The Best Business Payroll Services of 2020

Sarah Pritzker

Paying your employees on time and without any problems used to require a lot of work. But with convenient payroll services online, today’s employers are doing so with ease. What used to be a nightmare for the payroll administrator is now a simple task of clicking or tapping a few times to get things rolling. In fact, there are even payroll service providers that offer fully automated payroll runs. So, you can get all of your workers paid promptly and without a hitch without even lifting a finger.

From the major corporate services to simple payroll services for small businesses, there's something for everyone out there today. You just need to know where to look for it. If you're tired of spending hours of time poring over the grueling task of crunching numbers and cross-referencing data frames, it's time you stepped into the 21st century and got yourself a reliable payroll software. Here are 10 of the top payroll services of 2019 and where they really shine.

SMBs, independent contractors, freelancers
Powerful payroll services mid-enterprise biz
SMBs looking for more than just payroll
Comprehensive general ledger-linked payroll
Small businesses and independent accountants
Employee benefits
Payroll services with check printing, HR+
Businesses seeking scalability
Hourly employees, retailers, SMBs
Barebones payroll service that’s easy to use
From $6per month per person + $39 base month
From $39per month + $6 per employee
Quote-based
From $22.50per month + $4 per employee per month
From $36 per month + $4 per person
From $8per month per employee
From $32per month + initial costs
From $49per month, $3 per user
From $29per month + $5 per employee month
From $10per month, $4 per employee
Medical, dental, vision, 401k, commuter, 529
401k, SIRA, SEP IRA, health, workers’ comp
Health, retirement, onboarding, management
Health benefits
401(k), worker’s comp, health insurance
401k, supplemental, FSHA HSA, commuter
Healthy, 401k, etc.
401k, child support, health
Health, 401k, workers comp, pre-tax
HR management software
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No,yes mobile-friendly site
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Mobile-responsive

A Closer Look at the Top 10 Business Payroll Services

  • 1
    Easy to use, thorough, feature-rich payroll
    Gusto
    • Best forSMBs, independent contractors, freelancers
    • Price rangeFrom $6per month per person + $39 base month
    • Benefits & HRMedical, dental, vision, 401k, commuter, 529

    Gusto is one of the best payroll services for small businesses of today, and it’s also a good choice for freelancers and contractors. Providing automatic tax filing, a list of HR benefits, including health, dental, vision, college funds, 401k, and the ability to run unlimited payrolls, Gusto is a cost-effective way for businesses to streamline their monthly accounts.

    It’s also nice that Gusto integrates with a lot of other applications, including accounting programs like QuickBooks Online, Xero, and FreshBooks. You can also sync your time tracking apps (like Time Tracker or Homebase) and expense management tools like Expensify to have an all-inclusive database for your accounts.

    Pros
    • Loads of useful integrations
    • Fully automates payroll and taxes
    • Good for contractors and freelancers too
    Cons
    • No 24/7 customer support
    • Not all HR benefits available in all states
    Read Gusto Review
  • 2
    Professional all-inclusive payroll services
    ADP
    • Best forPowerful payroll services mid-enterprise biz
    • Price rangeFrom $39per month + $6 per employee
    • Benefits & HR401k, SIRA, SEP IRA, health, workers’ comp

    ADP is one of the oldest payroll services online or off, which should tell you something about how much experience these fellows have under their belt. Offering a full range of HR benefits and services, payroll services, and time and attendance management, ADP is a professional payroll service for businesses looking for more than your basic software. From HR guidance, resources, and dedicated service managers to full tax compliance, reporting, and self-service capabilities, ADP has an impressive array of features and services on offer.

    ADP will automatically calculate tax liability, withhold and pay taxes on your behalf, and handle all reporting and issuances, including W-2s and 1099s. What's more, ADP doesn't just stop at your local boarders. This payroll service handles issues in more than 140 countries around the globe.

    Pros
    • Professional, top-rated features and service
    • Oldest payroll services online
    • Full service, all-inclusive benefits & payroll
    Cons
    • Not as cheap as some competitors
    • No pricing plans for really small businesses
    Read ADP Review
  • 3

    Paychex

    The easier way to get payroll done
    Paychex
    • Best forSMBs looking for more than just payroll
    • Price rangeQuote-based
    • Benefits & HRHealth, retirement, onboarding, management

    Paychex is a cloud-based payroll services provider that has plans for every size business but is particularly well-suited for smaller businesses up to 50 employees. Paychex Flex, the SMB-focused plan, lets you update the database via desktop or mobile dashboard, set automated rules, and run payroll quickly and efficiently. In fact, with self-service, Paychex lets your employees take the bulk of the data input off your shoulders entirely.

