Payroll is the lifeblood of HR. Everything else can go wrong. Employees can repeat training modules, and HR can revise records. But not paying your employees or paying them the wrong amount is how you get a rebellion (or worse, legal trouble). So if you want to maintain the peace and not break the bank doing it, check out these payroll options.
What Does Payroll Software Do?
Payroll software automates, simplifies, and streamlines the payroll process. The simplification these tools create saves time and prevents mistakes. Many packages either come with time tracking software or integrate with time tracking software. This enables near automatic payroll runs with a minimum time investment while ensuring that your payroll is accurate. An accurate payroll means happy employees and business owners.
Right after paying your employees, helping to file payroll taxes is the second most valuable function for many organizations. Unless you enjoy interacting with the IRS and state tax agencies. Then stay away!
Most payroll software packages will file the necessary paperwork and withhold and deposit the appropriate sums for federal, state, and local taxes. Unemployment taxes, such as FUTA, are included in many packages. This means no more figuring out what goes on line 5e of Form 941 or nearly forgetting your deposit to EFTPS. Hooray
Employee Benefits Administration
Many good payroll packages provide employee benefits administration. These benefits include health plans, retirement plans, and other savings funds. You generally have two options. First, you can select a health plan with the payroll company acting as a broker. Second, have your pre-existing health plan administered by the company.
Many packages include retirement plans like 401(k). The vendor may partner with licensed advisors to provide financial and retirement planning. Additional savings plans, such as Health Savings Accounts or 529 college savings plans, may be available.
While typically not a replacement for full HR software, many payroll packages provide basic HR tools and add-ons. On the low end, this may just be basic hiring and onboarding tools. At the higher end, this could include job posting and applicant tracking systems, PTO management, performance management, and HR reporting.
Point vs. Integrated Solutions
As one of the key components of HR functionality, payroll may integrate into a larger HR system. Generally, stand-alone or point, solutions are more useful to small businesses. Integrated solutions are more useful to large businesses. The integration complicates price comparisons for a few reasons. First, it is difficult because it is hard to quantify the value of the integration itself.
Second, a lot of integrated solutions are not set products. They are instead collections of individual modules that can be mixed and matched according to a client’s needs. Because the suite is not a set product, many vendors, such as ADP or UKG, do not have a set price. They instead provide custom quotes based on your company’s profile.
|Company||Starting Monthly Price|
|$36 + $4/employee|
|$39 + $6/employee|
|$39 + $5/employee|
|$45 + $4/employee|
|$17 + $4/employee|
|$35 + $5/employee|
|$99 + $5/employee|
|Base Plan + $6/employee|
These are stand-alone solutions for your payroll. Some packages may offer other features such as accounting and HR functions, but the focus is payroll. The price for these products typically consists of a flat monthly fee plus an additional amount based on the number of employees.
OnPay – Best Payroll for Price
Unique for this list, OnPay only has one price: $40 + $6/employee. But don’t let the singular low price fool you; OnPay still has plenty of excellent payroll features. It has unlimited pay runs and handles multi-state payroll. It also withholds and pays all federal, state, and local taxes and files the relevant quarterly and yearly forms.
Additionally, OnPay provides several specialized payroll calculations for no extra cost. These include tipped wages, agricultural workers, non-profits, and religious organizations.
OnPay’s employee self-service portal saves time by allowing employees to self-onboard and access paystubs. Speaking of onboarding, many HR tools are provided. These include pre-built document templates, automated onboarding flows, new hire reporting, and PTO management. There are also other features such as compliance audits and a direct messaging system to help create a paper trail.
Finally, OnPay helps with employee benefits and workers’ compensation administration. You can choose health plans from a number of providers like Aetna, United Healthcare, and BlueCross BlueShield. The workers’ compensation insurance is fully integrated with the payroll, and premiums are deducted with each run.
Additionally, the pay-as-you-go policies avoid yearly lump sums. These can be particularly burdensome to small businesses. Note that businesses in North Dakota, Ohio, Washington, or Wyoming are not eligible. Businesses in these states are not required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance directly from the state.
