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Best payroll software of 2021

Best payroll software
(Image credit: Pixabay)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

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.

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(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.

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(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.

Read our review of Gusto here

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(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.

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(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.

Read our review of QuickBooks here

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(Image credit: Patriot)

5. Patriot Payroll

The no-frills payroll solution

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

By using Patriot Payroll it’s possible to tackle both your accounting and payroll tasks, with the emphasis on ease of use, especially for small business owners. Patriot also gets a resounding thumbs-up for its efficient support infrastructure. The company has a long-standing pedigree too, with around three decades of experience shaping the look and feel of the current package.

Choose from one of two different packages that include the Accounting Premium option, which lets you handle business expenses, financial affairs and invoicing duties too. That’s currently $25 per month, while the Accounting Basic variant is just $15 per month, though it’s armed with a less comprehensive range of features.

Payroll can be tackled with a full service payroll package option, costing from $30 per month currently. There’s an additional $4 per employee/contractor charge of top of that. If you plump for this package you can run Payroll and Patriot deals with the payroll taxes side of things. Opt for the basic payroll edition and you’ll need to handle payroll and payroll taxes yourself. It costs less though, starting at $10 per month with $4 added for each employee or contractor.

Lookout for plenty of features, including unlimited payments to vendors, the option or creating and printing 1099s and 1096s, optional 1099 e-filing, expense and income tracking. There’s also the option for producing unlimited customer invoices, accepting credit card payments, recording payments, importing bank transactions automatically and integration of your accounts with payroll. 

Read our review of Patriot Accounting and Payroll here

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(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.

Read our review of BambooHR here

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Hourly

(Image credit: Hourly)

7. Hourly

Time tracking and payroll solved

Reasons to buy
+Contractor-friendly+Strong set of features+Combo package is good value
Reasons to avoid
-Niche appeal

Payroll covers other crucial areas of your business, with unlimited payroll runs, direct deposit and paper checks, automatic tax filing along with 1099 and W-2 handling all featuring as part of the package. Lookout too for easy handling of garnishments and benefits, while the combination of Time Tracking and Payroll offers the added benefit of smart works comp insurance. Priority phone and HR support is included too.

If you’re looking for a combination of payroll and time management software, with a worker’s comp insurance package also included Hourly is well worth investigating. It’s already doing a decent job of rivalling the likes of Gusto and OnPay, with three plan options including Time Tracking, Payroll or a combination package that includes both.

Opting for the combination deal lowers the cost overall as it’s currently $14 per month for each active user, with an $80 per month base charge. You can also experience it via a free trial or request a demo if you’d like to see exactly how it ticks.

Features are many and varied, with the Time Tracking package including the ability to track time for all of your workers with the benefit of automatic timesheet creation and GPS clock-ins. Overtime and breaks can also be monitored with ease and it’s all supplemented with detailed reports and audit logs.

Read our review of Hourly here

 

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Workful

(Image credit: Workful)

8. Workful

Small business wizard

Reasons to buy
+Simple interface+No-nonsense feature set+Affordable solution
Reasons to avoid
-A bit niche

The benefit of Workful for small business owners has to be its ability to cover many bases at once thanks to payroll, HR and timesheets all being handled within one package. Developed by the people who brought TaxSlayer to market, this is an easy to use option that has a relatively straightforward setup process.

Pricing is keen too, with a free 30-day trial and a $25 a month paid-for service, which attracts a $5 for each employer per month surcharge. However, the single tier pricing helps to keep things even simpler while still offering payroll, time tracking and a host of employee tools too.

For the payroll aspect of the package you get unlimited payroll runs, multiple pay rates, built-in time tracking, state/federal tax forms and integration with QuickBooks. On top, you can also prepare W-2 and 1099 forms, create reports, produce electronic paystubs and carry out direct deposits. 

In addition, users get an employee portal for W-4’s, onboarding tools, check printing and everything can be access from any location. Time tracking follows suit with more on the features front, including payroll syncing, automatic calculation of overtime and hours plus PTO tracking. It also delivers customized policies and there are multiple accrual methods. 

Employee tools add another edge to the feature set, with the aforementioned employee portal allowing easy onboarding, expense tracking and a place to store documents and file for mileage reimbursement.

Read our review of Workful here

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Uzio

(Image credit: Uzio)

9. Uzio HR and Payroll

HR and payroll simplified

Reasons to buy
+HR management+Automated payroll+Excellent onboarding
Reasons to avoid
-No obvious pricing

The appeal of Uzio is its SaaS-based package that lets you streamline many of your business administration tasks into one single online platform. You get plenty of tools for getting the job done too, with everything from HR issues through to tax affairs all covered by the package. Add in the ability to manage records, ensure compliance and cover payroll duties and you have many business bases covered.

This cloud-based package does need to be tailored to fit your business, which means there are no off-the-shelf pricing options available. However, this will probably prove more favourable to businesses as it can be scaled to suit the requirement, with the likes of onboarding new employees, time-tracking, PTO and personnel tracking all on offer for companies of varying sizes.

Payroll is similarly well covered, with a fully integrated cloud-based system that integrates with the HR side of things. Therefore, your business can manage payroll, handle taxes, salaries of employees and then carry out year-end reporting all within the same application. That’s always going to be a bonus.

Automation is central to a lot of what Uzio does too, which, combined with intuitive dashboards and controls, makes multi-tasking a doddle. Uzio also offers a high level of employee self-service access too.

Read our review of Uzio HR and Payroll here

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Zenefits

(Image credit: Zenefits)

10. Zenefits HR and payroll review

A solid one-stop option

Reasons to buy
+Solid all-in-one package+Great interface+Amalgamates tasks
Reasons to avoid
-Support a mixed bag

Small business users looking for a cloud-based package that can handle HR tasks and payroll will find Zenefits a good fit. It features three different variations on the theme, starting with Essentials with its $8 per month cost, per employee and features HR, time and scheduling, integrations and a mobile app as part of the package. 

The packages do have a minimum of 5 employees requirement however. If your business has less, you’ll still effectively be paying for at least 5. No matter, as Zenefits delivers the goods with its next option, the Growth package, which is $14 per month, per employee. It includes core HR, time and scheduling, integrations and a mobile app. On top of that there are compensation management and performance management tools. 

Meanwhile, a Zen package rounds it out, at $21 per month, per employee. It features all of the elements of the Growth bundle plus Wellbeing tools and the option for carrying out employee engagement surveys. Of course, Zenefits revolves around its powerful HR tools, from general administration through to onboarding and performance reviews.

The useful thing is that the HR data can also be used to tackle benefits options for employees and can be used to cover payroll, which is now an included part of the package. On top of that there are additional advisory services, which gets you unlimited access to a team of HR and payroll experts. 

However, there is an additional cost of $8 per month, per employee for this. Another option, which costs $5 per month, per employee is the ability to carry out benefits administration using your own broker. In addition, the payroll aspect comes with reporting tools plus tax and filing assistance.

Read our review of Zenefits HR and payroll here


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