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Our small business payroll services picks for 2024

By: RAECHEL CONOVER | Fact Checked By: JAMIE OSTROE | Updated: May 20, 2024

Dedicating time and staff to run payroll for your small business can take up a lot of time and resources. Fortunately, there are many payroll services for small businesses that can help. Our list below includes a mix of payroll software that automates processes to help your payroll run seamlessly and payroll services that allow you to outsource these tasks and take payroll out of your hands completely. Check out our top picks to find the solution that best meets your small business needs.

Our Top Picks

  1. OnPay – Best for Affordable Full-Service Payroll
  2. Deel – Best for Global Payroll
  3. Paycor – Best Payroll to Grow and Scale
  4. Gusto – Best for Startups
  5. Patriot – Cheapest Payroll Service for Small Business
  6. Justworks – Best for Outsourcing Payroll

Payroll Services for Small Business Reviews

We identified 23 popular small business payroll services and narrowed them down to our top six picks based on features offered, pricing transparency, customer support, and brand reputation. The companies we review are well-known in the industry and specialize in serving small businesses from all different industries. Check out our methodology section for details on how we made our choices.

onpay logo

OnPay – Best for Affordable Full-Service Payroll

OnPay is one of the best full-service payroll and tax services for small business. With truly one flat fee, it is affordable. It includes features such as multi-state payroll, unlimited payroll runs, payroll for multiple pay schedules, direct deposit, automated tax filing, employee self-service, and custom reporting.

OnPay goes above and beyond what similar companies feature and includes HR features like PTO and benefits management without an added fee. One drawback is that it lacks a time tracking feature, but it does integrate with most of the popular HR programs that provide it.

Customer service stands out for users who say OnPay’s service is outstanding, responsive, and helpful. The company also offers extended customer service hours on the weekends.

  • Extended weekend customer service hours
  • Employee self-service portal
  • Multi-state payroll
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • No mobile app
  • Time tracking is not included

Get Started Visit OnPay’s website.

OnPay features

  • Direct deposit
  • Tax filing
  • Employee self-service
  • HR add-ons

What markets does OnPay serve?

OnPay is one of the best payroll services for small businesses. As a straightforward service with no hidden fees, it provides above and beyond basic payroll services. It even includes tax services and basic HR tools to help small businesses save time and money while paying employees accurately and on time.

Read our full OnPay Review.

deel logo

Deel – Best for Global Payroll

By allowing companies to hire in over 150 countries and run payroll in over 90 currencies, Deel makes a global workforce a reality for small businesses. Focused on compliance with local laws and taxes, it takes all the guesswork out of payroll services for small businesses.

Deel offers several plans that will easily align with your small business goals. If you hire all contractors, they have an affordable option, or if you plan to employ non-contract employees in another country, Deel has you covered. Instead of setting up a costly entity, you can use one of Deel’s over 100 worldwide entities and let Deel take full liability for those global employees. This service is free for small businesses with less than 200 employees.

Deel is one of the highest-rated payroll services for small business, with good reason. User reviews indicate that customer service is superb, while others gush over how affordable it is to run global payroll. Still, others find it seamless to onboard employees no matter their location in the world.

  • Global payroll in over 150 countries
  • Over 90 currencies available for payroll
  • Takes full liability for global workers
  • Focus on tax compliance
  • Free global payroll for small businesses
  • No phone support
  • Self-onboarding to get started

Get Started Visit Deel’s website.

Deel features

  • Direct deposit
  • Tax filing
  • Employee self-service
  • HR add-ons

What markets does Deel serve?

Deel is the best option for small businesses needing to pay a global workforce. By allowing small businesses to use Deel’s preset entities instead of setting up their own entity to support global workers, it saves you money – it’s free for companies with less than 200 employees.

Read our full Deel Review.

paycor logo

Paycor – Best Payroll to Grow and Scale

Paycor is an HCM company that provides payroll software, among other HR services. One way Paycor payroll software stands out is that it features an AutoRun tool – a way to schedule payroll runs ahead of time and then run them later without getting online. This tool also scans for errors and notifies you if there are errors that need fixing.

Paycor also features tax compliance tools, unlimited payroll runs, many opportunities to automate processes, a mobile app, and core HR tools like document management. HR add-ons include benefits administrations, ATS, talent management, workforce management, employee experience, and expense tracking.

Our research into Paycor found that the company scores brownie points with users regarding an easy-to-set-up and navigate user interface. At the same time, Paycor customer service does get some complaints.

  • AutoRun payroll feature
  • Includes core HR tools
  • Many HR addons available
  • 14-day free trial
  • No pricing details

Get Started Visit Paycor’s website.

Paycor features

  • Direct deposit
  • Tax filing
  • Time tracking
  • Employee self-service
  • HR add-ons

What markets does Paycor serve?

Paycor is set up to help small to mid-size businesses streamline and run payroll anytime from anywhere. By offering a wide range of HR features and functions, the software is particularly useful for small businesses that plan to grow and scale.