Gusto’s Simple package provides a well-round, user-friendly payroll product for small businesses. The software handles both W-2 and 1099 employees. The Simple plan’s payroll is single-state only. This means that it is not suitable for a business with employees working in multiple states. Out-of-state contractors are generally fine as businesses aren’t typically required to withhold taxes for them. Of course, you should always check the laws of the local jurisdiction.
Gusto Monthly Pricing
|$40 + $6/employee||$80 + $12/employee||Custom||$6/contractor|
The Simple package additionally provides employee benefits plans. Health plans can be selected from several Gusto-brokered options. Financial benefits include 401(k) administration, 529 college savings plans, and Gusto Wallet. Gusto Wallet is a financial health app that lets your employees manage their money and access paychecks between paydays.
Gusto’s Plus plan provides everything in the Simple plan plus extra features. Multi-state payroll and next-day direct deposit are available with this plan. The Plus plan provides a plethora of potent human resources (HR) and reporting tools as well. These include job posting, applicant tracking, onboarding tools, PTO management, time-tracking, and project tracking. The reporting consists of many workforce-costing reports as well as custom reports. The Plus plan also includes access to extended-hours live customer support.
Gusto’s Premium plan provides everything in the previous tiers as well as several HR and administrative features. These include an HR resource center as well as access to live HR experts. With the Premium plan, you can administer performance reviews and employee surveys. Additionally, you can integrate your own health insurance plan instead of a Gusto-brokered one
The Paychex Flex Essentials plan provides a simple and straightforward online payroll package. However, it is only for businesses with 1-9 employees. It provides all of the basics, like federal, state, and local tax filings. Payment options include both direct deposit and on-site printing of physical paychecks. HR features include new-hire reporting, a library of templates and forms, and an employee self-service portal. There are also a number of financial wellness options available for your employees.
Paychex Flex Monthly Pricing
|$39 + $5/employee||Custom||Custom|
The Select plan offers all of the above with additional employee pay options and access to Paychex’s Learning Management System. This system includes numerous courses to educate employees and improve employee engagement.
The Pro plan provides several additional benefits. Perhaps most importantly, you get access to a dedicated payroll specialist. This specialist can help with questions about the software or payroll in general. Additionally, accounting integrations are available so that you can account for payroll data. Additionally, accounting integrations are available so that you can easily move payroll data into your accounting system. This plan also provides assistance in managing state unemployment taxes and processes.
The Pro plan also provides a few HR features. Paychex will help onboard employees, including filling out tax and direct deposit forms. You can also perform background checks on candidates. There is an employee handbook builder.
QuickBooks Online may be best known for its accounting software, but its payroll software is no slouch. Its basic Core package provides unlimited payroll runs. It also calculates and pays federal and state taxes. Note that this does not include local taxes, which you can set up yourself in the program. QuickBooks Core has next-day direct deposit. It also provides 401(k) plans and health benefits for your team.
QuickBooks Payroll Monthly Pricing
|$45 + $5/employee||$75 + $8/employee||$125 + $10/employee|
The Premium package provides all of the benefits in the Core plan. The direct deposit timeline is now same-day, a standout feature from its competitors. A native time tracking application is also provided to eliminate the need to enter time data for payroll runs. To further increase the ease of setup, QuickBooks provides an expert to review your setup for common errors.
The Premium plan also administers a worker’s compensation plan and provides access to an HR support center. This center gives information on a variety of HR topics like overtime compliance, hiring, and termination. It also has a library of customizable documents to help with hiring, onboarding, and performance management.
The Elite package provides even more beyond these features. QuickBooks will not only ensure your setup is correct, but they will also do the setup themselves. You also get Tax Penalty Protection, meaning QuickBooks will pay up to $25,000 in IRS penalties and interest. Additionally, the QuickBooks Tax Resolution team will represent you to the IRS. You also get access to professional HR advisors and 24/7 customer support.
Patriot Software’s Basic payroll plan easily wins the lowest cost package on this list. But some things are too good to be true, and this is no exception. Patriot’s Basic package does not include the filing of federal, state, or local taxes or any tax forms. As noted above, this is the second most valuable function of a payroll system, as it streamlines the process. Unless you’re exceptionally fast and accurate with calculations, it is probably a good idea to spend the extra $20 a month and save the headache.
