Payroll software tools can help ensure your staff members are compensated, while freeing up time for human resources managers and employees to apply their energy to other tasks. If you are interested in leveraging payroll software to support your staff members and improve the efficiency of your payroll operations, read on for a list of the best payroll software products’ features and pros and cons as well as how these tools compare.
Features comparison table for top payroll software
|Payroll in all 50 U.S. states||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Employee self-service features||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|International payroll processing||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|General ledger reporting and mapping||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Employee onboarding features||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Best payroll software
Paychex: Best for HR solutions
Paychex provides HR, payroll and benefits outsourcing services through its payroll software solution. The all-in-one tool is designed for startups, enterprises and everything in between, with different pricing plans optimized with features for small to large organizations. Businesses can automate their payroll processes with the integrated Paychex payroll services.
An area where this vendor shines is its HR services. Paychex offers helpful features for HR processes like compliance support services and technology to simplify employee management. Your staff members are sure to appreciate the HR features as well, especially the competitive employee benefits, self-service functionality and employee recognition platform.
- General ledger reports with account summaries to visualize financial activity through reporting.
- Taxpay Payroll Tax Administration provides payroll tax calculation, payment and filing with appropriate agencies.
- Payroll Employee Retention Tax Credit Services enables eligible business owners to claim credits using payroll data retroactively as well as prepare and file amended returns.
- Employee benefits include the FinFit Financial Wellness Program and Employee Assistance Programs.
- 200+ compliance experts monitor ever-changing laws and regulations, so users can trust that their taxes are processed correctly.
- Users gain access to an impressive range of optional employee benefits offerings at no additional charge.
- Customers can receive help through their dedicated point of contact and have 24/7 access to the customer support center.
- All plans come with standard payroll analytics and reporting, employee self-service, HR library resources, garnishment payment services, and workers’ compensation insurance.
- Paychex is a pricier option compared to payroll services provided by other vendors, and pricing information for its higher-tier options is not available online.
- State Unemployment Insurance Services are only available to users with the most expensive Paychex Flex Pro plan.
- Paychex charges additional fees per employee to process year-end W-2s and 1099s.
Paychex offers three different pricing tiers for its HR solutions:
- Paychex Flex Essentials: $39 per month, plus $5 per employee.
- Paychex Flex Select: Pricing information is available upon request.
- Paychex Flex Pro: Pricing information is available upon request.
Zenefits: Best for employee support
TriNet Zenefits provides cloud-based software solutions to businesses and organizations looking to streamline their payroll, benefits and HR operations. Its user-friendly platform goes above and beyond to provide useful features for employees. For example, employees can easily stay on top of their duties with the system’s automated workflows and real-time data syncing. The platform even supports contingent workers, including freelancers, consultants and independent contractors.
Higher-level plans also offer employee performance management, enabling access to goal-setting capabilities, one-on-one meeting features and performance review tools. Users can gain commuter benefits and apply these funds to pay for Lyft Line or UberPOOL in available locations.
- Employee Management features enable staff members to update their information across the Zenefits platform automatically from any device.
- Analytics Dashboards are included with all base plans, and users can create visualizations to understand employee trends and reach valuable insights.
- Tips Reporting enables organizations to report on tips using the Zenefits payroll, which can be helpful for restaurants and hospitality businesses.
- Contractor Payments and Contractor Payment Reports can be processed through the system.
- Dynamic Mobile Paystubs provide employees with mobile access to their deductions breakdowns and pay stub information.
- Zenefits plans provide employee management options and enable businesses to sync information and data for new-employee reporting, time tracking and time-off tracking.
- Organizations can easily select plans that work for them, as Zenefits provides a transparent pricing structure and enables plan-building functionality.
- The payroll service includes features for garnishment support, multiple pay rates and unlimited pay runs.
- Payroll features are an add-on service, costing $6 per month per employee on top of the basic plans.
