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Best payroll software of 2020

HR team working on payroll

Good payroll software is an essential demand for any business with employees. 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's used to be the case that payroll software was downloaded and run from the office, with HR printing out payslips for employees to references. These days cloud-based software payroll systems allow for not just better redundancy and backups, but also digital payslips 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 therefore are our top picks for payroll software, based on features, price, and user experience.

(Image credit: Future)
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Best payroll software - at a glance

  1. Gusto
  2. Sage Business Cloud Payroll
  3. QuickBooks
  4. Patriot Payroll
  5. BambooHR 

(Image credit: Gusto)

1. Gusto

Trusted by a million users

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 is also the preferred payroll partner for the Xero accounting software.

There are a handful of different plan levels available, with the cheapest, Core, offering most of what's required for $39 per month plus $6 per person. The Complete plan adds onboarding, time tracking, and a few other features, also for $39 per month but with $12 per employee.

The Concierge plan offers the full-service payroll along with employee self-service, onboarding, directories, surveys, as well as support and a resource center, all for $149 per month plus $12 per month per person.

(Image credit: Sage )

2. Sage Business Cloud Payroll

A payment solution for SMEs

Enter hourly or annual pay 
Quick calculations
Not suitable for big firms

British software company Sage has also developed 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 in the UK with transparent pricing.

For those in the US, checkout the Sage Business Cloud People platform for managing all aspects of HR.

(Image credit: QuickBooks)

3. QuickBooks

A mobile-friendly payroll solution

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 payslips 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. 

Pricing for the self-service payroll package begins at $13.50 a mopnth plus $4 per employee, while the full-service payroll service costs $22.50 per month plus $8 per employee. Both included e-filing of taxes, though the full-service option includes additional management features. 

(Image credit: Patriot Payroll)

4. Patriot Payroll

The no-frills payroll solution

Strong at the basics
Free trial
Additional pricing per each employee

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 as the basic plan has a base price of $10 (£8) monthly, and the full service jumps up to $30 (£24) monthly. However, each plan includes an additional $4 (£3) monthly per employee, which is more palatable for small businesses with a handful of employees, but can add up considerably for larger organizations.

(Image credit: BambooHR)

5. BambooHR

Payroll made easy

Integration with HR platform 
Time-off tracking
Not available as standalone product
Opaque pricing

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 (free) quote.