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The Best Payroll Services for One Employee

Updated Feb 01, 2024
Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses
  • Built-in HR team
  • Exceptional customer service
  • Affordable pricing plan
  • Built-in HR team
  • Exceptional customer service
  • Affordable pricing plan
Best Payroll Software for Same-Day Direct Deposit
  • Next-day or same-day deposit
  • 401(k) plans and health benefits
  • Basic accounting software features
  • Next-day or same-day deposit
  • 401(k) plans and health benefits
  • Basic accounting software features
Best Payroll Software for Added HR Services
  • Health and financial benefits
  • Certified HR experts
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Health and financial benefits
  • Certified HR experts
  • Intuitive user interface
Best Payroll Software for Businesses of All Sizes
  • Four pay schedules
  • Print paychecks on-site
  • 200 in-house compliance experts
  • Four pay schedules
  • Print paychecks on-site
  • 200 in-house compliance experts
Best Payroll Software for Ease of Use
  • Exceptionally intuitive navigation
  • Approval and alert automation
  • Over 500 integrations
  • Exceptionally intuitive navigation
  • Approval and alert automation
  • Over 500 integrations

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Payroll services take care of nearly the entire payroll process, eliminating time-consuming, error-prone work and ensuring your employees are paid correctly and on time. In addition, payroll services ensure you’re withholding the right amount of taxes and filing with the appropriate tax agencies on the local, state and federal levels. They’ll also stay up to date with changing regulations, ensuring your business remains compliant at all times.

Of course, not all payroll services are created equal, and not all businesses have the same needs. We studied dozens of vendors to help you find the best payroll services for one employee. Our best picks are based on criteria including pricing, mobile support, employee benefits inclusion and more.

Compare Our Best Picks

BND Ribbon
Our Top Picks for 2024
OnPay Payroll Software
Intuit QuickBooks Payroll
Gusto Payroll Software
Paychex Payroll
Rippling Payroll
Rating9.5/109.3/109.2/109.3/109.4/10
Use Case

Small Businesses

Same-Day Direct Deposit

Added HR Services

Businesses of All Sizes

Ease of Use

Free Trial

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Starting Price

$40 per month plus $6 per employee per month

$45 per month plus $6 per employee per month

$40 per month plus $6 per employee per month

$39 per month plus $5 per employee per month

$8 per employee per month

Mobile App

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Tax Support

Calculate, file and pay taxes

Calculate, file and pay taxes

Calculate and file taxes

Calculate, file and pay taxes

Calculate and file taxes

Employee Benefits

Included

Included

Included

Add-on

Add-on

Review Link
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OnPay Payroll Software: Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses

  • OnPay offers a built-in HR team for every pricing plan, something other providers provide only for their most expensive plans.
  • OnPay’s customer service is among the best we encountered in our payroll software reviews.
  • There is no stand-alone OnPay mobile app, though the platform’s standard web application is equally user-friendly on mobile and desktop browsers.
Editor's Rating: 9.5/10
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We chose OnPay as the best payroll service for small businesses since its features and costs suit even the tiniest companies. Given the platform’s comparatively low prices, we were impressed that it fully automates all payroll tax calculation, filing and payment for your employee. We were even more enthused that, at these low prices, OnPay offers one-employee businesses the ability to enroll in and administer employee benefits. This makes it much easier to afford one employee’s reasonable but expensive ask for benefits.

OnPay’s customer support is of special note, especially given that payroll services often suffer from highly negative online customer reviews. However, when we called OnPay’s customer support line, we were connected to someone a level above a standard support agent. We were immediately linked with an OnPay executive who was thrilled to speak with us and help us with the software. This was an unprecedented experience, and it’s incredibly valuable for a one-employee business trying out payroll software for the first time.

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll: Best Payroll Software for Same-Day Direct Deposit

  • With QuickBooks Payroll, your employees or contractors receive their direct deposits no later than the day after you run payroll.
  • All QuickBooks Payroll plans include health insurance, 401(k) plans and workers’ comp.
  • Time-tracking isn’t available with QuickBooks Payroll’s least expensive pricing plan.
Editor's Rating: 9.3/10
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As might be expected of the gold standard in accounting software, QuickBooks offers top-quality software in the adjacent world of payroll. QuickBooks Payroll fully automated our employee payments and corresponding tax calculation, filing and payments. We were impressed with this automation and our full access to health insurance, 401(k) plans and workers’ compensation. We were also thrilled to get next-day direct deposit while testing the two least expensive plans and same-day deposit with the highest-end plan.

