The 5 Best Payroll Options for Small Businesses

It's far cheaper to pay for somebody to keep your payroll straight than it is to pay the IRS if you tangle it yourself.
The 5 Best Payroll Options for Small Businesses
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Co-founder and CEO, Fundera
5 min read
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Did you know that 1 in every 3 small business owners gets penalized by the IRS for payroll errors?

Those fees and fines add up. When you add on the extra time and energy of figuring out the complicated payroll system, it suddenly doesn’t seem like a great place to cut costs. That’s why many small business owners choose to pay for a payroll service instead. That way, you won’t need to worry about legal mistakes, clerical errors, or wasted time.

Here are five of the best payroll options for small businesses:

1. Intuit Payroll

Looking for the barebones when it comes to payroll services? Or do you want a fully-automated, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink payroll service instead? No matter where you fall on that spectrum, Intuit Payroll has an option for you.

Intuit Basic, for $20/month plus $2 per employee/month, will run your payroll instantly and calculate your taxes (but won’t go as far as filing those taxes for you). Their most popular package is called Enhanced, $31.20/month, which adds tax form completion, filing, and payment on top of that. And finally, their Full Service option will run payroll entirely, transfer data from other payroll services, and guarantee its accuracy -- for just $79/month.

So depending on how much time and energy inputting payroll takes for you, any of these plans could help out. And if you’re in need of other human resources services, too, Intuit also offers workers’ compensation and compliance assistance. There’s a reason they’ve been voted America’s #1 payroll service, after all.

Related: 25 Payment Tools for Small Businesses, Freelancers and Startups

2. OnPay

OnPay doesn’t have all the tools and add-ons that Intuit offers, but in exchange, it provides a simple pricing model with the straightforward payroll necessities that especially small small businesses need.

For $47.95 per month, you get up to 10 employees’ worth of unlimited pay runs, tax filings and deposits in one state (with additional states running you extra), and check printing. It’s an easy, quick, mobile-friendly system that doesn’t require a steep learning curve.

If you’re in need of a payroll service that can handle bigger businesses, OnPay could still manage—for $1 per month for each extra employee, starting with your 11th. Plus, direct deposit functionality is an additional $8 per month.

3. Gusto

Gusto, previously known as ZenPayroll, is an intuitive payroll service for any sort of small business.

Not only will Gusto automatically file your local, state, and federal taxes and integrate with your accounting software, it’ll also give your employees access to their information, paystubs, and W-2s—even after they’ve left your company. This means less data entry work for you, more convenience for them, and an easier time for everyone.

PC Magazine named Gusto its payroll service of choice for a reason: after its one-month free trial ends, Gusto costs only $39/month, plus $6 per month per employee. That includes benefits planning, direct deposit and check services, and more.

Related: 8 Great Time-Tracking Apps for Freelancers

4. Namely

What does “HR for Humans” look like? Just ask Namely: one of the biggest new human resources services around.

While it has an undisclosed price, Namely offers a full suite of payroll and HR tools to help you cut down on wasted time. It will automatically carry out benefits deductions, pay and file all of your payroll taxes, handle year-end reporting and time-tracking, ensure your small business is compliant with regulations, and give employees access to their paycheck histories.

In addition to payroll, Namely can help with a number of employee benefits like health insurance, life and disability insurance, wellness programs, commuter benefits, and other less traditional plans as well. Plus, they’ll also assist with hiring and management, from onboarding document signatures to performance reports.

If you’re looking for a modern, comprehensive HR service, not just a payroll tool, then Namely could be right for your small business.

Related: 10 Online Invoicing Services for Small-Business Owners

5. Sage

Like Intuit, Sage also offers different payroll packages depending on how big your small business is. If 10 or fewer employees, Sage Payroll Essentials comes in at the low price of $49.95/month. (For comparison, Intuit’s Enhanced plan would run you around the same price with fewer features.)

When you outgrow that stage, though, Sage has you covered with its Full Payroll Service, which is priced according to the size of your business and how often you run payroll. The full service comes with a dedicated payroll agent, a check delivery service, unlimited deductions, custom report-building, and additional benefits administration.

Whichever package you need right now, Sage is sure to keep you around. They have the highest customer retention rate in the payroll services industry, after all.

Pick the payroll service that matches up with what your business needs, and don’t be afraid to cancel if you’ve made a mistake and want something different. Also, it can be helpful to keep your own payroll records for posterity or in case something goes wrong.

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