The 7 Best Payroll Services for Small Business of 2020

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Payroll services provide a solution that makes it easier to calculate employee pay, deliver payment, and send required tax forms. Payroll can be complex and difficult to complete on your own, especially if you have more than a few employees. According to a study by the IRS, many small businesses pay an average of $845 per year in penalties for payroll errors. 

Payroll services do all of the hard work for you and keep you up to date on any legal requirements for your state so that you can focus on running your business. The best payroll services will offer an automated solution that collects employee time, calculates and processes payroll, and includes free end-of-year tax filings. 

"Payroll services" is an all-encompassing term that includes both payroll software that will help you process your payroll yourself and also outsourced services that will handle all of the payroll on your behalf. Each takes away the worry about whether you’re doing payroll correctly or not and helps you handle payroll with little effort and without a large team to complete the work.

We researched and reviewed more than two dozen payroll services and chose the best seven based on pricing, features, ease of use, customer service, and more. Here are our top picks.

The 7 Best Payroll Services for Small Business of 2020

Gusto: Best Overall

Gusto
Gusto

Gusto is our best overall payroll service because it is easy to use and provides an all-in-one solution that works for most businesses. Their pricing is competitive and Gusto’s features are loaded with everything that businesses without an internal payroll team will love. From automating your entire payroll to servicing businesses in many states, Gusto is a great option for any business but really tops the other options for small businesses that need the most help. 

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of Gusto’s payroll service: 

  • Pricing: $39 to $149 + $6 to $12 per employee per month
  • Ease of Use: Very Easy
  • Tax Services: Offers a penalty-free tax guarantee, automatically calculates taxes and withholdings, and automatically formulates end-of-year tax forms
  • Year-End Fees: Issues year-end W2s and 1099s, included in the price
  • Accounting Integrations: QuickBooks, Xero, and most other accounting software

Additionally, Gusto’s customer service is highly rated. They offer both phone and email support from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pacific time, and users can even get a dedicated team that intimately knows their account if they opt for the most expensive plan.

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll: Runner-Up for Best Overall

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll

 Intuit QuickBooks Payroll

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll offers many of the same features that Gusto does, even down to health benefits for employees. QuickBooks Payroll is our runner-up for best overall because of how well-rounded their offering is combined with their ability to connect so seamlessly with QuickBooks, which is the most widely used accounting software for small businesses. While slightly more expensive than Gusto, Intuit still offers a competitive price, a solid service, and overall is a good fit for just about anyone, especially if you use QuickBooks. 

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of Intuit Payroll’s services: 

  • Pricing: $45 to $125 + $4 to $10 per employee per month 
  • Ease of Use: Easy overall with the easiest QuickBooks integration on the list
  • Tax Services: Tax penalty protection, 1099 e-file, auto-calculates withholdings, and company tax payments are integrated directly into QuickBooks accounting software
  • Year-End Fees: Issues year-end W2s and 1099s, included in the price
  • Accounting Integrations: QuickBooks accounting (which they also make), most other major accounting platforms

Intuit also has a strong customer support system built around all of their products. Their payroll service isn’t the most popular part of their business, but they support it the same as QuickBooks accounting. You can reach their support from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Pacific time via both phone and live chat. They also offer a payroll support center online where you can get additional help through various guides, FAQs, and other resources they’ve curated.

Wave Payroll: Best for Pricing

Wave

 Wave

Wave Payroll is our best option for pricing because they have a flat rate, depending on what state you’re in, instead of increasing the price by tiers of features. Wave also offers a free accounting and invoicing software that you can combine with Payroll, making it even more of an affordable option. Wave offers a simple payroll software that is easy to use, and you can try it free for 30 days. The only drawback is that the free tax filings are only available in 14 states. 