Patriot Software Monthly Pricing
|$17 + $4/employee||$37 + $4/employee|
Beyond taxes, both payroll plans offer a wide variety of features. The timeline for direct deposit is two days for qualified customers and four days otherwise. You can run an unlimited number of payrolls in multiple states. Patriot also includes the ability to pay repeating allowances such as phone, housing, or food allowances.
Both packages allow for a variety of time tracking integrations but do not provide any native tools. There are limited HR features, such as time off accrual and an employee self-service portal. Additionally, both packages provide free setup and weekday customer support via phone, email, or chat.
Square’s full-service payroll system provides a solid package for small and mid-sized businesses. It covers all of the fundamentals like unlimited runs and paying federal, state, and local taxes. Square also covers multi-state payroll.
Square Payroll Monthly Pricing
|Full Service||Contractor Only|
|$35 + $5/employee||$5/employee|
But it is the small things that make Square payroll. For example, you can pause the service at any time. So if you run a seasonal business, Square has you covered. Simply use it for the months you are open and pause it for the off-season. Tips and commission processing are also built into the software. These features make them a natural choice for seasonal businesses, gig-like businesses, or startups.
Additionally, Square can administer workers’ compensation insurance and health and retirement benefits. The software can integrate with a variety of time tracking software, either Square’s own products or third-party software. Customer support is available on weekdays from 6 AM to 6 PM Pacific Time.
These products contain a payroll module as part of a larger overall package. While many of the prior products have features beyond simple payroll, they are all centered around payroll. This is not true for the following products, which are much broader. This breadth can bring cost efficiency but may put the products outside the price point of small businesses.
Paycor’s Basic package provides many of the payroll features seen in point solutions, although at a notably higher monthly fee. These include direct deposit, auto-run payroll processing, online reporting, and federal, state, and local tax filing. Additional features include basic wage garnishment, employee self-service, and OnDemand pay for employees.
Paycor Monthly Pricing for Businesses with Less than 50 Employees
|$99 + $5/employee||$149 + $7/employee||$199 + $8/employee||$199 + $14/employee|
The Essential package provides many basic HR services in addition to payroll features. This includes additional HR reporting and access to an HR support center. Other features include automated onboarding, time off management, 401(k) administration, and an E-verify service (for when employees need to verify income and employment).
The Core package is where you begin to leverage the power of an integrated system Human Capital Management (HCM) system. This package includes access to Paycor’s Expense Management, Career Management, and HR modules. These modules provide a wide range of functionality. This includes performance management, employee reimbursement, and employee record keeping. While the full benefits and features of an HCM are beyond the scope of this article, you can check out the products and features here.
The final package, Complete, includes access to even more Paycor modules. Specifically, the Analytics Pro, Compensation Planning, and Talent Management modules. These are higher-level HR modules for businesses that have their basic HR functions covered. They help provide insight into and streamline business processes.
Zenefits work differently from other products in the article because its payroll module is an add-on to its core plans. The module costs $8 per employee per month. It provides many of the same features as other payroll systems. It handles unlimited pay runs and files federal and state taxes. Zenefits payroll also captures and handles reported tips and provides many reports. It would likely provide employee benefits administration, but that’s a part of the core packages.
Zenefits Packages Monthly Pricing
|Essentials + Payroll||Growth + Payroll||Zen + Payroll|
The Essentials package provides basic HR functionality such as onboarding, employee management, benefits administration, time tracking, and scheduling. A mobile app is also included. The Growth package includes all those features and compensation and performance management modules. The Zen package further improves by adding employee engagement and wellness tools. These help keep employees happy and reduce turnover.
Find Your Payroll
Is nine payroll products not enough? Do you crave more payroll? Then do I have the thing for you. Go to our Payroll category, where you can see all the payroll your heart desires. Or start a comparison, where you watch two payroll products go head to head. If the integrated solutions sounded nice, then HR management may be more your speed.
And if you have experience with these payroll products, please leave a review. It helps others find their perfect payroll.
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