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The Top 5 Best Payroll Services for Your Small Business

Still not sure which payroll service provider is best for your business? We break down your options with our list of the best payroll service,
The Top 5 Best Payroll Services for Your Small Business

Still not sure which payroll service provider is best for your business? We break down your options with our list of the best payroll service providers for small businesses.

As a small business owner, one of the most important tasks you will need to do is pay your employees. Payroll can seem like a daunting task, especially for new business owners who are paying employees for the first time and wondering exactly how payroll actually works.

Here are some of the tasks you will need to take care of when paying employees:

  • Have your employees complete payroll forms (I-9 and W-4 for employees; W-9 for contractors)
  • Training hourly or salaried employees
  • Select the payment frequency: weekly, bi-monthly, semi-monthly or monthly
  • Track employee hours
  • Track employee benefits
  • Withhold taxes and make timely tax payments
  • Issue W-2s and/or 1099s at the end of the year

The number one reason business owners turn to payroll service providers is to ensure that payroll taxes are withheld correctly, tax forms are completed correctly and accurately, and taxes are transferred to the right payroll agency at the right time.

But payroll services also do a lot of other things. They allow your employees to get paid via direct deposit, keep track of personal information such as start and end dates, hourly wages and salaries, and in many cases integrate with accounting software applications to make it easier to track payroll expenses.

In short: there is no good reason not to use a payroll service provider.

Here are the best payroll services your small business can use:

What to look for in payroll services

Before looking for payroll processing services, you should first determine which features are most important to you. Here are some things to consider:

1. Features shown

Although most payroll providers offer similar services, in some cases these services may be included in the base price, while in others they are available at an additional cost.

HR features can be useful for small businesses without dedicated HR staff, but are HR features included in the price, or do you have to pay more for them?

Some payroll companies offer several plans, with only a few features on the more expensive plans, so be sure to keep this in mind when looking for a payroll service provider.

2. Ease of use

Small business owners have to wear many hats, and they often don't have the time or desire to learn a complex software application.

Before purchasing a payroll app for your business, make sure that the product is easy to use and can be up and running in a jiffy.

3. Affordability

How much can your business pay? We know that affordability is personal. While the majority of the payroll providers on this list sell for roughly the same price, some apps include full functionality, while others offer a basic plan, with the option to add extra features at an extra cost.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while the base fee may be higher on some apps, it can actually cost you less if all the features are included in that base price.

4. Access to Benefits Administration

If you provide benefits to your employees, you will also need to access benefits management features. These can include managing standard benefits, as well as accessing affordable health, life, and disability plans.

Additionally, if you currently offer benefits such as group life insurance for a term of more than $50,000, personal use of a vehicle, dependent assistance, or gym membership, you may need to add the value of these benefits as calculated income. Make sure your payroll service offers this option.

The Top 5 Picks for the Best Payroll Services

Small business owners have many options when it comes to finding a payroll service provider. While the majority of the reviewed payroll apps offer online payroll services, there are a few that offer an on-site solution, and there is also a free option. Here are our top 10 picks.


OnPay is The Ascent's number one choice for payroll services for small businesses for a good cause. Although OnPay is designed for small businesses, it can also be scaled up to fit medium-sized businesses.

With easy system navigation, OnPay offers industry-specific features to restaurants and other businesses that need to account for employee gratuities.

The Onpay plan also includes unlimited payroll cycles, full mobile access from any device, direct deposit, and multi-state payroll capability, plus a free employee service.

There is no need for a separate mobile app, the app is designed to work on any platform and easily pushes the app to employees and contractors, producing both W-2s and 1099s at the end of the year.

In addition to comprehensive payroll processing, OnPay offers comprehensive HR resources including employee offer letters, PTO approvals, compliance tools, and a variety of HR templates that can be used in a variety of situations.

OnPay offers great integration options with a variety of third-party accounting and timesheet/timer applications, and their support team is trained by the American Payroll Association.

OnPay offers one plan, with the plan currently priced at $36 per month, plus a $4 per employee fee. All features, including human resources and full support options, are included in the price.