Read our full Paycor Review.

gusto logo

Gusto – Best for Startups

Providing a well-rounded small business software, Gusto offers four plans to choose from, including a plan designed for contract workers that waives the monthly fee. Features of each plan include full service, single state payroll along with a self-service employee app, hiring, and onboarding tools. Other HR features and different customer service levels are included, depending on your plan.

Ease of use stands out in user reviews, with users reporting that the interface is so easy to set up and use that there is no need for customer service – a good thing since customer service levels garner some complaints.

  • Low-priced plan for contractor workers
  • Employee self-service through the mobile app
  • Direct deposit
  • Automated tax filing and compliance
  • U.S.-based payments only
  • Limited customer service on lower-priced plans

Get Started Visit Gusto’s website.

Gusto features

  • Direct deposit
  • Tax filing
  • Time tracking
  • Employee self-service
  • HR add-ons

What markets does Gusto serve?

Gusto is ideal for small businesses that hire a lot of contract or independent workers. The company waives the monthly fee for companies that use only contract workers. Instead on this plan, you are only charged a small price per contractor per month – unlike their other plans that charge a monthly and per-employee fee, this drastically reduces costs for small businesses.

Read our full Gusto Review.

patriot logo

Patriot – Cheapest Payroll Service for Small Business

Patriot is accounting and payroll software designed specifically for small and large businesses with up to 500 employees. The cheapest option on our list, users can choose between a basic payroll plan starting at $17 per month and $4 per employee or contractor or a full-service plan starting at $37 per month and $4 per employee or contractor. The main difference between the two is in the basic plan, you handle payroll taxes yourself, and in the full-service plan, they are taken care of for you.

Other features of Patriot include free setup and onboarding, direct deposit, unlimited payroll runs, an employee portal, and customer service. Users can add on time and attendance tracking and additional HR services.

Our research found that users have nothing negative to say about Patriot. On top of being extremely affordable, customer service is very well-regarded.

  • Affordable for small businesses
  • Free setup and onboarding
  • Easy learning curve
  • Tax service only included in full-service plan
  • Time and attendance tracking is an add on

2 months free with promo code SS46 Visit Patriot’s website.

Patriot features

  • Direct deposit
  • Tax filing
  • Employee self-service
  • HR add ons

What markets does Patriot serve?

Patriot clearly states their software is ideal for companies with up to 500 employees. Between the free setup and onboarding, the very user-friendly interface, and superb customer support, Patriot is perfect for small businesses that need small business payroll software but don’t have the dedicated staff or a large budget to support it.

Read our full Patriot Review.

justworks logo

Justworks – Best for Outsourcing Payroll

Justworks operates differently than the others on our list of payroll services. It’s a PEO which means they take payroll out of your hands and process it for you. As the employer of record for your employees, much of the legal liability falls on them, and they handle your payroll and HR. We like Justworks because it is a good solution for growing small businesses that that need a plug-and-play HR, payroll, and benefits solution.

In addition to being able to outsource payroll and not worry about it at all, Justworks features tax filings, direct deposit, synced timesheets, and HR basics like document management, hiring and onboarding, time management, and reporting. Using Justworks, you can also offer your employees affordable benefits packages.

Customer service is available 24/7 by phone, chat, or email. Our research indicates that users are satisfied with Justworks and state that customer service is helpful, while the interface is very easy to use. Some suggest that it is maybe just a little too simple in the reporting and offerings, but most seem happy with the service.

  • Reduced liability
  • Payroll run for you
  • Ideal for complicated hires and high turnover
  • More expensive
  • Time tracking not included

Get Started Visit Justworks’ website.

Justworks features

  • Direct deposit
  • Tax filing
  • Employee self-service
  • HR add-ons

What markets does Justworks serve?

Justworks is perfect for companies that don’t have the staff to dedicate to HR and payroll since it takes these duties and does them for you. In addition, if you’re a company with high turnover or complicated international hires, then letting a PEO run your payroll saves you time and money from paying an in-house professional.

Read our full Justworks Review.

Compare the best payroll services for small businesses side-by-side

Software Name Why we picked It Starting price for cheapest plan Highlights
Paycor Best to Grow and Scale Request a quote Features AutoRun payroll and many HR features not included with competitors
Gusto Best for Startups $6 per independent contractor per month No monthly fee when only paying independent contractors
Patriot Cheapest Payroll Service for Small Businesses $17/month and $4/employee a month Low cost, free setup and onboarding, easy to use, and excellent user reviews
OnPay Best for Affordable Full-Service Payroll $40/month and $6/employee a month Unlimited and multi-state payroll runs with no hidden fees
Deel Best for Global Payroll $49/month per employee Run payroll in over 150 countries in 90 currencies
Justworks Best for Outsourcing Payroll $59/month per employee Reduced liability, they take and run payroll for you

What is payroll?

In broad terms, payroll refers to how you, as a business, compensate your employees for the work they do for you. In reality, that also means calculating their net pay, tax on the payment, ensuring they get the correct amount on time, and keeping stringent records of every compensation you pay out.

