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The Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses Staff
You can run a consulting firm, manage a grocery store, or be the owner of your very own boutique kombucha brewery, and you’re always going to have the same annoying hassle looming over your head—your payroll needs.

Whether your employees are paid by the hour or on a salary basis, you could probably use some help keeping things organized. Payroll isn’t just a matter of counting hours and sick days, there’s also tax compliance, where a simple mistake can mean big penalties and a one-way ticket to auditville. A payroll software program can make sure you keep those forms filled right, so that tax day is no longer dreadful. Let’s talk about what small business owners should look for in a payroll service:

  • Setup

When looking for a payroll software, consider how complicated the onboarding process will be. Are you going to need a company representative to set it up for you? Is it something that can be done on your own, and learned on the same day? Will you need to carry out a complicated learning process with your employees? 

Payroll software should be easy to set up on your own, and should require only a short onboarding process to get everybody up to speed. Look at it this way—payroll software is meant to simplify things, not make them more complicated. 

  • Tax Compliance

Making sure all of your tax filings are accurate is often easier said than done. First you have to make sure everyone is legally authorized to work at your establishment. Then, you need to factor in whatever tax credits or extra responsibilities your business has. And only then, figure out the deductions from your employees wages, and the taxes you pay based on them. You also need to factor in state and federal tax, Social Security, unemployment taxes, and more. For a small or medium-size business without a large financial department, this can really stretch you thin, especially when you factor in how tax regulations can change from one year to the next.

Look for payroll software that automatically updates changes in tax compliance law, and will ensure that you are up to date. Also make sure to find one thatis intuitive and easy to use.

  • Ease of Use

Your payroll software should have an interface that is intuitive and you should be able to make updates and add new employees quickly and easily. It should not take long to train employees to use the system, nor should you need any technical expertise to figure out how to operate it. The software should be able to automate, so that you can set up payments, reports, and other necessary functions at regular planned intervals. 

  • Customer Support

Even if you order a payroll software that is remarkably easy to operate, there may be times when not everything goes as planned. If you have a problem with the software, you’ll want to know that you have somewhere to turn with questions. Look for a software provider with a reputation for solid customer service and with representatives available through multiple channels, such as live chat, phone, or email. 

  • Reports

Central to the appeal of payroll software is how it helps you keep track of the paperwork involved in running a small business. This can include compiling detailed pay stubs for employees, organizing schedule requests and shift management, calculating sick and vacation days, tax calculations and more. 

  • Employee Side Services 

To keep things running smoothly, your system should have a portal for employees. This will allow them to carry out tasks such as reviewing their pay stubs, going over their work hours, and receiving information regarding their taxes. Enabling employee access to the system saves supervisors time finding the information for them. 

  • Pay Slips

Your software should enable you to quickly and efficiently compile and send out payslips for your employees. You should have the option to send these payslips by email or to print them in a format of your choosing. The interface should be dynamic, and allow you to readily make changes to payslips when needed. 

  • Some top payroll software brands 


Best for: Customer service 


  • 24/7 customer service 
  • Business software integrations 
  • Self-service app for employees
  • Fully mobile 


  • Pricing only available by request 
  • Online forms can be cumbersome 

ADP provides a comprehensive payroll solution that is easy to use and is backed up by 24/7 customer service. Employees can log in and use the system in order to access their salary information, and all tax filing processes are taken care of quickly and can be made easier by the software’s “automated and error-free online payroll processing.” The award-winning software can also integrate with a number of programs, including QuickBooks, Wave, Xero and Sage 50 cloud. 


Best for: Agile payment of employee salaries 


  • Seamless integration with top business software 
  • Easy to use 
  • Competitive pricing 


  • Only manual processing for mandated deductions 
  • No 24/7 customer service chat option 

When it comes to payroll, Gusto gives you the maximum flexibility in carrying out payments. The software comes with what is called its “unlimited payroll option,” which lets you make your payments to employees inside or outside of scheduled payment cycles however you like. It also makes cancelling payments easy. With Gusto you can easily add new hires into your system with a simple click. All necessary forms are sent to the new hire, who then sends them back signed and ready for filing. The software also integrates with sophisticated time tracking so you can see how employees are spending their time on the clock. In addition, the system syncs with a number of business software platforms including QuickBooks, Xero,and TSheets, just to name a few. And when it comes to reports, Gusto makes them easy to read and highly-customizable. 


Best for: In-depth reporting 


  • Secure online payments 
  • Integration with top business software 
  • Customized reporting


  • Only manual processing for mandated deductions 
  • No 24/7 customer service chat option 

Deluxe is a highly-efficient payroll software that also includes an extensive toolkit of security measures to protect you from identity theft and a range of other threats. For tax compliance, Deluxe can handle federal, state, and ocal filings, and your year-end W2 processing. It can also take care of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to employee insurance payments, and can provide you with free expert support from the company. 

The platform also gives you a number of options for payment, including by e-checks, direct deposit, or payroll cards. 


Best for: On-the-go payroll management 


  • Flexible pricing for growing businesses 
  • Automatically calculates overtime
  • Import time cards automatically
  • Simple to use 


  • Processing fees can add up 
  • No 24/7 customer support

You probably know Square as the web-based point of sale system with the mobile card swipe that plugs into a smartphone to make transactions. In addition to its ease of use and mobility, Square also offers extensive payroll options. You can pay employees via direct deposit, manual checks, or by way of the Cash App, among other options. You can easily manage employee time cards and overtime, as well as calculate their taxes and filings in a flash. You can use the software to purchase benefit packages for yourself and your employees—from health insurance to retirement payments—and easily take care of employee taxes. Square has no 24/7 customer service, which is a drawback, though Square is known for being easy to use. In addition, you can highly customize Square by way of the “Square Marketplace,” where you can find hundreds of add-ons and integration options. 


Best for: Getting employees up to speed 


  • Cloud-based, easy to use 
  • Recruiting and onboarding management 
  • Extensive integrations 
  • Variety of payment options 


  • Some users have reported issues with running the Absence Management System 
  • No 24/7 customer support

Paycor gives you the means to manage recruiting, hiring, and analyzing extensive employee data and timekeeping. This cloud-based solution is designed for small and medium-sized businesses and has an easy-to-use interface that shouldn’t be hard to get the hang of. With Paycor you can opt for the all-in-one Human Capital Management (HCM) platform, which manages recruiting and onboarding, as well as timekeeping, payroll, and taxes. You can use Paycor to pay your employees by way of direct deposit or a pay card, and you can use the mobile app to give your employees access to their pay stubs and benefits information. You can also set up the software with a high degree of automation so you don't miss your filings. 

Get Your Company's Payroll Needs in Order

Running a small business means pouring your time, heart, sweat, and tears, into your dream. It also means a fair amount of headaches, some of which have to do with managing your employees and your payroll. Payroll management software simplifies things, and can make even a small business run with the efficiency of a well-oiled, large business with a dedicated HR department. Now that you know what to look forin payroll software, it’s your turn to look at what your company needs, and find the software that fits for you.

Check out our in-depth reviews of the top payroll software for more information. Staff's editorial staff is a professional team of editors and writers with dozens of years of experience covering consumer, financial and business products and services.