payroll runs for businesses that have the same payments each pay period. The system includes direct deposit, emailed pay stubs, wage garnishments, voluntary deductions and new-hire reporting. Payficiency also automatically pays and files all federal and state taxes for employers. Employees can access the system to review their pay records, benefits information and important HR documents.
Paylocity's cloud-based service, Web Pay, supports online payroll and human resources needs. Web Pay features a paycheck calculator, quick data entry, online reporting, direct deposit, rate histories, dependent tracking and a company directory. The system also integrates with most retirement plans, general ledgers, and time and attendance applications.
Payright Payroll offers tailored payroll solutions for businesses of all sizes. Services include basic payroll processing and integrated solutions that incorporate payroll processing, human resources, time and attendance, and employee benefits. Payroll information can be entered via Payright's Evolution software or by phone, fax or email. The company also handles all payroll tax responsibilities.
Payroll Systems’ paperless payroll allows unlimited payrolls, unlimited deductions and unlimited direct deposits. Payroll Systems also calculates, deposits and files payroll taxes for each client. With this system, employees can log in on their own to view and download their pay stubs and W-2 forms, access company documents, and update their contact information. Payroll Systems also offers time and attendance and benefits administration services, as well as 401(k) reporting and transmissions and general ledger exports.
Payroll4Construction.com is a full-service payroll provider just for the construction industry. The service allows employers to run payroll via an online account or have their crews submit timecards from a mobile app. Payroll4Construction handles all of the payroll calculations and pays employees by check or direct deposit. It also takes care of all federal, state and local tax deposits and W-2s. The system integrates with QuickBooks.
Payroll4Free.com offers full-featured payroll services with professional support for free. Employers can access their data online from anywhere they have access to an internet connection. With this system, employees can be paid via printed check or direct deposit. Payroll4Free.com completes all payroll tax filings and deposits on each business's behalf for a monthly fee of $10. There is no charge for those who prefer to make their own deposits and mail or electronically file the completed forms on their own.
PayUSA offers tailored payroll solutions for businesses of all sizes. Its services include payroll processing, payroll reports, direct deposit, tax filing, new-hire reporting, check signing, and W-2, W-3 and 1099 printing.
Precision Payroll of America offers businesses the ability to build custom payroll processes that best suit their needs. The company handles all payroll and tax administration responsibilities. Precision Payroll also offers human resources, time and attendance, and administrative services.
Premier Payroll Services is part of a national network of payroll providers that use software developed and maintained by Pay Choice. Services include payroll checks, direct deposit, quarterly tax returns, electronic reports, check signing and stuffing, new-hire reporting, and vacation and sick time accruals. In addition, the company files W-2, W-3 and 1099 forms on your behalf.
Pro iPay from ProData is a single-platform, fully hosted, web-based, real-time solution. It integrates HR and time and labor data into the payroll process, streamlines review and approval processes, and eliminates the need for manual imports of third-party data. Pro iPay's fully scalable infrastructure can be customized to a company’s specifications, from small clients to large corporations with multiple locations and departments.
Savvy Nanny Payroll Services files and pays your employer taxes, creates pay stubs for your employees and offers direct deposit. The service sends email reminders about paydays and payment deadlines. In addition, it integrates with QuickBooks. The service is currently only available in 26 states.
SimpleX Payroll is an all-in-one payroll and time and attendance solution. The online system completes payroll, offers direct deposit and printed checks, and handles all federal, state and local tax requirements. Employees can view their pay stubs online. The system integrates with a variety of accounting programs, including QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Sage, and offers a range of custom reports.
TelePayroll provides a range of business services for both small and large companies. The company's small business payroll services allow businesses to submit payroll information online or by email, phone or fax; lets employees receive paper checks or direct deposit; and gives employees self-service access to their pay stubs and W-2 forms. TelePayroll also collects and files taxes for any tax agency jurisdiction in the United States.
Wagepoint is a simple and fast online payroll solution for small businesses across North America. It can handle direct deposits, government reporting, and all year-end reporting for either salaried or hourly employees and contractors.
Workday offers a cloud-based human capital management system that includes payroll management, workforce planning, recruiting, time and attendance and talent management. With the payroll software, businesses can process payroll directly from their dashboard, instantly view accurate head count by pay group, and manage their workforce with real-time labor cost data.
Founded in 1999, YourSource Management Group provides HR Management, Human Resources Outsourcing, ASO, and payroll services. Our proven solutions reduce the cost of employment and provide value added support for you and your employees. Our online payroll & HR technology maximize efficiency for clients & employees to access their information.

Sage is a provider of business management software and services to small and midsize businesses. The company's payroll offerings include Sage Essentials, for businesses with fewer than 10 employees, and Sage Payroll Full Service. Sage Payroll Essentials provides unlimited processing, tax filing and direct deposit for a flat monthly fee, while Sage Payroll Full Service outsources your work to Sage's payroll professionals. Read Review.