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of Wave’s payroll service: 

  • Pricing: $35 per month in the 14 states they file taxes in, $20 per month in all other states, + $6 per employee or independent contractor per month
  • Ease of Use: Very easy, especially if you’re using Wave’s accounting software
  • Tax Services: Free tax filings, employee W2s and contractor 1099s, only available in 14 states but does include California, New York, and Texas
  • Year-End Fees: Issues year-end W2s and 1099s in 14 states, included in the price
  • Accounting Integrations: Wave Accounting, QuickBooks

Wave has average customer service reviews online. Many users feel like Wave was not very helpful when they called into the team, but most reviews seem to be related to their payments product. They have the lowest number of support options on this list, only offering customers the opportunity to submit a support ticket and wait for a response.

Justworks: Best for Outsourcing Payroll

JustWorks

 JustWorks

Justworks is a professional employer organization (PEO) that will completely outsource all of your payroll and handle it for you. The drawback of PEOs is that your employees are technically employees of the PEO and you have less control when something goes wrong. Justworks is our best outsourcing payroll service because of their ease of use, pricing, and the number of HR functions you can outsource with payroll. 

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of Justworks payroll service:

  • Pricing: $39 to $99 per employee per month, depending on how many employees you have
  • Ease of Use: The easiest because you don’t have to do anything except point your employees to Justworks to get signed up
  • Tax Services: Handles all W2 and 1099 filings and employer payroll tax filings
  • Year-End Fees: Issues all year-end W2s and 1099s online, included in the price
  • Accounting Integrations: QuickBooks and Xero, with other API options

Justworks has a strong online reputation in regard to its customer support. They offer both phone and online chat support options from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. They also offer a lot of helpful articles and other forms of content that might help your employees through any issues they’re having with the service.

ADP Run: Best for Growing Businesses

ADP Run

 ADP Run

ADP is the most experienced payroll service option on our list. They service businesses of all sizes and, while they might be a little expensive for newer businesses or those with only a few employees, they can handle hundreds of employees without a problem. That’s why we chose ADP Run as our best payroll service for growing businesses that plan to be greater than 100 employees. 

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of ADP’s payroll service:

  • Pricing: Unique pricing for all businesses that is undisclosed. Typically ADP is more pricey than most of the other options on the list
  • Ease of Use: Moderately easy to use but it can be difficult for small businesses who are unfamiliar with payroll software
  • Tax Services: Handles all W2 and 1099 filings as well as employer tax filings
  • Year-End Fees: All year-end filings are included in the price, regardless of what package you select
  • Accounting Integrations: QuickBooks, Xero, and most other accounting software

ADP isn’t known for great customer service, but they still have mostly good reviews online. Their customer service is available 24/7, but your support is handled overseas. There are also situations where ADP’s support will redirect your employees to you to solve problems instead of solving them on their own. Overall, their service is widely available but it’s subpar in terms of quality compared to other options on the list.

OnPay: Best for Software Integrations

OnPay

 OnPay

OnPay is a solid payroll service that offers integrations for not only most accounting software options but also with most time tracking software. OnPay’s API makes it easy to integrate even if they don’t currently offer a direct integration. That’s why we chose OnPay as the best option if you’re looking for integration options. OnPay is also very quick to process payroll, and you can run the entire process easily right on your mobile device. They offer a flat pricing structure that’s affordable and easy to understand.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of OnPay’s payroll service:

  • Pricing: $36 + $4 per employee per month
  • Ease of Use: Very Easy
  • Tax Services: Handles all W2 and 1099 filings, annual employer tax filings
  • Year-End Fees: All filings are included in the flat fee pricing
  • Accounting Integrations: QuickBooks, Xero, and most other major accounting software

OnPay has strong reviews for its customer support across the internet, often receiving more than a 4.5 out of 5 ratings. They offer both phone and email support, available Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 pm Eastern. If customer support is one of the most important things to you, then this is a great option.

SurePayroll: Best for Paying Household Workers

SurePayroll

 SurePayroll

SurePayroll is a good option if you’re looking for something different than what we’ve already discussed. In fact, if you’re in a very niche industry and find it difficult to find a good partner, then this might be the best bet for you. They work great with every business type from retail to churches. That’s why we chose it as the best payroll service if you’re looking to pay the workers who work for you at your home. 

