Finding the right payroll system is an important yet nuanced decision that every business owner must make. Your employees must be paid, the wages and taxes accounted for, and accountants kept happy. Paying employees is one of the most important parts of owning and operating a small business. But the wrong software can make the process a headache.
The right payroll software is cost-effective, intuitive, works seamlessly with your business, and, ultimately, lets you spend more time doing what you do best: running your business.
Below, we’ve gathered the 5 best payroll software for small businesses in 2020.
These 5 companies have been evaluated on their price, product offerings, and other features that make them unique.
Be sure to check out all 5 individually as one may work better with your style and/or your business.
Regardless of your choice, you won’t go wrong with any of these.
Summary of Best Payroll Softwares in 2020
as low as $39 per month
Best for small businesses
at Gusto website
as low as $55 per month
Best for Quickbook users
at Quickbooks website
as low as $10 per month
Best for smaller businesses
at Patriot Software website
as low as $77 per pay period
Best for larger companies
at Paychex website
as low as $7 per month
Best for reimbursing expenses
at Paycom website
With a sleek, modern interface and simplified controls, Gusto positions itself as a modern option for payroll systems, making payments easy for employers.
But they are more than just a payroll company.
Gusto is a full-fledged people platform offering payroll, benefits, and HR resources to small businesses.
Their services are broken into three tiers: Core, Complete, and Concierge.
Each level of service stacks on the previous, providing more functionality and services to businesses.
Of course, each progressive step also comes at an additional cost.
Gusto Core is Gusto’s cheapest tier of service, costing a flat rate of $39/mo And $6/mo per employee.
Gusto Core is the simplest product offering and provides payroll services for smaller teams that want to keep things simple.
Core features include:
- Full-service payroll
- Employee self-service and profiles
- Health benefits administration
- Workers' comp administration
- Customer support
- PTO policies
Gusto Complete is the second tier of Gusto’s services and comes with everything in Core, plus additional tracking and employee features.
The cost of Gusto Complete is the same $39/mo flat rate as Gusto Core, but the monthly charge per employee increases to $12/mo.
Additional features with Gusto Complete:
- Admin permissions
- Employee offers and on-boarding
- Simple time tracking
- Time-off requests and PTO tracking
- Employee directory and surveys
The highest tier of service is Gust Concierge, which increases the flat rate to $149/mo but leaves the per-employee charge level at $12/mo.
Like Gusto Complete, Gusto Concierge includes all of the benefits and features of lower tiers but adds powerful HR functionality to your business.
- Dedicated customer support
- Access to certified HR professionals
- Access to an HR resource center
Quickbooks is one of the most well-known accounting software in the industry, so it’s no surprise to see it on this list.
Quickbooks is a part of Intuit, which also includes online tax filing software TurboTax and professional tax prep company ProConnect.
Intuit’s wide range of financial software offerings makes it a prime candidate for consideration when you’re researching payroll software.
Intuit offers payroll services through a premium offering called Quickbook Payroll.
If you’re already using Quickbooks for accounting and bookkeeping, adding Quickbooks Payroll is a simple transition and your data and information transfers seamlessly.
That said, Quickbooks Payroll can be used as a standalone product.
It is not a requirement to use any other Quickbooks or Intuit products.
Quickbook Payroll breaks down its payroll services into three tiers: Core, Premium, and Elite.
Each tier builds upon the other, adding additional services and benefits for an additional cost.
All three tiers of their products include:
- Fast, unlimited payroll runs
- Calculated paychecks and taxes
- Automated tax and forms
- Garnishment and deduction management
Please note: the prices listed below are the full price of the services.
As of this writing, there is an ongoing promotion for 50% off for three months if you purchase the services outright instead of participating in a free 30-day trial.
Quickbooks Payroll Core
Quickbooks Payroll Core is their base offering is their simplest solution for automated, reliable payroll services.
It carries a flat rate of $45/mo and charges an additional $4/mo per employee.
Features of Quickbooks Payroll Core include:
- Auto Payroll
- Health benefits for your team
- Expert product support
- Next-day direct deposit
Quickbooks Payroll Premium
Leveling up to Premium combines the automated payroll system with integrated time tracking and tools to help you grow.
The Premium service costs $75/mo plus $8/mo per employee.
Additional features of Quickbooks Payroll Premium include:
- Same-day direct deposit
- User-based permissions
- HR support center
- Expert setup review
- Premium time tracking (with mobile app)
Quickbooks Payroll Elite
The third and final tier is Quickbooks Payroll Elite, which adds dedicated HR services and Quickbooks’ Tax Penalty Free Guarantee.
It costs $125/mo with an additional $10/mo per employee.
