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Best payroll software of 2021

Best payroll software
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The best payroll software makes it easy to manage paying wages and associated benefits and taxes due.

The best payroll software

Payroll software is essential for any business with employees, but it's not simply a case of ensuring taxes and benefits are properly managed, but also that employees are provided with clear information to reflect their wages as well as necessary deductions.

It used to be the case that payroll software was downloaded and run from the office, with pay slips printed out for employees to reference. These days cloud-based payroll systems allow not just for better redundancy and backups, but also digital record keeping, by providing pay slips that employees can access from home or even on their phone, saving on printing and paper.

Additionally, this digital transformation also makes it easier for employees to submit queries, and support can be better centralized for it. 

However, whichever form of payroll software you choose to work with, it's imperative that it also runs smoothly with existing accounting packages. Therefore don't be surprised that the best in payroll software also tends to be supplied by the best in accounting software.

Here's well feature the best payroll software platforms currently available.


(Image credit: Oasis)

1. Oasis

The best HR outsourcing service

Reasons to buy
+Comprehensive features+Self-service platform+Fortune 500 benefits

Oasis is a Paychex-owned Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and provides a full range of full HR solutions for business, to cover the entire employee lifecycle, including of course Payroll.

This means covering everything from recruitment to onboarding, payroll and benefits, as well as development and training. Oasis also ensures regulatory compliance and mitigating risk.

Oasis does this through a combination of self-service computer software for easier employee management, to personalized support to ensure you're getting the help you need.

Performance management also ensures that employee development works in line with your business strategy.

Because Oasis is part of Paychex, which has offices across the US, the company can offer competitive benefits and insurance packages for employees on a par with those offered by Fortune 500 companies.


(Image credit: Gusto)

2. Gusto

Trusted by a million users

Reasons to buy
+Easy to use +Works out tax +Full-service payroll in all 50 states

Gusto offers a full-service payroll, incorporating time tracking, compliance, as well as managing taxes, 401(k), and benefits such as medical, dental, and vision plans. 

Gusto also integrates with a number of existing accounting software and related platforms, such as Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Aplos, Zipbooks and Xero accounting software.

There are a handful of different plan levels available, with the cheapest offering to cover the basics of payroll, by way of a monthly software fee plus a fee per employee. After that plans offer features such as onboarding, time tracking, accounting, benefits, and document management. 

There is also a full-service payroll available, which along with employee self-service, also offers onboarding, directories, surveys, as well as support and a resource center.


(Image credit: Sage)

3. Sage Business Cloud People

A payment solution for SMEs

Reasons to buy
+Enter hourly or annual pay +Quick calculations
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for big firms

Sage Business Cloud People is a payroll platform that makes it easier for businesses and human resource managers to process employ payments. Sporting a quick, four-step pay run, the platform lets you enter hourly or annual pay, and Sage will then handle the rest.   

There are tools to process absence, bonuses, expenses, holiday pay, pensions and student loans. Additional features can process PAYE and HMRC tax filing, and there is even a mobile app to manage payroll while on the go.

More than anything, the software is easy and quick to use – you don’t need any experience or training to get around the user interface. However, if you do end up getting confused or experiencing an issue, you can access a 24/7 support service.

What’s worth noting is that this software is aimed squarely at small and medium-sized businesses, and offers transparent pricing.


(Image credit: Intuit)

4. QuickBooks

A mobile-friendly payroll solution

Reasons to buy
+Mobile optimized +Generates and sends payslips +Variety of plans

If you’re looking for a mobile-friendly payroll application you should definitely take a look at the venerable QuickBooks from Intuit. Working across smartphones, tablets and computers, the software functions as an affordable and easy system for managing employee payments.

Through the platform you’re able to generate pay slips and send them directly to employees, as well as mandatory forms. There’s a feature to calculate maternity and sick leave too, and QuickBooks will also remind you to send payments so you don’t forget. You can also quickly access employees and manage pension contributions from one dashboard. 

The QuickBooks self-service payroll service has both a monthly cost for the service, plus an additional fee per employee, with fees varying according to the number of features and payment tier required.


(Image credit: Patriot)

5. Patriot Payroll

The no-frills payroll solution

Reasons to buy
+Account setup+Strong at the basics+Free trial

Patriot Software takes the approach of doing one thing, and doing it well – namely payroll software. Its dedicated Patriot Payroll application is designed for a small business to run its own payroll, and to manage taxes.

To make the transition from another service seamless, the company even offers to set up your new account for free. Additional features include support via email, chat or phone, and the software supports both hourly and salaried employees, has an employee portal, and includes direct deposit functionality.

Choosing a plan is quite easy as there are only two tiers: basic and full service, and each offers a free 30-day trial. Pricing is simple, and as per the others listed here comes with a monthly fee for the service plus an additional one for each employee.


(Image credit: BambooHR)

6. BambooHR

Payroll made easy

Reasons to buy
+Integration with HR platform +Time-off tracking
Reasons to avoid
-Not available as standalone product

When searching for a good payroll solution you’ll generally find that most HR technology companies offer their own payment features or applications. BambooHR, for instance, provides a separate payroll platform that syncs with its employee-management software.   

The software allows you to eradicate double entries, add new employees quickly, and track employee hours and bonus payouts. Other features of the platform include time-off tracking, staff database and records, an applicant tracking system, performance management and electronic signatures.

BambooHR offers two tiers of subscription, starting with the Essentials plan at the lower end. The upgrade is the Advantage plan with a gaggle of additional features including support for on-boarding and off-boarding, electronic signatures and custom email alerts. Unfortunately, pricing is opaque, and you must get in touch for a quote.

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