We were impressed that QuickBooks Payroll offered these high-quality features atop its core accounting tools. These features include tracking expenses (including mileage) and income, matching receipts to expenses, sending invoices and estimates, accepting client payments, and running accounting reports. From paying our one employee to managing our books, QuickBooks Payroll gave us all we needed and more. [Read our QuickBooks accounting software review to learn why this platform is our top pick for small businesses.]

Gusto Payroll Software: Best Payroll Software for Added HR Services

  • You can run payroll and administer your employee’s health insurance and financial benefits with any Gusto plan.
  • With higher-end Gusto pricing packages, you also get connected with certified HR experts.
  • Gusto lacks a stand-alone mobile app, and many of its online customer reviews are highly negative.
Editor's Rating: 9.2/10
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Gusto’s least expensive plan is priced competitively with other vendors while offering fundamental financial and health benefits administration services. We liked that we could automate our payroll and provide benefits for one employee without breaking the bank. We also liked that we could upgrade for access to compliance alerts, an HR resource center and HR experts through Gusto’s Premium plan. The depth of HR features available at every pricing point made Gusto our clear pick for the best one-employee payroll software for added HR services.

It would be one thing if Gusto were simply a platform with comparatively powerful HR features. Over our years of reviewing the platform, though, it’s been so much more. We’ve remained impressed that the platform is so intuitively navigable, with a clean and crisp interface, despite its abundance of useful tools. The navigation bar at the left-hand side of your dashboard guides you to all key tools, and initiating payroll takes just a click or two. For the most hands-off payroll and HR combination possible at a modest price point, go with Gusto.

Paychex Payroll: Best Payroll Software for Businesses of All Sizes

  • Paychex makes it easy to pay employees and independent contractors on a weekly, biweekly, semimonthly or monthly basis.
  • With Paychex, you can pay your employees via direct deposit, pay card or paper checks that you print yourself.
  • Employee benefits and time and attendance features are paid add-ons rather than automatic inclusions across all three Paychex pricing packages.
Editor's Rating: 9.3/10
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Over our years of testing Paychex, we’ve consistently found it to be the best payroll software for businesses of all sizes, including one-employee operations. That’s because you can use Paychex to distribute employee pay on any of the four major pay schedules to employees and contractors alike. We also like that, with Paychex, you can print and distribute paper checks yourself at no extra cost. Between this option and the direct deposit and pay cards available at every pricing tier, Paychex enables you to meet your employee’s exact needs.

Additionally, Paychex excels at keeping your employee payments compliant. There are over 200 compliance experts monitoring regulatory changes for Paychex, ensuring the platform is programmed to accurately calculate, file and pay your payroll taxes. We have yet to encounter such a large compliance team with any other payroll vendor, so this feature highly impressed us. Between this immense compliance support and the platform’s versatility, we find Paychex equally great for small and large operations. If you hire more employees, Paychex will still fit.

Rippling Payroll: Best Payroll Software for Ease of Use

  • Rippling’s interface is exceptionally intuitive, and its over 500 integrations with other platforms add to its usability.
  • You can automate all kinds of approvals and alerts in Rippling to remove the most tedious manual tasks from your payroll workflows.
  • You must pay for add-on services to use Rippling’s employee benefits and time and attendance features.
Editor's Rating: 9.4/10
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We’ve consistently found Rippling’s interface to be the most easily usable across all payroll platforms over the years. Year after year, we’ve needed little to no training to understand how to use and navigate the interface. Every integration we’ve tested (there are over 500 available) has built upon this usability too. We especially like that Rippling integrates with accounting software platforms such as Oracle NetSuite to sync pay records across platforms. [Read our Oracle NetSuite review to learn more about this platform’s enterprise-level services.]

Adding to Rippling’s usability is the platform’s comprehensive workflow builder. With this tool, you can automate virtually any approval or alert necessary for highly efficient, accurate payroll. We found that our workflows eliminated our most tedious tasks, with the nice bonus of minimizing the likelihood of payroll errors. To top things off, Rippling is the rare payroll service that lacks a flat monthly rate – you’ll simply pay $8 per employee per month. For one employee, that’s just $8, and you get a great user experience with strong payroll tools to boot.