- Service plans are charged to a minimum of five employees; therefore, this option may only be cost-effective for small businesses and startups with at least five employees, as they would be required to pay the minimum amount regardless of their staff number.
- The Zenefits solution does not offer benefits or payroll for workers outside of the U.S. It only provides basic onboarding and offboarding capabilities for non-U.S. workers in certain locations.
Zenefits has four pricing tiers, with an option to add Payroll for an additional fee. They’re broken down like so:
- Essentials plan: $10 per month per employee.
- Growth plan: $20 per month per employee.
- Zen plan: $27 per month per employee.
- Enterprise pricing information is available upon request from the Zenefits sales team.
- Payroll can be purchased as an add-on to the base plans for $6 per month per employee.
See how Zenefits compares to Gusto.
ADP: Best for midsize to large organizations
ADP offers an all-in-one platform with payroll services and HR technology. The solution simplifies payroll processing for users, enabling them to run their payroll online, by phone or through the mobile app. It also calculates, files, deposits and reconciles payroll taxes to take the burden off of employers. And ADP’s software makes it easy for organizations to employ new staff members with streamlined HR and hiring tools.
ADP’s software is available through three solutions: Small Business for organizations with up to 49 employees, Midsize Business for organizations with 50–999 employees and Large Business for organizations with 1,000+ employees. ADP’s robust capabilities and costly plans make it optimal for mid- to large-sized organizations that require the extra payroll functionality to keep their operations afloat.
- Multi-jurisdiction payroll processing features manage tax filings for workers who work in multiple jurisdictions within the same pay period, so employers can easily pay them.
- ADP Employee Access provides self-service capabilities, so workers can manage their ADP retirement accounts, view their pay history, and see up to three years of W-2s and 1099s.
- Employee Discounts provide workers with discounts on brand-name products and local retailers.
- Exceptional reporting features include payroll, HR and new-hire reporting users can view, access, customize and print online.
- Google Ads: Simple setup and management.
- ADP provides payroll management services across 140 countries.
- The solution supports integrations with an extensive range of popular existing systems and allows for robust and customizable reporting capabilities.
- Plans are customizable, and organizations can incorporate optional add-on features for Time and Attendance, Retirement, Workers’ Compensation, Health Insurance and Small Business Marketing Toolkit Powered by Upnetic.
- Some of ADP’s pricing plans may not be affordable options for small organizations or startups.
- While the solution provides many reporting options, these can be difficult for less tech-savvy users to navigate and manage.
- State Unemployment Insurance management features are only available to users with higher-priced plans.
ADP’s payroll software is offered through three solutions, each containing different packages for small, midsize and large businesses:
- Small businesses with up to 49 employees can receive payroll through RUN Powered by ADP; it is provided in four packages, and the cost is based on the number of employees.
- The Essential Payroll plan starts at $59 per month plus $4 per employee.
- Pricing details for the Enhanced Payroll, Complete Payroll & HR Plus, and HR Pro Payroll & HR plans are not available online, so you will need to request those specifics from ADP.
Pricing information for midsize and large business solution packages are available upon request from the ADP sales team. Plus, you can request a customized demo.
See how ADP compares to Paycom and Gusto and a list of ADP alternatives.
OnPay: Best for specialized payroll services
OnPay supports businesses of all sizes in quickly and efficiently carrying out their payroll processes. In addition to providing payroll features, the software focuses on HR solutions and provides helpful integrations with third-party tools.
A unique aspect of OnPay’s solution is that it provides payroll services designed for specific industries to ensure accuracy for each type of business. For example, it offers Payroll for Restaurants and Bars, with features for processing tipped wages, employee onboarding and time-tracking software integrations.
- The software supports integrations with popular third-party systems like QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop, QuickBooks Time and Xero.
- Accountant dashboards enable staff to view payroll information in one location.
- A visual organization chart enables businesses to organize their staff by location, department or teams and automatically update when changes occur.