    In addition to running payroll, Paychex will calculate, pay, and file all of your taxes from local to federal. Pay your employees with direct deposit, paper check, or pay cards - whatever works best for you. Paychex plans also include features like onboarding, HR analytics, and an events calendar for seamless calculations.

    Pros
    • User-friendly software anyone can run
    • Great choice for small businesses
    • Affordable without missing out on features
    Cons
    • Lots of reports options can be confusing
    • New version launch takes getting used to
    Read Paychex Review
  • 4

    Quickbooks

    Accounting-focused payroll services
    Quickbooks
    • Best forComprehensive general ledger-linked payroll
    • Price rangeFrom $22.50per month + $4 per employee per month
    • Benefits & HRHealth benefits

    QuickBooks by Intuit is another well-known name that has recently stumbled into the payroll industry. A reputable accounting software, QuickBooks now offers payroll services that sync seamlessly with all of your accounting programs for a 360-degree inclusive service.

    One of QuickBooks’ strong points is the tax filing services it offers. It’s one of the best payroll service providers for handling year-round tax organization. QuickBooks automatically files all of your taxes, deals with deductions, lets you create custom tax categories, and tracks things like sales tax if you have an Ecommerce shop. It’s a very tidy way of staying on top of one of the major aspects of your business.

    Pros
    • Smooth onboarding support
    • Extensive tax-filing features
    • Fully integrates with your accounting software
    Cons
    • Not as customizable as competitors
    • Not as many features included in basic plans
    Read Quickbooks Review
  • 5
    Hassle-free payroll in one simple package
    Onpay
    • Best forSmall businesses and independent accountants
    • Price rangeFrom $36 per month + $4 per person
    • Benefits & HR401(k), worker’s comp, health insurance

    From its clean, easy-to-use interface to its single pricing structure, Onpay offers an accessible yet customizable payroll platform for small and growing businesses. Onpay may not be the biggest product in the payroll market, but it offers surprising depth and capabilities that allow businesses to streamline their payroll needs without much legwork. 

    For the payroll service itself, Onpay covers all the bases that a small business would need: the platform helps you easily do payroll for W2 employees and 1099 contractors, with automated tax filings and payments, and handles HR benefits, workers comp, and insurance for 50 states. Onpay also has an impressive slate of integration capabilities, allowing you to integrate time-tracking and accounting software that seamlessly syncs with the platform. In addition to all of that, the customer support team is responsive and adept at answering questions in a timely manner.

    Pros
    • Extremely accessible and user-friendly
    • Integrations with Quickbooks, time-tracking software, and more
    • Automated tax filing
    Cons
    • Not ideal for larger businesses
    • Limited to US-based businesses
    Read Onpay Review
  • 6

    Zenefits

    All in one employee benefits + payroll
    Zenefits
    • Best forEmployee benefits
    • Price rangeFrom $8per month per employee
    • Benefits & HR401k, supplemental, FSHA HSA, commuter

    Zenefits is an easy to use payroll service that provides self-service as its default for an easier and faster user experience. And while its payroll services are great, Zenefits really shines in the employee benefits department. You can get everything from employee medical, dental, and vision to life and disability insurance, 401k retirement funds, FSA and HSA accounts, commuter benefits, and more.

    That's not to say Zenefits doesn't have a solid payroll services online, because it does. The payroll end is reliable and straightforward. Zenefits includes features like unlimited pay runs, garnishments, tips reporting, and contractor payments. You'll also be able to get dynamic mobile paystubs via a user-friendly app.

    Pros
    • Extensive employee benefits
    • Easy to use self-service dash
    • Powerful business intelligence reporting
    Cons
    • Can’t do everything from the mobile app
    • Bit of a learning curve
    Read Zenefits Review
  • 7
    Over 100 years of service excellence
    Deluxe
    • Best forPayroll services with check printing, HR+
    • Price rangeFrom $32per month + initial costs
    • Benefits & HRHealthy, 401k, etc.