2. QuickBooks Online Payroll

Designed to integrate with QuickBooks Online Accounting, QuickBooks Online Payroll can also be used as a stand-alone payroll software application. QuickBooks Online Payroll can be used for up to 50 employees, but because of varying pricing levels, is most affordable for businesses with 15 employees or less.

QuickBooks Online Payroll offers an easy onboarding process, so you can be up and running quickly. The application offers unlimited payroll runs, direct deposit capability, and tax reporting and remittance in all of its plans.

There is also an employee portal available so your employees can access pay stubs and tax forms. All plans include a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices.

QuickBooks Online Payroll does offer HR features, but they are only available in the Premium and Elite plans. Both plans also include time tracking capability.

QuickBooks Online Payroll starts at $22.50/month, with the Premium plan running $37.50/month, and Elite at $62.50/month. All pricing reflects an initial 50% discount for the first three months, with a $4 per employee fee added to the base price.

3. Patriot Payroll

Payroll Patriot may not be as well known as some of the other payroll apps featured here, but it does offer many of the same features. Patriot Payroll is designed for small businesses and currently offers two plans, both offering free direct deposit, employee gateway, and free payroll setup.

Keep in mind that the Basic plan does not include filing and remitting taxes.

Patriot Payroll offers easy and intuitive navigation, and the cost includes a full software setup. The program works on any device, so no mobile app is needed. The app also includes a great backlog base option, to easily track employee PTOs.

Optional modules for Time, Attendance, and Human Resources are also available, both of which are integrated with the payroll application.

Although Patriot Payroll doesn't include many extras, small businesses looking for an easy way to pay employees and payroll taxes will appreciate its simplicity.

Patriot Payroll offers two plans, Basic which is $10 per month, and Full Service which is $30 per month, with $4 per employee added to the base price. The time and attendance add-on are $5 per month, with the HR module running at $4 per month, each adding an additional $1 per employee.

4. Gusto Payroll

Designed for small businesses and particularly suitable for those in the hospitality industry, Gusto offers tools and resources that make keeping track of different salary levels and tip amounts a relatively simple task. Gusto also helps new users with the initial payroll setup process, getting you up and running quickly.

Providing easy system navigation, Gusto includes new rental reports, flexible payroll, unlimited payroll cycles, contractor payments, and multi-state payroll capability. Gusto can be accessed from any device, so no mobile app is needed.

The app also includes employee onboarding, complete tax filing, and money transfers. Gusto also offers HR resources, but only on the more expensive plan.

An autopilot is a great option for companies that pay a large number of salaried employees, and Gusto offers good integration options with a variety of third-party apps.

Gusto offers four plans: Basic, which is designed for one or two employees; Basic, ideal for small businesses; Comprehensive, which is good for business growth; and Concierge, which is best suited for large companies that need human resources.

Gusto's Basic plan has a base price of $19 per month, with a fee of $6 per employee; The base price for the Basic plan is $39 per month with a fee of $6 per employee; Complete $39 per month plus $12 per employee fee; And Concierge has a hefty price tag of $149 a month, plus a fee of $12 per employee.

5. SurePayroll

SurePayroll is designed for small business owners and includes a special version for those who pay local employees. Ideal for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, SurePayroll has fully automated the payroll process, which is a huge plus for already overworked business owners.

SurePayroll offers direct deposit, new rental reports, and time and attendance tracking. The app also includes comprehensive tax returns and transfers, with a mobile app available for iOS and Android devices.

An employee self-service option is also available, and SurePayroll integrates with a variety of third-party apps.

SurePayroll provides an easy-to-navigate payroll dashboard that provides access to all payroll features. The app has simplified the payroll entry process and reduced the amount of data entry required. An AutoPayroll option is also available for employees.

SurePayroll offers two plans: self-service, which does not include filing and deposit taxes, and full-service, which includes a two-day payroll processing time, plus access to HR resources and compliance labels.

The self-service plan costs $19.99 per month plus $4 per employee, while the full-service plan is $29.99 per month plus $5 per employee.

Read the full SurePayroll review from The Ascent

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