- COVID-19 compliance features include a COVID-19 dashboard for managing tax credits and forgiveness.
- All tax filings and payments are available in 50 U.S. states, including W-2 and 1099 workers.
- OnPay promises an accuracy guarantee, which calculates and files taxes for businesses using information provided by payroll staff and employees.
- Special payroll services at no extra cost provide payroll features specific to business sectors, including restaurants, farms and agriculture, nonprofits, churches and clergy, and 500+ employee companies.
- OnPay offers an affordable service with a single basic pricing model that takes the guesswork out of determining the costs of your payroll software.
- It lacks payroll capabilities related to business financial management that are included in other vendor solutions.
- Support by phone chat and email is limited to weekdays, with only emergency email support available on weekends.
- The solution requires additional fees for certain services, like insufficient funds for pay runs; printing and distributing annual W-2 and 1099 forms for users; and the premium of any chosen health, retirement or workers’ comp policies.
OnPay payroll is priced at $40 per month as a base fee, plus $6 per month per employee.
Gusto: Best for time tracking
Gusto’s modern HR platform supports employers by offering payroll processing, employee benefits administration and talent management solutions. Fortunately, the solution also supports integrations with popular third-party applications to help with processes like accounting, time tracking and expense management.
The solution offers impressive time tracking and project tracking features for higher-priced plans. These capabilities enable users to quickly track team hours and process time off requests and approvals. Workers can track their time by logging their hours on a computer or through Gusto’s employee mobile time-tracking app, which uses geolocation to verify hours.
- All plans provide full-service single-state payroll processing, which includes W-2s and 1099s. Full-service multi-state payroll capabilities are offered through higher-level plans.
- Basic hiring and onboarding tools are provided with all plans.
- Gusto-brokered health insurance administration provides extensive health benefits to employees.
- Employee financial benefits include perks like 401(k) retirement plans, workers comp administration, insurance plans and free financial tools.
- Payroll and time-off reporting is provided for all plans, and time-tracking features are included with higher-level plans.
- All plans include employee self-service features that include employee profiles and easy access to documentation.
- Higher-level plans provide more HR features, like performance reviews, employee surveys and access to certified HR experts.
- This intuitive solution includes automated functionalities that make it easy to leverage the software’s payroll features and benefits integrations.
- Basic plan users don’t have access to customer support on weekends.
- The HR Resource Center can only be accessed through the most expensive Premium tier plans.
- Gusto charges a high per-employee fee, meaning the solution can become expensive for organizations with a greater number of employees.
Gusto offers three pricing tiers:
- Simple plan: Starts at $40 per month, plus $6 per month per employee.
- Plus plan: Starts at $80 per month, plus $12 per month per employee. As a limited time offer for the first six months of service, the Plus plan is priced at $60 per month, plus $9 per month per employee.
- Premium plan: Pricing for this plan is available upon request.
See how Gusto compares to Justworks, QuickBooks and Zenefits.
Paycor: Best for expanding businesses
Paycor is a scalable HR and payroll solution that is flexible and easy to apply to small and large businesses. The solution is easy to use, as the Paycor system guides users through utilizing its functions to manage all areas of payroll operations. In addition, the system is constantly updated to comply with local, state and federal laws, so employers can breathe easy.
Features like Pay-As-You-Go Workers’ Compensation, real-time calculations and flexible payment options make scaling a breeze for growing businesses. Small businesses can receive a custom price quote for a plan based on their needs and scale up to higher-level plans as they grow. Paycor also conducts new-hire tax filing.
- Pay options for employees include paycards, direct deposits and earned wage access through the Paycor Wallet.
- All Paycor pricing plans provide federal, local and state tax authorities.
- The solution handles workers’ comp processes, including calculating premiums, deposits, and filing reports for businesses.
- Online reporting features enable users to create scheduled reports from Paycor’s library of standard reports or use the custom report writer tool.
- New Hire Filing EVS is provided with all plans.