    For over a hundred years, Deluxe has been a reliable check printing service for more than 4.5 million customers across the country. Keeping up with the times, Deluxe has expanded its business offerings to include extensive HR benefits and payroll services, as well. From restaurants to major corporations, Deluxe has developed a fully-automated system that allows you to quickly and efficiently run payroll each month, whether you are working with full or part-time employees or independent contractors that need to be paid on their own schedule.

    Deluxe has a clean and efficient dashboard that’s user-friendly and intuitive. From here, businesses can run payroll, print reports, get department summaries, and set automated payroll rules, including federal, state, and local tax filing, new hire e-reporting, and employee self-service features.

    Pros
    • Customizable reporting feature
    • Compatible with popular accounting software
    • Secure online payments
    Cons
    • Not enough pricing info online
    • Overwhelming options for new businesses
    Read Deluxe Review
  • 8
    Affordable, comprehensive payroll services
    Paycor
    • Best forBusinesses seeking scalability
    • Price rangeFrom $49per month, $3 per user
    • Benefits & HR401k, child support, health

    Paycor is not as well-known as the really big names like ADP and Gusto, but it’s managed to generate quite a following nevertheless. This is due to the fact that Paycor is a no-nonsense, feature-rich payroll and human resource management service that delivers on its promises. Paycor comes complete with features like direct deposit, convenient mobile app, optimized payroll processing, and customizable widgets, so you can do just about anything you want within the software.

    One more thing businesses really like about Paycor is that it comes with a lot of the more sophisticated features that high-price range payroll service providers offer at a significantly lower price tag.

    Pros
    • Competitive pricing with room to scale
    • Huge knowledgebase of human resources
    • Strong reporting and analytics tools
    Cons
    • No pricing info published online
    • Employee review process is clunky
    Read Paycor Review
  • 9
    Simple, smart, and easy payroll services
    Square
    • Best forHourly employees, retailers, SMBs
    • Price rangeFrom $29per month + $5 per employee month
    • Benefits & HRHealth, 401k, workers comp, pre-tax

    Square is one of the best payroll services for small businesses on the market, particularly if you are already using Square for your point of sale needs. One of the least expensive options, Square handles all your payroll, comes with the usual benefits like health insurance and 401k, and has plenty of integrations to work with.

    Square fully automates your payroll, and you can run unlimited payrolls throughout the month. You can track employee hours, import time cards and tips, and set and forget tax filing. And what’s more, Square is available throughout the United States. So, no matter where you’re located, you can access these payroll services online.

    Pros
    • Fast and easy software to use
    • Run payroll multiple times per month
    • Affordable and feature-rich
    Cons
    • Reporting feature is limited
    • Doesn’t support all payment options
    Read Square Review
  • 10

    Patriot Software

    Payroll in three easy steps
    Patriot Software
    • Best forBarebones payroll service that’s easy to use
    • Price rangeFrom $10per month, $4 per employee
    • Benefits & HRHR management software

    Yet another payroll services for small businesses, Patriot Software really makes things simple for everyone. The system is laughably easy to use, with all the important functions just a click or two away. Patriot Software payroll services come with printable W-2s, time off calculators, workers' comp integrations, and full tax filing. There’s also free expert support, so if you’re ever stuck, there’s someone to turn to.

    Patriot Software also keeps pricing simple. It’s just $10 a month for the base price and $4 per month per employee you add. Plus, Patriot Software offers a 30-day free trial and free setup support. So, you can have things up and running in no time, and test out the software without any financial commitment to see if it’s the right fit for your business.

    Pros
    • Convenient setup wizard for fast startup
    • Affordable pricing plans
    • Full tax compliance
    Cons
    • Add-ons make the price jump considerably
    • No benefits included
    Read Patriot Software Review
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any free payroll software?
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Most if not all payroll software services cost money, though many of them will offer free trials and other perks for signing up, such as Gusto and ADP.
How can I set up a payroll for my small business?
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The first step is to find the right service for your business' size and needs. Then all you need to do is sign up, choose a plan, download the necessary software if applicable, and familiarize yourself with its tools and features.
How long does payroll take to process?
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Payroll takes a relatively short time to process. Depending on what services you use, it could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

The Benefits of Using a Payroll Service

Payroll used to be the bane of any manager or employer's existence. Once a month (or possibly more, depending on the company’s payment structure), they'd have to sit with the painful task of calculating, checking, complying, and organizing payroll for each employee. This included time off, sick leave, vacation days, salaried, hourly, temp employees, the works. Everyone gave a huge sigh of relief when payroll services and software came onto the scene.