Costs of Payroll Software for One Employee

Most payroll services are cost-effective, especially when you’re paying for only one employee. Among our best picks above, Rippling is the least expensive one-employee solution at $8 per employee per month with no additional flat fee. QuickBooks Payroll is the most expensive at $45 per month plus a $6 per employee monthly charge, bringing the total cost for one employee to $51 per month.

However, it’s important to consider the value for the cost, as the cheapest service isn’t always the best choice. Rippling’s payroll service requires you to pay extra to access employee benefits and time and attendance features, whereas QuickBooks Payroll includes both. It’s important to consider which features are your priority and whether they’re included in the monthly subscription cost or represent an additional expense.

FYIDid you know
Most payroll services offer some level of customer support. However, for the most accessible, highest-quality support, you may need to pay extra. Gusto, for example, charges an extra $8 per employee per month for Plus users to obtain priority support and HR resources.

In almost all cases, you won’t incur extra costs to set up your payroll software and onboard your employees. Some vendors, such as QuickBooks Payroll, also include free setup assistance with all plans, though this level of support isn’t universal. Consider it a nice-to-have but not a dealbreaker.

Features of Payroll Software for One Employee

Look for most or all of these features in high-quality payroll software for one employee.

Employee Self-Service

Your employee should be able to log in to your software and easily update their contact information and review their pay stubs. This way, your employee gets what they need without you taking any extra action.

HR Services

Many one-employee payroll platforms offer HR services either as part of your pricing plan or as an add-on feature. These services primarily include employee benefits and compliance management.

Mobile App

Many payroll platforms are accessible via mobile apps you download to your smartphone. This way, you and your employee can access your payroll system from anywhere at any time.

New-Hire Reporting

When you hire your employee, you must file official paperwork to report this hiring to your state. Most payroll services entirely handle this compliance requirement on your behalf.

Pay Schedules

The best payroll services allow you to set up whichever of the major four pay schedules works best for your cash flow. These include weekly, biweekly, semimonthly and monthly payments.

Payment Options

If you’d like to pay your employee via direct deposit, you can set it up through your payroll service. The same is true if you want to pay by paper check or pay card.

Tax Calculation, Payment and Filing

You must withhold and pay federal income and FICA taxes on employee (but not contractor) payments. Depending on your state and municipality, you may also need to withhold and pay state and local taxes. Payroll services determine your requirements, then calculate, withhold, file and, often, pay these taxes each pay period.

Time and Attendance Tracking

Though sometimes an add-on rather than an included feature, time and attendance tracking goes hand in hand with payroll. After all, it’s quite logical to mark your employee’s paid and unpaid hours or days in the same system through which you calculate pay. Time and attendance tracking functionality in payroll software may also include paid time off (PTO) management so you can successfully administer your PTO policy.

Unlimited Payroll Runs

Most payroll services for one-employee businesses support an unlimited number of payroll runs. In rare cases, one-employee payroll providers charge per payroll run atop your monthly fees. Confirm that the service you’ve chosen offers unlimited payroll runs before signing on the dotted line.

Year-End Tax Forms

At the end of every year, you must file a W-2 tax form for your employee and share it with them. You must also file year-end 1099 forms for any contractors you pay more than $600 per year. In either case, one-employee payroll systems auto-generate – and often file – these forms for you.

Did You Know?Did you know
When comparing 1099-MISC vs. 1099-NEC year-end tax forms, you’ll see that the 1099-NEC is the correct form to issue to contractors. Previously, it was the 1099-MISC form that applied to contractors, but that has been changed to report other types of payments.

Choosing Payroll Software for One Employee

As you compare payroll software options for one employee, take the below steps to narrow down your choice.

1. Assess your budget and needs.

Consider your payroll software budget and what types of add-ons might justify their price tags. Your costs will be low with just one employee on your payroll, but is the least expensive platform truly the right fit? Will paying for added HR services prove to be a worthwhile return on investment or an unnecessary extra spend? The latter question may lead you to realize that pursuing payroll vendors that primarily function as HR services may prove too costly.