For midsize and large companies, a versatile human capital management is a must UltiPro's performance management module and associated software deliver effective tools for managing your most valuable asset: your employees.
Based in Nigeria, ikOOba technologies offers BMAC (Business, Measurement, Assurance and Collaboration) HR Payroll. Features include employee management tools as well as deductions and earnings reports.
Wave offers integrated software and tools for small businesses, including payroll services. The payroll solution features payroll reminders and direct deposit, as well as check printing, year-end tax filings, and an employee self-service portal for pay stubs and W-2 forms.
APS is a cloud-based service that provides online services for payroll, core human resources, time and attendance, and Affordable Care Act reporting and compliance needs – all in a single platform. The company's mobile service delivers instant payroll, HR, and time and attendance information to employees and managers on any mobile device.
BenefitMall has payroll services for businesses of all sizes. The company's online service processes payroll, manages payroll taxes and offers access to payroll reports from anywhere with an internet connection. BenefitMall gives you the option of paying employees through direct deposit or by printing your own checks. Employees have online access to their payroll information. The company also offers a combination of payroll and human resources services.
FreeAgent offers a simple accounting solution specifically designed to help small businesses, including those that employ accountants or freelancers. Payroll is one component of the system, which also includes services like invoice and expense management for your business's accounting.
FreshBooks is our top pick for accounting software. It also integrates seamlessly with solutions for your payroll needs.
Fuse Workforce Management unites payroll, time and attendance, and HR management into one system. The payroll module puts you in complete control of your payroll and has a versatile pay-rules engine that makes it easy to determine pay for regular or overtime hours and supports any number of scenarios, such as shift differentials, order of importance and location. Tax data is built into the system to support multiple regional requirements and tax structures.
IOIPay is a cloud-based platform that serves employers of any size. Services include payroll processing, employee self-service, tax credit services, payroll tax filing and reports.
KashFlow Payroll is flexible, simple-to-use online payroll software that lets you handle complex needs for your small business, such as pensions, in addition to regular payroll.
Kashoo's accounting software has excellent mobile access. It also integrates with solutions for your payroll needs and records your finalized payroll.
MMC creates comprehensive, customized HR solutions for its clients covering payroll, taxes, risk management, legal compliance and more. The company's payroll service includes regular payroll processing, wage and hours compliance, payroll tax filing, and PTO management.
PrimePay offers two types of payroll services: online and hands-off. The online payroll service is a web-based system that allows you to run payroll in three steps. With this option, federal, state and local taxes are done for you and W-2s are automatically processed and filed. With the hands-off system, PrimePay runs every aspect of your payroll for you. In addition to its payroll services, the company offers time and attendance solutions, human resources and compliance services, insurance and benefits administration, and credit card processing.
SurePayroll provides great payroll features for individuals with a full-time nanny, caregiver, housekeeper or other home service provider, making it our best payroll pick for household employers.
Paychex - Online Payroll Services

A one-size-fits-all solution may work for small businesses, but larger ones have complicated needs. They need a solution that offers a range of plans and can be customized to meet their organization's critical needs. Paychex absolutely fits this bill, which is why it is our choice as the best online payroll service for larger businesses.

Paychex Pricing and Service Plans

Paychex offers three service bundles: Paychex Go, Paychex Flex Select and Paychex Flex Enterprise. All the packages include Paychex's core payroll processing and payroll tax administration services.

Paychex only provides pricing information for its Paychex Go plan. You will need to contact the company, and likely have a virtual meeting with a Paychex representative, to receive a price quote for the other two packages. Here is a breakdown of each package: 

Paychex Go

This plan costs $59 per month, plus $4 per employee. In addition to the payroll processing and payroll tax services, the Go plan includes year-end tax forms, new-hire reporting, direct deposit, prepaid debit cards, an employee financial wellness program, time and attendance tracking, general ledger reports, accounting software integration, standard analytics and reporting, and HR and business forms.

Paychex Flex Select

This is the most popular package for small businesses. It includes everything in the Go bundle, plus access to a dedicated payroll specialist and use of the Paychex mobile app. It also offers integrations with other HR software, point-of-sale systems, productivity tools and other third-party programs, as well as $1,000 in digital marketing services. Additionally, this package includes employment verification services, an e-learning system, and an employee financial wellness program.

Paychex Flex Enterprise

This is Paychex's most comprehensive bundle and is designed for larger organizations. It includes everything in the Flex Select package, plus custom analytics, workers' compensation reports, state unemployment insurance services, garnishment payment services, new hire onboarding tools, employee screening and HR administration. 

Since pricing is customized for the Select and Enterprise bundles, you'll need to contact Paychex directly and speak with a sales representative. Once they learn how many employees you have, how often you plan to run payroll, and what additional Paychex services you may be interested in, they will give you a detailed price quote. 