- The Basic plan comes with free setup support, and all plans offer full-service payroll capabilities.
- Startups and businesses that have less experience with payroll software will benefit from the user-friendly interface and the wide range of workforce management features provided by this affordable payroll service.
- Customers can choose to incorporate optional free services with their plans, such as Work Number and OnDemand Pay features.
- Several beneficial features are limited to higher-priced plans, including advanced reporting options, onboarding support and 401(k) EDI Processing.
- Paycor does not provide transparent pricing, so potential buyers must contact the sales team for information on the costs of higher-tiered plans.
- The solution does not include global payroll capabilities.
The following pricing information for Paycor is for organizations with fewer than 50 employees; organizations with more than 50 employees should contact the Paycor sales team for details about plans and pricing.
- Basic plan: Starts at $99 per month, plus $5 per month per employee.
- Essential plan: Starts at $149 per month, plus $7 per month per employee.
- Core plan: Starts at $199 per month, plus $8 per month per employee.
- Complete plan: Starts at $199 per month, plus $14 per month per employee.
As a limited time offer, new buyers get 50% off during their first year.
Rippling: Best for automation
Rippling’s payroll planning solution helps businesses quickly and easily process their payroll and taxes. It syncs HR data with payroll to provide accurate calculations and automatic tax filing capabilities.
Rippling’s technology automates several areas of the solution to streamline operations for its users. For example, it automatically calculates and files taxes for businesses through the correct federal, state and local agencies. In addition, it provides onboarding and offboarding automation capabilities as well as automated time tracking.
Rippling even lets businesses create custom policies that sync payroll and expense data to their general ledger to automatically categorize each account’s fields, saving time and effort.
- The Workflow Automator feature enables users to create alerts and approvals to streamline payroll processes like timed payouts and approval authorization.
- Unified Analytics enables users to create any report using any employee data.
- Unified Policies let organizations apply policies across business operations.
- Positions Management features task automation and access permissions.
- Payroll is provided in 50 U.S. states and internationally.
- The solution provides excellent onboarding features that make it easy to set up payroll and tax filing systems to accommodate new staff.
- Plans include device and inventory management features, making it a beneficial asset for IT teams.
- Unified Analytics and Policies support organizations with reporting that represents dispersed data from sources across each one of their systems.
- The HR help desk support and payroll features are charged as add-on options and therefore require extra costs.
- The solution does not possess IRS or ESAC accreditation, so users may need to turn to third-party tools if they desire a solution with these certifications.
- While the basic plan alone is relatively inexpensive, add-ons cause the solution to become pricey.
Rippling’s pricing plans start at $8 per month per user, with final prices dependent on the add-on services selected. Organizations can contact the Rippling sales team and tell them which services they’d like to use to receive a custom quote.
What features should payroll software have?
Payroll software products can offer a range of features and capabilities, as exemplified by the above solutions. Still, there are certain qualities you should always keep an eye out for when choosing a payroll software system.
Payroll processing and management
This software should provide capabilities for managing and processing employee payroll. This function should ensure appropriate compensation for workers and often relies on integrations between external programs to support your staff’s needs and supply their payments. Through connections with payroll integrations, these solutions will be able to automate payment processes and reduce the effort required by staff.
Payroll features should make it easy to obtain reports related to the payroll and taxation processes. By selecting a tool with reporting capabilities, your organization can track critical business metrics and gain insight into its operations. Popular reporting capabilities offered by these solutions use payroll data to produce reports on important business factors like tax liabilities, budget details and expense forms.
Workers have come to expect direct deposit as an included aspect of their employment. In payroll software, this feature enables workers to access their pay instantly and eliminates the need to produce physical paychecks, saving time, money and resources. Depending on the payroll software provider, direct deposit options may involve associated costs and fees.
Tax filing features take the headache out of tax season by automating the generation of W-2s and tax filing operations. These payroll solutions use tax management modules to calculate taxes based on appropriate parameters before sending them to the correct agency.