From there, dig a little deeper and determine your priorities. Which features matter most to you? Are you more focused on setting up same-day deposits or implementing employee benefits at no extra cost? Order your needs from most to least important, then keep this list in mind as you compare payroll options within your budget.

2. Compare potential vendors’ pricing plans.

Most vendors’ websites include pricing pages with tables that detail the features of each package offered. Consider how much value you get per dollar spent, as well as whether the features meet all your needs. Compare your findings across vendors, and move the best fits toward the top of your list.

3. Read customer reviews.

Some of your best fits might turn out to have poor customer reviews. Unfortunately, in our research, we’ve found this to be especially true for payroll services. Although negative TrustPilot and Better Business Bureau reviews abound for these companies, angry customers are more likely to leave reviews than happy ones. As such, you may want to take negative reviews with a grain of salt. On the other hand, a rare payroll service with universally enthusiastic customer reviews is a great sign.

4. Pursue demos and free trials.

We always recommend opting in to a vendor’s free trial before fully committing to the service. There’s simply no better way to confirm that the platform works for your needs. In the event a free trial is unavailable, a guided demo is a solid alternative. Inquire about this with vendor sales reps, and you might get to see the software from the inside before you register an account. This inside view can help you feel more confident in your decision.

5. Set up your account.

At this point, you should have a gut feeling about which service best suits your needs. Review your notes to verify or challenge this instinct, then officially sign up for the service. As you do so, see if you can negotiate lower pricing or obtain a temporary discount. From there, you’re ready to move into the implementation phase.

Advantages of Payroll Software for One Employee

Some key reasons to set up payroll software for your one-employee operation include the following.

Fewer Pay Errors

It’s easy to mess up your calculations when determining how much you owe an employee and how much tax to withhold. That’s just as true with one employee on payroll as with 1,000, and payroll software solves this problem. Fully automated calculations will be error-free by their very nature as long as your employee’s pay rate and hours worked are correctly recorded.

Superior Tax Compliance

From reporting your new hires to calculating and filing your payroll taxes, payroll software keeps you compliant with regulations. Any HR services that come with your software or as add-ons further streamline your compliance.

Substantial Time Savings

Reporting new hires requires you to fill out paperwork, and manually calculating employee pay and taxes involves doing math by hand. Neither of these tasks is directly related to day-to-day work offering the best possible products or services. Delegating these and all payroll tasks to software gives you invaluable time back for the work that counts the most.

Improved Employee Pay Record Accessibility

Payroll software stores and organizes all your employee pay records. In most cases, it includes an employee self-service portal as well. This combination of features allows employees to easily obtain their pay stubs and update their contact information – all without going through you.

Better Management of One Employee Alongside Contractors

If you pay only one employee but you pay many contractors, payroll software is a must. There’s no easier way to ensure that you’re collecting payroll taxes from your employee while not doing so for your contractors. Payroll software also allows you to pay your contractors on an entirely separate schedule from your employee. This way, the status of a payment to your employee doesn’t affect that of your contractor payments, or vice versa.

Payroll Software for One Employee FAQ

To run payroll for one employee, you first need to obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN) for your business. You then need to decide on a pay schedule. Once that’s set, you’ll need to calculate pay and taxes at the end of every period. Payroll software automates this whole process, which can be tedious and highly involved for even one employee.

Yes. Payroll software minimizes, if not entirely eliminates, human errors so common with calculating pay and taxes for one employee. It also calculates, files and often pays your payroll taxes, sparing you the confusing process of sending money where it needs to go. Plus, it does this all automatically, saving you invaluable time you can now spend on your most important tasks.

Yes. Simply register your business with your payroll provider of choice, then create an employee account for yourself within your software. Set your salary, and you’ll automate the division of your business earnings into take-home pay and payroll taxes. You’ll also automate the distribution of these funds to the right accounts.

Setting yourself up as an employee in your payroll software requires you to set a salary for yourself. You can instead take an owner’s draw, meaning you transfer business funds to your personal account at any time. However, setting up a salary within your accounting software makes for greater accounting consistency and more predictable personal payments.

Payroll is for business owners, whereas freelancers should rely on accounting software to calculate and file taxes based on their client payments. The best accounting software platforms for the self-employed record and reconcile your earnings and determine – and often pay – your taxes.

Max Freedman
Contributing Writer at businessnewsdaily.com
Max Freedman, has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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