In addition to the features included in Core and Premium, Quickbooks Payroll Elite includes:
- Done-for-you on-boarding
- Time tracking with geofencing and project planning
- US-based product support
- Tax Penalty Free Guarantee*
- Personal HR advisor
*Tax Penalty Free Guarantee: Should you receive a fine from the IRS related to payroll taxes, Intuit will pay all penalty fees and interest up to $25,000.
Patriot offers accounting and payroll services for small businesses, but today we’ll talk specifically about Patriot Payroll.
Patriot Payroll is one of the cheapest offerings on this list and comes in two versions, both of which will serve your business well depending on your needs.
Additionally, you can add two bonus features to your plan - time and attendance tracking and HR software - for a small additional cost.
Patriot Software built its payroll services to be fast and affordable, enabling you to save money and time.
Patriot Basic Payroll
Patriot Basic Payroll costs just $10/mo plus an additional $4/mo per employee.
This plan enables you to easily run your own payroll and handle payroll taxes yourself.
Features of the Patriot Basic Payroll plan include:
- Payroll setup and support
- Direct deposit
- Employee portal
- Flexible payment schedules
- Time off accruals
Patriot Full Service Payroll
For $30/mo and $4/mo per employee, you can upgrade to the Patriot Full Service Payroll plan which includes all of the features in the Basic plan but takes payroll taxes off of your plate.
If you sign up for the Patriot Full Service Payroll plan, Patriot will:
- File and deposit federal taxes for you
- File and deposit state taxes for you
- File and deposit local taxes for you
- Submit year-end tax forms like W-2s, W-3s, 940s, and 941s to the proper tax agencies
Paychex is a payroll and HR software company that serves businesses from 1 employee up to 1,000+.
Of course, since this is a focus on small businesses, we’ll focus on the Paychex payroll software that best fits your small business.
In fact, Paychex breaks this out clearly with a page dedicated to its Small Business Payroll Services.
Highlights from Paychex’s payroll services include intuitive design, 24/7 customer support, and bonus functionality that many payroll providers do not offer.
Paychex has four levels of service, though its fourth and highest level is recommended for enterprises, which is a bit beyond the scope of this review.
Paychex does not list their prices. In order to find these, you will have to request a free quote from Paychex.
That said, they do offer a free 3 month trial.
It’s important to note that Paychex offers more than just payroll services with its base packages.
Additional HR and employee wellness features are included with all levels of service packages. On top of that, all packages include $1,000 in pre-paid digital marketing services.
Paychex Express is the most basic payroll and HR service package offered by Paychex.
It's features include:
- Payroll tax administration
- New-hire reporting
- Free mobile app
- 24/7 phone and chat support
- Employee financial wellness program
- Direct deposit
- Employment and income verification services
Paychex Flex Select
Paychex Flex Select is the second-tier offering and their recommended solution for small businesses.
It comes with all the features of Paychex Express and includes these additional features:
- A dedicated payroll specialist
- Labor compliance poster kit
- e-Learning management system
Paychex Flex Pro
Their third and final offering suited for small businesses is Paychex Flex Pro.
It includes everything from Express and Flex Select and plus these features:
- General ledger services
- Workers’ compensation reporting
- State unemployment insurance services
- Analytics and reporting
- Employee on-boarding essentials
- Employee screening essentials (eg: background checks)
Paycom is a do-it-all people management software that provides services for talent acquisition and management, payroll, time and labor management, and HR management.
They position their business as a tech-forward approach to HR and payroll that lets you modernize the people function of your business by compiling everything you need into a single database, accessible online and through a single mobile app.
Unlike other companies on this list, Paycom does not offer different tiers of service for their payroll systems.
Instead, they have a blanket offering that covers everything you will need for payroll services.
You will have to request a demo of their software in order to receive a price.
They will not be the cheapest option on this list, but that isn’t what they are after.
Their targeted small business is one that is ready to use a full-fledged payroll and HR management system.
Special features of their payroll systems include:
- Paycom Pay - a proprietary paycheck reconciliation software, direct deposit, and check issuing payment system.
- GL Concierge - a general ledger software that allows you to track and simplify payroll accounting processes.
- Expense management
- Garnishment management
- Payroll tax management
- Online payroll processing
- Payroll analytics
The value proposition for Paycom is when you combine services - payroll, HR, and talent - you will see a significant amount of business efficiencies created across your people organization.
What kind of payroll software do you need for your small business?
As you can clearly see, there is a wide range of payroll software available to small businesses in 2020.
From low cost to full service, this list provides something for all types of small businesses.
Review each of these platforms carefully and find out which one works best for your business.
It may even be worth running trials on a few to get the day-to-day feel of software.
A cumbersome payroll system creates huge inefficiencies in your business, potentially reducing the amount your business can earn.
Modernize your payroll process and start spending more time running your business instead of tracking paychecks.