Tax filing features should give businesses peace of mind, as they can trust the software to avoid miscalculations and submit tax documentation on time. Tax filing features provided through payroll solutions also commonly offer federal, state and local payroll tax services like year-end W-2 filings, 1099 documentation and eTDS submission.
Accuracy and compliance management
Automated technology can provide calculations with less human error margin than manual calculations; however, this is only the case if your solution is accurate. To ensure calculation accuracy, choose a solution that uses automatically updating tax parameters that performs payroll processes according to the current tax rules and national laws.
Maintaining compliance is necessary for all areas of payroll processing. Compliance management features apply relevant regulations and legal statutes to payroll and tax operations to meet all legal and up-to-date compliance requirements. This can help your organization avoid penalties for mistakes relating to factors like tax law updates, wage garnishment orders and allocation rules.
Compensation management features help organizations allocate compensation budgets and payment strategies based on factors like financial data insights, cost of living increases, competitive pay rates and businesses’ primary objectives. These compensation budgets are helpful for HR teams and people leaders to determine the insurance premiums, benefits, bonuses and other compensation factors their organization can afford to provide its staff members.
Employee self-service features enable workers to access and adjust their employment information without requiring assistance from HR professionals. This way, employees can quickly and easily view their W-2 forms, pay stubs, time off balances, time cards and personal information.
Expense and invoice management
With invoice management features, users can keep up-to-date records of their expenses, invoice requests and payments, and expense reimbursements. In addition, expense management capabilities can help organizations by automating payment processes and expense reports.
Integrated payroll solutions save users time and effort by facilitating automated processes, which are made possible by the incorporated functionality of other systems. Integrations with other systems can also enable your solution to easily access disparate data, through which they can develop reports and reach valuable business insights. Some useful integration options for payroll solutions include connections with HR, time-tracking and accounting software solutions.
Benefits of working with payroll software
Implementing a payroll software solution can provide numerous benefits for an organization and its employees. By relying on payroll software calculations, workers and employers can feel more secure about the accuracy of their payroll operations, as these compliant systems take the possibility of human error out of calculations.
Data generated and obtained through payroll solutions also provide helpful insights to business leaders and decision-makers. Furthermore, integrating third-party solutions can unlock greater functionality for these solutions in automating payroll processes and can leverage more data, leading to greater visibility into business operations.
The automated nature of payroll solutions enables them to take care of many aspects of payment processing for their users. This, in turn, means less effort is required from business leaders, employees and HR staff to carry out these necessary objectives. Automated features also speed up these steps within the business’ workflow, resulting in faster processing and less time to reach business insights.
How do I choose the best payroll software for my business?
Business leaders should assess several essential factors to select a suitable payroll software solution for their organization. This should involve identifying a list of payroll solutions that contain features vital to the organization.
Consider the basic features of a payroll software tool. Does the solution you are looking at contain payroll processing and management capabilities? What about tax filing features and employee payment distribution options? Ensuring the products you review contain the overarching elements necessary for an optimal payroll will help you weed out unfavorable options.
Then, you can consider the unique aspects of your business to narrow down your list of potential solutions. For example, integrations with existing software solutions are important for determining a tool’s suitability for your organization. If the payroll tool in question supports integrations with your current solutions, great; if not, you may want to choose another option that would more easily fit into your existing IT framework.
Additionally, not all payroll solutions are priced the same, as many require additional costs depending on the number of users. Therefore, pay close attention to how aspects like your number of users and required add-on features affect the cost for a software solution.
And remember that the ideal tool for your organization ultimately depends on how it will meet your business needs. While solutions like Gusto provide significant benefits for workers, others like Zenefits may provide unique features like contractor payroll processing and tip reporting, which could be more suitable for your company’s needs.
For more payroll software buying guides, read these TechRepublic articles: The best payroll software for your small business, the top payroll processing services for small businesses and the 8 best international payroll services for 2023.