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of SurePayroll’s payroll service:

  • Pricing: $29.99 to $39.99 + $4 to $10 per month per employee or independent contractor
  • Ease of Use: Easy—it’s not the easiest option on the list, but it’s intuitive enough to help pretty much any business
  • Tax Services: Can handle W2, 1099, and employer filings, but it’s not included in the price
  • Year-End Fees: Requires you to pay an additional fee
  • Accounting Integrations: Only available if you pay a regular monthly fee

SurePayroll requires a lot of add-ons to find the right package that may work best for your situation. Their customer support has a good, not great, reputation across the internet. They do offer six days of support, though, with their hours being Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Central time, and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

What Are Payroll Services?

Payroll services is a term that includes the software and/or the outsourced parties used to process payroll for businesses. Typically, a payroll service will provide not only a way for you to process basic payroll, but you’ll get lots of extra features. These include a way to pay employees via direct deposit, integrations or built-in methods to record time, tax calculations and processing, and a way for you to issue year-end documents like W2s and 1099 forms to your employees. 

Most small businesses will be satisfied with an all-in-one software solution that is affordable and can do most of the heavy lifting for you, especially if you don’t have an internal team of experts to process payroll on your behalf. This simplifies payroll without breaking the bank. There are also outsourced services, such as a personal employer organization (PEO), that will take care of all payroll activities but unless you have a significant amount of employees, they can be expensive or difficult to work with. 

There are numerous things to look for when you are trying to find the right payroll service for your business. “Among the top considerations when evaluating payroll service providers are user-friendly software that meets your technical requirements, a track record of dependable service, and fair and transparent pricing," says Leigh-Ann Mosley, Director at Inova Payroll. "A user should also look at the long-game when considering a payroll service provider. Will the service easily expand if I add 10 or 50 employees? Are there fee increases each year?”

How Do Payroll Services Work?

A payroll service, or payroll software, is used by businesses to automatically calculate and process payroll. Typically you’ll either set up an automatic connection with whatever system you use to collect your employee’s time or you’ll manually enter work time each week into your payroll service. 

Based on the information you’ve entered about each employee, your software will calculate how much tax to withhold and how much to pay your employees. If your employees have direct deposit, then your payroll service will initiate a transfer from your bank account to theirs. 

At the end of the year, your payroll service will easily run the 1099 and W2 forms of your workers and help you either print or provide secure access to these documents for your employees. This can save you countless hours of trying to create and send these to your employees by the deadline. Plus, using software that you’ve used to pay the employees all year ensures that the numbers align with the money that has been deposited into their bank accounts. 

How Much Do Payroll Services Cost?

Payroll services typically require a base cost of $20 to $100 per month plus an additional cost per employee or independent contractor that ranges from $4 to $10. Some services might have a per-pay or per-check fee, but if you’re planning on pushing direct deposit for employees then you can rely on the costs above, which typically will include weekly pay periods, if desired. 

Are Payroll Services Worth the Cost?

If you have even one employee then these payroll services are typically worth the cost just for the amount of time and risk they will save you and your business. If you have a good handle on employee laws, taxes, and accounting for your business, then you could do this yourself, but the potential cost and liability of missing deadlines or paying people incorrectly could end up costing you a lot more than the price of a simple payroll service or software.

Other types of software will offer payroll services as an add-on to a program you’re already purchasing, but we still recommend getting your own service provider. The add-ons don’t typically have all of the features that make the best payroll services so great, and they can cost about the same or more than the ones on this list. 

How We Chose the Best Payroll Services for Small Business

We researched nearly two dozen of the best payroll services based first on the combination of features and pricing. At a minimum all payroll services needed to offer a way to automatically track time, calculate payroll and taxes, direct deposit your employee’s pay, and provide end-of-year tax documents. Beyond that, we also considered ease of use, additional features, and customer service.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. Inc.com. "Payroll Challenges Are a Fact of Small-Business Life." Accessed August 31, 2020.