Paychex offers a number of different services and features, including the following: 

Payroll Processing

Paychex handles all of your payroll processing. The payroll software calculates how much each employee should be paid based on the hours they work and their pay rate. It also accounts for additions, like bonuses or commissions, and deductions for things like health benefits. 

Paycheck Options

You can pay your employees by direct deposit, check or pay card. If your employees choose to be paid by check, Paychex prints the checks and mails them to you, or you can print your checks on-site. 

Payroll Tax

Paychex calculates, files, and pays your payroll taxes on time and ensures they are accurate. Paychex backs up its services with an accuracy guarantee. The guarantee states that Paychex pays the penalties if there are any mistakes with your payroll taxes. The service also processes year-end W-2 and 1099 forms for your employees. 

Payroll Reports

Paychex provides employers with dozens of payroll-related reports. Enterprise users can also create custom reports. 

On-Demand Payroll

Paychex now offers on-demand services that allow employees access to money they have earned before their scheduled payday. Employees can have those funds automatically deposited into a bank account, onto a debit card or into a mobile wallet. This gives employees flexibility in terms of when they get paid should an unexpected expense arrive.

New-Hire Reporting

The payroll service handles all the state-required reporting when you hire a new employee or contractor. 

Accounting Integrations

Paychex allows businesses to link their payroll data to popular accounting software programs, including QuickBooks Online and Xero. 

Unemployment Insurance

Paychex helps businesses manage the entire unemployment insurance process. 

Employee Financial Wellness Program

This program provides a variety of tools and education to help employees meet their financial goals. It also can arrange short-term loans. 


Paychex offers Enterprise service users several employee onboarding tools. This allows new staff members to complete their new-hire documents, such as tax withholdings forms, in a paperless format. 

Background Screening

The Enterprise package includes a limited number of pre-employment background checks. 

HR Administration

 These tools include options to track performance reviews, manage employee training and store important documents safely in the cloud. 

Added Services

Paychex offers other business services, including time and attendance systems, employee benefits and benefits administration, compliance services, records administration, hiring services and business insurance.

Paychex Pros

The Paychex Flex platform is very easy to use. As a cloud-hosted system, it's accessible from any web browser. You can also manage your payroll from the Paychex mobile app, which is available on iOS and Android devices.

The platform's homepage provides a quick glance of your important information, including when your next payroll is due, a link to start the payroll process, upcoming check dates, the cash required for the next payroll, and a quick link to the payroll reports section of the system. 

Running payroll is a simple task with just a few steps. First, you enter your payroll information (salaries, hours worked and pay rates). Next, you confirm that the data is correct, and then you submit the payroll for processing. Rather than running payroll manually each pay period, you can set up recurring amounts for faster processing. 

The system offers employee self-service. Employees get their own login so they can access the system to see their paystubs and year-end tax documents. 

In addition to accessing the payroll tools and features, you can use the Paychex Flex platform to access other Paychex services your business uses. 

Typically, larger organizations look for payroll services as part of a complete human resources platform. Many enterprise businesses want a platform that helps them manage time and attendance, benefits administration, and hiring. 

Paychex fills that need for employers. In addition to payroll processing, Paychex Flex supports online timekeeping, benefits administration, compliance services, employee onboarding, employment screening, retirement plans, business insurance and health insurance. 

Paychex Cons

Most of the other payroll services we researched provided details on all of their pricing packages online. Paychex only gives these details for its most basic package, which likely isn't the best option for larger businesses. To even get an idea of the costs of the other two bundles, Paychex requests to meet with the person making the payroll software decisions for your business. While those meetings previously were in person, Paychex now allows for virtual meetings.

The option for a virtual meeting makes this not as inconvenient as an in-person meeting; however, it would be nice to ascertain an idea of pricing without having to meet with someone.

We were also disappointed to see that, as of December 2020, more than 250 complaints had been filed against the company with the Better Business Bureau. Despite the number of complaints, however, Paychex is an accredited member of the BBB with an A+ rating.  

Customer Service

Paychex provides customer support by phone and live chat 24/7, regardless of the bundle you choose. Select and Enterprise packages users receive a dedicated payroll specialist to handle any issues. Many of the other payroll services we looked into don't offer a dedicated point person to help with problems. 

To test the support Paychex offers, we contacted the company multiple times by phone and email, posing as a business owner interested in payroll services. We were not thrilled with many of those interactions.

Often, business owners want to hear more about the product and get some ballpark figure of pricing information during an initial call. With Paychex, representatives prefer to set a separate meeting – virtually – to walk you through the platform, hear more about your specific needs and provide you pricing information.

While some may prefer that level of detail, others want to have their most-pressing questions answered during their initial call and get an idea of pricing before committing to a demo. If the pricing isn't even within a company's budget, the meeting wastes everyone's time.

It is important to note that once you become a Paychex user, you won't have to jump through hoops to get your questions answered. This is especially true for Flex Select and Enterprise users, who have a dedicated payroll specialist they can turn directly to for help.

Image Credit: AndreyPopov / Getty Images
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