Small business owners must process payroll for their employees. As your company grows, a reliable system that generates payments quickly and easily becomes critical. If you’re tracking employee information and processing payments manually, options to consider include outsourcing to a payroll provider or upgrading to payroll software that will improve the efficiency of your in-house process.

Outsourcing saves you time and the cost of paying a salaried employee, but it can also result in less flexibility and control. If you choose to keep things in-house, there are numerous payroll solutions available to help you streamline the task.

What Is Small Business Payroll Software?

Small business payroll software is specifically designed to support small business users in processing their own payroll. Payroll software automates data entry and other processes that would otherwise have to be done manually.

Small businesses typically need software with basic capabilities, such as compensation, time tracking, and tax filing. Some business owners are simply looking for an affordable solution that is dedicated solely to payroll processing without any bells and whistles.

The benefits of using payroll software include:

  • Greater efficiency. The biggest benefit of a payroll management system is that it saves time and money. These solutions are designed to be highly intuitive and simple to set up and operate.
  • More accuracy and less risk. Software systems help eliminate the mistakes that can happen when running payroll manually and avoid costly penalties for noncompliance. Many of these solutions automatically calculate state and federal taxes while also handling your tax filings and payments.
  • Quick and useful reports.Payroll processing solutions allow you to track information over time and quickly produce useful reports for internal decision makers, accountants, and auditors.

When it comes to choosing payroll software, each small business has specific needs. Cost is always a key factor, and you may want something customized or simple enough to plug and play. If you travel, mobile access to payroll may be a top priority.

All of the well-known accounting software companies, from ADP and Paychex to Sage and Wave, offer payroll solutions. In fact, determining which of the numerous software options is best for your business can be a daunting task. Here are five popular systems for small businesses that will help you process payroll more efficiently. Take advantage of any free trials to see which is the best fit for your business.

Intuit Quickbooks Payroll

Intuit Payroll is frequently a top-rated choice that Business News Daily has chosen as “Best Payroll Service for Small Businesses.” The software provides payroll services that are scalable, and it integrates with QuickBooks accounting software, making it a good fit for businesses already using the platform.

Intuit Payroll offers three different plans at three different prices. The least expensive is a paycheck-only service that does not handle any payroll tax obligations. There is a $25 monthly base fee plus $2 per employee. The top tier Full Service plan runs payroll, completes and files all federal, state, and local forms, and guarantees mistake-free, on-time tax payments, all for a fee of $99 per month plus $2 per employee.

Unlike some services that base their pricing on the number of payrolls run each month, Inuit’s plans all include unlimited payroll runs. This gives you the flexibility to pay employees weekly, biweekly, or monthly.


PC Magazine rates Gusto the best cloud-based payroll solution for small to midsize businesses on a tight budget. The service, which handles all payroll and payroll tax responsibilities for both W-2 employees and outside contractors, is well designed, easy to use, and offers a full range of features including free direct deposit, an “autopilot” tool, new-hire reporting, and detailed payroll reports.

Employee self-onboarding is a time-saving feature that allows new hires to directly enter their own personal information. Additional offerings include the ability to administer health insurance and pretax employee benefits, such as 401(k) plans. The software can integrate with popular small business accounting software platforms including QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Xero.

The cost is $39 per month plus $6 per month for each employee. (As with many payroll software plans, the more employees you add the more costly it is.) Gusto offers a free one-month trial and helpful customer service.


OnPay charges an affordable monthly fee that includes payroll service for the first 10 employees, making it a low-cost option for very small businesses. Features include automatic payroll deductions and payroll tax payments, unlimited pay runs, and guaranteed accurate and timely tax filings and payments.

OnPay is a user-friendly, cloud-based platform, so you can manage payroll from your laptop, desktop, or smartphone. The company charges a flat $39.95 per month for a business with 10 employees, and additional employees cost $1 each per month. Support is available via phone, email, or live chat, and OnPay offers a 30-day free trial.

Patriot Payroll

Patriot Payroll from Patriot Software helps streamline all processes associated with keeping payroll and can help calculate payroll tax, print checks, set up direct deposit, and more. Developed for small businesses with up to 50 employees, this cloud-based system is supported by most operating systems and offers mobile access from iPhone and Android devices. It features an Employee Portal that allows employees to access their payroll and pay stub information.

Patriot Payroll offers Basic and Full Service plans ranging from $10 to $25 per month. The software is not all-inclusive, so expect to pay more for features such as employee time tracking. There are several options for screening the product before purchase, including a free 30-day trial. Implementation and support are free.


SurePayroll, which is owned by Paychex, is one of the oldest online payroll solution providers. It is suited to startups, sole proprietors, and small businesses with 1 to 10 employees, and you only pay for the services you need.

SurePayroll’s pricing is not listed on its website (the company offers free quotes), but online reviews indicate that cost depends on how frequently you pay your employees. Account set-up is fast, easy, and free, and a U.S.-based customer service team is available by phone or chat. The company does not offer a free trial, but guarantees reimbursement for standard payroll processing fees if you are not completely satisfied with the service during the first six months.

For small business owners, the right payroll software can save time and money and mitigate risk, all while allowing you and your employees to focus on the aspects of your business that are critical to future growth.

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