The obvious benefit of using a payroll service is that this time-guzzling task is taken off your shoulders and your mind. In addition to that, though, there are other benefits a savvy business owner can glean using a reliable payroll service like:

Removes human error

Thousands of dollars are lost every year to businesses just because of a misplaced period or a forgotten zero. When people are crunching numbers, errors can happen. When machines do the work, that margin of error is reduced to negligible figures or erased altogether.

Tax compliance

Most good payroll services providers will also offer tax compliance and filing within their packages. This includes calculating, filing, reporting, and any other tax requirements needed. It also means that you’ll stay fully compliant since these services stay up to date with the ever-changing legal requirements for each state and business.

Keep employees in the loop

Payroll services keep all the important payroll data in one secure but easy to access location for all employees. So, your workers can quickly print out pay stubs, get a birds’ eye view of their annual payouts, or add information as necessary.

Other benefits include saving money with reporting and data analysis, better time efficiency, and human resource management like new-hire onboarding, vacation days calculating, and benefits management.

How to Choose the Right Service for You

While there is no telling a business which software or service will be the best fit for them, there are a few key features to look out for when doing your comparison shopping. Before signing up for any service, make sure it’s got these all-important checkboxes ticked off:

  • Full payroll management: Today, you really shouldn’t have to do anything but click a button or two to get payroll underway.
  • Easy payment methods: Whether you prefer direct deposit, pay cards, or business checks, make sure your payroll software has the options you want, so you can pay your employees quickly and with ease. 
  • Tax filing: This is one of the biggest perks of using payroll software today. Make sure the payroll service providers you’re looking at are fully tax compliant, meaning they file all your taxes, keep up to date with changes, and will send out forms and files like W-2s and 1099s for all of your employees. 
  • Compensation management: Taxes aren’t the only thing that need managing. Make sure your payroll services online take care of things like workers’ comp, bonuses, adjustments, and any other extras required by law.
  • HR benefits management: What benefits are included in your payroll service? Will they handle health like dental or vision care? Are there added perks like fitness and mental wellness packages? The more you can give your employees, the happier and more productive they'll be.
  • Employee self-serve: This isn't an essential feature, but it sure is useful. Employee self-serve means your employees can submit information for themselves. This way, you don't have to spend valuable time inputting all that data. It also means your employees can access their own information, so your workers can print their own pay stubs or check how many vacation days they have left without bothering you for this simple data search.
  • Reporting: Reporting is an important feature that lets you gain valuable insight into the inner workings of your organization. From taxes and budget overviews to employee productivity evaluations, reporting is an essential form of business intelligence you don’t want to do without.

The Difference Between a Payroll Software and a Payroll Service

At first glance, payroll software doesn’t appear any different than the payroll services you are used to. Upon closer look, however, you’ll notice some important differences that could make the choice of which type of payroll you want to invest in easier. Here are a few key areas where these two options diverge:

Security

Probably the most important aspect where payroll software and services differ is in security. Payroll services require you to send them all your employee information in order to run payroll. This includes highly sensitive data like employee identification numbers, bank information, and employee records. Of course, all of this is done through highly secure channels with the strongest levels of encryption. But the fact is that you are still sending over your extremely sensitive data.

Payroll software, on the other hand, lets you handle all of your payroll requirements without having to shift any sensitive data over to anyone else. You keep all of your information on your own servers, and only your eyes ever see these details. So, it’s a safer option to be sure.

Convenience

Payroll services has an edge over payroll software on this one. While it’s laughably simple to run payroll from most of the top payroll services online today, being able to hand over all the information for someone else to click those buttons is one step easier. So, if you’re looking for total hands-free, payroll services is a better bet.

Price

Of course, one of the biggest factors most companies will look at when comparing payroll options is the price tag. Hands down payroll software wins this battle. That’s because you simply can’t compare a software pricing structure with a service one. So, if money is an important factor, payroll software will win the war.

Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker is a content writer with years of experience and a keen interest in the vast world of online consumer products. She enjoys helping readers make sense of the options on the market in a variety of fields.