Whether you’re paying one employee or 50, you need a system to ensure payroll is done consistently, on time, and correctly. Payroll services for small businesses help you understand the payroll processes and provide the tools you need to manage information, take care of deductions, and pay your employees on time and accurately every time.

How do small business payroll services work?

Small business payroll services encompass both payroll software and outsourced payroll service. In-house payroll software for small businesses, like OnPay, Gusto, Deel, and others on our list, is just as it sounds – software that helps you process your payroll in-house.

Payroll services for small business, such as Justworks, are outsourced services that handle all payroll processes and tasks on your behalf. Both are helpful to you as a small business because they remove the need for a payroll team and ensure that you are doing payroll correctly.

How do small businesses use payroll services?

Payroll services vary, and you will need to determine the best fit for the size of your company and the level of payroll knowledge your employees running payroll have. Patriot is a good choice for companies new to payroll software as it offers free setup and onboarding, a user-friendly interface, and helpful customer support.

A basic payroll system helps run payroll and pay your employees through direct deposit while managing payroll information and tax deductions. If you’re paying contractors, you want to find software that specifically pays contract workers, such as Gusto. If you have workers in another country, you’ll need a solution that offers global payroll like Deel.

What features should a small business payroll service have?

When it comes to the best online payroll services for small business, you must know what your company’s unique needs are and find a service that offers features that best meets those needs. Features that low-cost payroll services for small businesses can offer include:

  • Onboarding services
  • Organizational charts
  • Staff directories
  • PTO and time off tracking tools
  • Benefits administration
  • Direct deposit
  • Tax compliance tools
  • End-of-the-year tax documents
  • Tax deductions
  • Time tracking
  • Employee self-service

Finally, the ability to integrate with other HR software is an important feature of a payroll service. We recently surveyed HR representatives, and common integrations our respondents look for in payroll software include time tracking, tax filing, benefits, accounting software, and ATS.

How much does small business payroll software cost?

Low-cost payroll services for small businesses typically charge a monthly fee plus a fee per employee or contractor per month. While there is no such thing as free payroll software, the cheapest payroll service we found is Patriot at a modest $17 per month and $4 per employee per month. While Paycor does not offer many pricing details, we spoke to an HR Director who uses Paycor and they told us they pay around $400 per month for 10 to 30 employees.

Gusto is unique because it offers to waive the monthly fee if your company only pays contract workers. The cost for this service is just $6 per contractor per month. The highest-priced payroll service on our list is Justworks at $59 per month per employee. This is an outsourced service where you carry none of the payroll responsibility and limited liability, making the service overall more expensive – but still cheaper than hiring a dedicated payroll team.

The following chart details our top picks and how they compare in price:

Service Name Monthly Fee Monthly Cost Per Employee Free Trial
Gusto $0 $6 (independent contractors only) No
Patriot $17 $4 Yes
OnPay $40 $6 Yes
Justworks $0 $59 No

Payroll Services for Small Business FAQ

What is the best payroll software system for small business users?

The best payroll software for small business is one that fits your unique needs. For example, if you’re paying contract workers, Gusto is a good choice, while Deel is the best payroll software for global employees. If you prefer to hand over payroll control, Justworks is an outsourcing option that will get the job done for you.

What is the easiest way to do payroll for a small business?

Whether you choose a payroll software that you manage or a payroll service that you outsource is entirely up to you and your company’s needs. The decision comes down to how complicated your payroll is and if you have staff to support payroll software. It might be easy to get started on payroll software like Patriot and run it yourself, or you might find it easier to hand over payroll to an outsourced service like Justworks.

How much does payroll software cost for small business?

The cost of payroll services for small businesses varies depending on what software or service you pick and what plan within that solution you choose. The cheapest payroll service on our list is Patriot, and the most expensive is the outsourced service Justworks.

How we chose the best payroll services for small businesses

We curated a list of 23 payroll services for small businesses on the market and identified ten popular vendors with significant online search volume to narrow our focus. From there, we chose six vendors that stood out for features offered, brand reputation, pricing transparency, and customer service.

We collect information from vendors and verify it through:

  • Customer and expert reviews
  • Vendor and parent company websites

We scored companies on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) across the following criteria, each worth 25% of our total score:

  • Variety of features: We looked for services that offered direct deposit to pay employees, employee self-service through a portal or mobile app, tax deductions and end-of-year documents, automatic time tracking, and the option to add on HR features. A company scores higher when offering all these features because payroll is easier to manage and maintains accuracy and compliance.
  • Pricing transparency:We compare actual pricing for each payroll service and assess how readily available this information is. Companies that are straightforward, list their monthly and user fee, and offer a free trial period scored higher in this section than companies that require you to request a price quote.
  • Customer support: We looked for companies that offered multiple ways to access customer support, including a resource library, live chats, email, and a dedicated customer service line. Services that included all these features scored highest in this section.
  • Brand reputation: We studied what customers said about each company. Reviews and ratings from trustworthy third-party review sites were compiled into a percentage rating to get a sense of each vendor’s brand reputation.

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